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General [Dragonlance/Faerun] Anyone here met any Cataclysm/Wall of the Faithless defenders?


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Cataclysm

This is a complicated one dating to the rules of the universe when the cosmos was created. In briefest form, Balance between Good, Neutrality, and Evil is key to existence, but it's not the day-to-day moral "good" we think of when we help a neighbor fix a broken fence. Good gods gave life and animation to spirits, to experience existence, Neutrality gave them free will, and Evil sought to enslave spirits with things like need and hunger. However, Evil serves a purpose. Its conflicts can serve to make life stronger, more durable. Ultimately, if the pendulum swings too far in either direction, existence is in peril (and evil doesn't care a whole lot about balance, get what you can as you can).

So, in the days before the Cataclysm, in the name of "good" Istar was making the world a more peaceful place. War was eliminated through strength, but rather than kill ogres and other troublesome races, including elves, it hedged them into territories where they'd gradually just die out and fade away. The peaceful race - humans- would make things better when they were gone. Murder was being eliminated with mind reading of citizens. Slavery was justified in lieu of simply incarcerating criminals (have them do something useful). The more "good" that the world experienced, in this extreme form, the less actual Free Will creatures had. Absent conflict, they would become weak.

And, the Gods of Good believed enough in this potential imbalance that once weakened in this way, life would be extremely susceptible to Evil without conflict to harden it, and the pendulum might swing so hard to the other side that existence would fall out of balance.

So, the solution, pushed by the Dark Queen Takhisis herself and backed by all the Gods to save existence, was to drop the fiery mountain, to reboot life, and to force it back into hardship and conflict. It was cruel and horrific, on a day-to-day morality scale. But on a cosmic scale, it was a necessity. When Evil did come knocking and the Dark Queen resumed her wars, those who had been tempered by these times were strong enough to resist and overcome. She had calculated that this would weaken the world, that it would be ripe for the taking. But, the very Evil that sought to prey upon the world through its needs also hardened it.

So yeah, it's complicated.
 

M.L. Martin

Adventurer
@M.L. Martin That take on the Cataclysm does make vastly more sense. Do we have any idea why it was abandoned in favour of the far less convincing take they went with?

No idea. It happened very early on--you can find the 'Kingpriest offended the gods by demanding things' take in DL5 Dragons of Mystery, and it's pretty well-established by the second and third novel. Traces of 'the Kingpriest tried to summon the gods' show up in DL12 Dragons of Faith and Tales of the Lance (which pulled in a lot of sketchy and speculative material from early DL), but it wasn't until Hickman put the original Dragonlance pitch up several years ago that it became clear.
 

This thread brings to focus what I do not like about D&D religion and alignment. I do think that the wall of the faithless does offend my sense of justice. If they lead otherwise good lives., why should they have to suffer for their beliefs. I also think there should be some element of re-incarnation in the FR. That said I have never delved deeply into the religious aspects of D&D.
As for the Cataclysm, well here is one of the issues I have with alignment. At some point, in my opinion, lawful good warps around to evil or to static order and so on.

I think an awful lot of it is just down to people making broad assumptions about what's "okay" without either thinking it through, or having even the light philosophical basis to say "Wait, this seems kind of messed-up", instead just leaning into their own cultural biases.

Combine that a lot of different writers with different takes messing with stuff, again a lot of them without being terribly interested in the ideas, or really thinking them through, and you get a mess like the Wall of the Faithless. The Cataclysm seems to be similar but just with one or two writers turning their own perfectly reasonable idea into a bizarre and hard-to-take one.
 

Athiests dont go to Heaven or Hell and instead get non existence after death.

Which is what they believe isn't it?

Thars a better fate than servants of most evil Gods. Heck even most other Goodly afterlifes probably get a bit boring after a while. A life of eternal battle on Ysgard is gonna get tiring after the first few centuries
 


jeremypowell

Explorer
As a fan of FR and a quasi-atheist*, I really like the Wall of the Faithless.

*(explanation deleted due to Mod Note to avoid discussing real-world religions).
The reality is, it's a grim and even vile concept that really undermines the entire idea of faith in any god in the Realms, by making it essentially coercive in nature, which seems, oddly, to be what Ed Greenwood intends. His own most recent major FR book certainly seems to portray FR worship as somewhat coercive in nature, and he doesn't seem to think anything is wrong with that.
Nor do I think there's anything wrong with having that in a fantasy world.

Real-world coercive faith? That's grim and vile. But D&D isn't the real world. As you say, "faith" must necessarily mean something very different in FR than in our world.

If you see FR primarily as a "milquetoast default fantasy setting" then I can see a really good argument that it should minimize or eliminate the grim and vile elements so as to become as inoffensive as possible. And yeah, that does seem to be how WotC is currently using the setting.

But I want there to be weird and WTF elements and even some grim and vile elements in my fantasy worlds. In my view, FR actually has quite a lot of those elements, partly because as a huge, canon-bloated setting, it just has quite a lot of elements full stop. Where I think we disagree is our evaluation of whether having grim and vile elements is a flaw or a feature in a fantasy world.

The greates pro-atheism fantasy series ever written, His Dark Materials,
has a grim and vile deity, albeit also an old and feeble one, at the heart of its cosmology, and thematically is all about coercive faith
. The difference, of course, is that HDM explicitly and polemically tags that as grim and vile, and FR doesn't. Personally, I don't have a problem with either approach, and I also don't think that explicitly signaling something like this as grim and vile is or should be necessary.
Greenwood himself doesn't seem to acknowledge the Kelemvor exists, at least recently.
Greenwood has written many FR novels, short stories, and sourcebooks over the past thirty-three years that mention Kelemvor.

So long as we're appealing to Greenwood's own opinions, though, I'll point out that he has repeatedly stated a preference for leaving "the truth" about cosmic and religious matters much more indeterminate than the official canon does. He has often championed an approach where every published story and supplement is potentially wrong about some things in an "unreliable narrator" sort of way, and where various religions offer incompatible teachings the truth of which is only revealed if and when it becomes directly relevant to a given campaign.

But yeah, that's not how the TSR/WotC publications have usually treated matters.
(And we all know exactly how petty and mean-spirited even many of the G-aligned gods in the FR are)
Also, the entire idea of "faith" and "true believers" is pretty silly when the gods walk Toril. It's a bit like having "faith" or being a true believer in Superman (were Superman real). That's a circle the FR has never been able to successfully square, because contrary to what you're saying about modern views on faith being incompatible with the FR and so on, it's clear that FR writers have consistently striven to somehow jam together a sort of Greco-Roman take on the gods with a modern Christian-style view of "faith" and it's value and so on. And the result has been a terrible mess.
I definitely won't argue with the assertion that FR canon is a mess. It's the "terrible" part I disagree with. But I understand your point of view.
More and more, I think Mentzer Basic had the right idea when it said "The D&D game does not deal with the religious or ethical beliefs of characters in the game."
That reads like cover-your-ass language on TSR's part to me. I'm glad that characters' religious and ethical beliefs are sometimes central to modern games.

For example, let me tell you about my current character.

No, wait! Don't leave!

I'm playing an out-of-shape, middle-aged Baldurian nobleman who plotted to murder his parents and then abandoned the scheme after a religious epiphany brought about by his beloved wife's death. His wife was "faithless"—one of the rare but not unheard-of Faerûnian atheists to deny the existence of any gods, believing instead in something that in modern terms would be called a "conspiracy theory": that all the priests and clerics of all the clergies are really just arcane magic-users who long ago invented the concept of deities to hoax the populace into obeying them, paying tithes, and so on. Magic is real, she claimed, but deities are not, nor is any afterlife.

My character, like most Faerûnians, believed in the pantheon and paid homage to them but, having never encountered any real personal suffering (and having ignored the suffering of others, as most wealthy Baldurians do), had never taken death and the afterlife all that seriously. (Think of all the going-through-the-motions religious believers in our own world who do really believe their faith's dogma but don't think all that often about it or its implications, or try all that hard to reconcile it with their daily lives).

When his wife died, he was overwhelmed by the conviction that her untimely death and her ultimate fate as a "brick" in the Wall without consciousness or individuality amounted to a personal punishment. Not a punishment of her—as someone else pointed out in this thread, your beliefs and acts in life determine your afterlife in FR, and if you don't believe in gods or an afterlife, then you simply fade slowly away within the Wall, which is more or less what you were expecting anyway. But rather, he sees it as a punishment of him for his own plot to murder his parents. One untimely death for another—or even one to prevent another, since he abandoned the murder plot as a result. (Kelemvorites rail against anyone dying "before their time," or persisting after it.) So he converted to Kelemvor's faith and has been administering last rites to the dying poor in a Lower City hospital, in a misguided attempt to atone for his planned miseeds.

Now, as it turns out, although he doesn't know it yet, his wife had deceived him for many years. She was secretly an evil god's cultist who used her proclamations of atheism as a front to explain why she never paid homage to any of the "good" gods. She has not ended up in the Wall, and my character will most likely be encountering her sooner rather than later; we're playing Descent into Avernus, and I'm pretty sure I know where my DM has put her soul.

So the Wall is actually central to my character's background. I don't think I would have come up with the guy if the Wall hadn't been a part of FR lore. And he's the most fun, most complex, most real character I've ever played.

You can put me down for a "Wall? Yum!" vote.

P.S. You mentioned the two other categories of Faithless—people whose patron deities are dead, or whose patron deities refuse to claim them. They too wind up in the Wall. Is this "fair" or "just"? Of course not. Ao has never really been portrayed as anything other than an asshole, and even Kelemvor is portrayed as a deity who retains some of the indecisiveness and uncertainty that characterized his mortal self. The Wall wasn't a good or fair metaphysical thing to create or to retain, and I don't remember anything like a neutral narratorial voice ever affirming it as such. To me, though, that's all just more fodder for interesting stories.

By the way, for what it's worth, I'd guess 99% of FR players have no idea about any of this. I suppose some of those players would be shocked and dismayed to learn about it, and some would think it was interesting and weird and cool, and most, I'm guessing, wouldn't care and would just go on about their characters' business the same way they had before. Come to think of it, maybe there's more in common with real-world religion than I'd thought . . .
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Athiests dont go to Heaven or Hell and instead get non existence after death.
In terms of the general "Great Wheel" cosmology of AD&D 2E, this was established in On Hallowed Ground, though it clarified that "atheists" strictly meant those who believed in no afterlife whatsoever, and that death was the final, ultimate end.

However, what's often overlooked is that the Guide to Hell revealed that, in fact, rather than ceasing to exist, the souls of those who believed that only oblivion waited after death were sent to the very bottom of Hell, where Asmodeus slowly and painfully devoured them entirely.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 

Atheism is irrelevant. The Wall of the Faithless is not made up of atheists (who would be a vanishingly small minority in FR); it's made up of people who did not choose a patron god.
No, it isn't. That's a common misconception.

Forgotten Realms materials were very clear that if you didn't actively chose a patron god, you didn't end up among the Faithless. Instead, your soul would be picked up by a deity of appropriate alignment or relevant portfolio to the deceased.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The Wall is the source of maltheists, if it exists at all in my FR games.

If the gods are real (and we don’t play in the time of troubles so most people haven’t ever seen a god) and the Wall of The Faithless is part of their cosmology, then the gods are the adversaries of mortals.

A small cult arises, dedicated to killing gods and turning people away from their worship.
 

jeremypowell

Explorer
That's a common misconception.

Forgotten Realms materials were very clear that if you didn't actively chose a patron god, you didn't end up among the Faithless. Instead, your soul would be picked up by a deity of appropriate alignment or relevant portfolio to the deceased.
To be fair, some FR materials are very clear about that.

Others, such as the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, are much less clear. The relevant section of that book says "the truly false and faithless" without explaining what "truly" means.

SCAG also hedges a little closer to the Greenwood-preferred "this might or might not even be true at all" interpretation by opening the whole section with "Most humans believe . . . ," suggesting some variance in belief even among humans and evidently excluding demihumans and other intelligent beings.

FWIW, so far as I know, that's still the only official 5e game book that even mentions the thing.
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
I think an awful lot of it is just down to people making broad assumptions about what's "okay" without either thinking it through, or having even the light philosophical basis to say "Wait, this seems kind of messed-up", instead just leaning into their own cultural biases.

Combine that a lot of different writers with different takes messing with stuff, again a lot of them without being terribly interested in the ideas, or really thinking them through, and you get a mess like the Wall of the Faithless. The Cataclysm seems to be similar but just with one or two writers turning their own perfectly reasonable idea into a bizarre and hard-to-take one.
I think that this is the source of most of the problematic elements of D&D. Lazy trope base writing, probably the writers are dashing stuff out to very short deadlines, with little consideration of the deeper implications of this. No actual malice intended but no real curation of the material, so that people like us with time on our hands go "WTF! that makes no sense"
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
In the vein that they view the Cataclysm that the gods sent to the mortal world for Istar's corruption as justified to some extent. Or believe that consigning antitheists and atheists to cosmic building blocks is a necessary evil for the greater good.

Dragonlance has been on my mind lately for various reasons, and between it and Forgotten Realms I notice that the tabletop social circles I notice certain acts of divine violence as a big dealbreaker for people who'd otherwise be interested in the settings. Or they like the settings but would either retcon or alter said aspects, or even cast the gods in a more antagonistic role.

But the number of Wall/Cataclysm defenders I know of can be counted on one hand. And I've been on quite the number of forums.

Has anyone here encountered such defenders? What was their reasoning?

And if any posters happen to be such defenders, I wouldn't mind hearing your rationales.
When I ran Dragonlance in 1e and 2e I kept thr cataclysm. I still run FR and the faithless suffer their punishment. I'm no so much defending those ideas as much as I just don't see a need to change them. They are what they are.
 

To be fair, some FR materials are very clear about that.

Others, such as the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, are much less clear. The relevant section of that book says "the truly false and faithless" without explaining what "truly" means.

SCAG also hedges a little closer to the Greenwood-preferred "this might or might not even be true at all" interpretation by opening the whole section with "Most humans believe . . . ," suggesting some variance in belief even among humans and evidently excluding demihumans and other intelligent beings.

FWIW, so far as I know, that's still the only official 5e game book that even mentions the thing.
I don't play 5e and don't know what they've written about it for 5e.

In the 2e and 3e era materials I'm familiar with, they were pretty clear that you don't get punished for not selecting a patron deity. You get declared Faithless for outright rejecting all the deities in life, by refusing to worship them at any level. Even if you only given them token acknowledgement, or worship ones from beyond Faerun, then something will be done otherwise, such as your spirit going to a deity of an appropriate alignment or portfolio if you didn't bother to declare a specific patron deity but at least gave some nominal worship to the gods in general during life, or your spirit being handed off to another pantheon from a different continent or world to be sent on its way if you were a follower of a foreign god for some reason.

The False were those that were hypocrites, that openly were members of a religion, while secretly holding absolutely no faith in it or outright betraying it. A city guard who was a worshipper of Helm, who regularly took bribes to look the other way while people broke the law or trespassed where he was supposed to guard might be considered false. A follower of Ilmater, who openly was a member of that faith and participated in worship services, but privately was cruel to beggars, dismissive of the injured and disabled, and generally callous towards the sick and suffering might count as False. . .and so could a Good (or at least Neutral) person who joined a Cult of Bane because they wanted the power that came with membership, wanted to avoid the attacks that the cult gave to outsiders, but kept his morals and virtues and worked to undermine the Cult from within, would probably be considered a False follower of Bane, especially if he didn't have some other relationship with some other deity he was "actually" following the whole time.
 



jeremypowell

Explorer
Of course, when it comes to the Forgotten Realms, there are at least two horses' mouths: Ed Greenwood, and TSR/WotC.

But still, from the horse's mouth, just now, in response to a couple of questions I asked Greenwood this morning based on issues brought up in the present thread:

'A very small handful of sentients in the Realms truly don't believe deities exist (less than 0.5%); they would be the "Faithless." Most DO "believe in" all the gods, even if they profess to repudiate them. Many 'cleave to' one deity above others, even if slightly. That 'ever so slightly favored' deity is their patron deity, if they don't openly profess and embrace a patron (as clerics and paladins do). The Wall of Faithless is more of a bugaboo tale told by priests and spread over tavern tables than it is a Great Big Doom.'
 

It is very hard to be atheist in a fantasy world where clerics can turn undeads and can heal by means of divine magic.

I think the faithless wall is an unjust fate for people who worshipped deities who were real in the past, but now they are "in the other side". There was even one feat about the cult of dead gods in the 3.5 Forgotten Realm sourcebook about the ancient empires.

Adon was a cleric who lost the faith, but later he recovered it, or at least he accepted Mystra as patron.

I say it again: The demiplane of the dread may be a more interesting fate for the walls trapped in the wall.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Of course, when it comes to the Forgotten Realms, there are at least two horses' mouths: Ed Greenwood, and TSR/WotC.

But still, from the horse's mouth, just now, in response to a couple of questions I asked Greenwood this morning based on issues brought up in the present thread:
Why should those tiny minority of people be punished, though? That’s the salient question.

There are real life equivalents, but we can’t go into them here.

It’s not unreasonable at all, in such a world, for some sentients to view all the gods as evil.
 

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