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

Snoweel

First Post
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?
 

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Alikar

First Post
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.
 

knightofround

First Post
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.
 

ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
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.
 


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.
 

Goblyns Hoard

First Post
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.
 

Switchblade

First Post
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.
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
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?)

Thanks
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
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.

Cheers
 

doctorhook

Adventurer
- the exception is the divine force 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).
FIFY. :)

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

Cheers
I hear that, brother! This approach to fantasy-religion allows for somewhat more nuanced religious conflicts than the ol' Time of Troubles, "I-sit-next-to-my-deity-every-Tuesday-morning-on-the-commuter-bus", Forgotten Realms approach.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
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.


I'm not so certain - if you wanted to have doubt and faith be more upfront in your campaign, you could easily have non-believers who claim that clerics are just using arcane powers, and that there is no divinity behind them. I've never really gone that way myself, but I could entertain that argument.
 

Snoweel

First Post
I'm not so certain - if you wanted to have doubt and faith be more upfront in your campaign, you could easily have non-believers who claim that clerics are just using arcane powers, and that there is no divinity behind them. I've never really gone that way myself, but I could entertain that argument.

I've always wondered what's stopping wizards from claiming to wield the power of a deity(ies).
 

Goblyns Hoard

First Post
Power is not directly granted by the gods to their clerics, thus allowing for bad guys to exist within temple or church structures.

<snip>

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

I never realised this about Eberron but then I never bought it. Might have to have a look at it sometime. I've actually accomplished a similar effect in a different way. My gods don't have an alignment, and each has both positive and negative traits associated with them. Their worshippers can therefore be of any alignment and still function within the same church on the mortal plane. I think to have any really interesting stories involving religion there needs to be that level of ambiguity about a deity's true wishes. If it's too clear cut then the story quickly devolves into us vs them which lacks any spark.
 

Goblyns Hoard

First Post
the churches power and control would be near absolute...

I'm going to nit pick here for the purpose of a (hopefully) interesting conversation.

I'd say that it isn't the church's power that is near absolute in this situation - it's the god's. The reason for this nit pick is the corruption that was rife within some churches in medieval Europe - where the church was functioning to put power in the hands of the leaders of the church, and not always acting in line with the teachings of their own faith. In that situation discussion of the church's power is obviously appropriate, the church leaders were usurping the power of their god to enrich their own mortal lives.

But if the power to accomplish things on the mortal plane comes directly from the ability of a god to impart their power on clerics, then those clerics don't have the ability to usurp that power. If they start to use their power for their own benefit over the will of their god, they're going to find out very quickly that those powers just don't work any more. So they have to continue to go about doing what their god actually wants them to do, which actually requires a great deal of character to do. As a comparison consider Bartleby in Dogma - pissed off at the fact that he has to serve for eternity, has plenty of power but is very constrained in how he can utilise it, and when he steps out of the lines gets crapped upon by god...

So in a world where the gods are very evident it's possible paladins & clerics will be quite rare - no one needs to be convinced by you that the gods exist and you spend your entire life serving their will without a lot of freedom to do what you want to do...
 

Staffan

Legend
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)

Agreed. The closest thing you'll get to an atheist would be something similar to the Athar from Planescape. "Yeah sure, Zeus exists up on Mount Olympos, but he's not a god. He's just a very powerful being, but that doesn't make him worthy of worship."

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.

This is emphasised pretty heavily in Eberron. The primary pantheon is called the Sovereign Host, and consists of nine gods who each have influence over a particular aspect of civilization. Most people worship the entire pantheon. The blacksmith would pray to Onatar to watch over his crafting, to Kol Korran to help with his business, and to Dol Dorn to bring his son home safe from the war. There are some people who focus their worship on a particular Sovereign, but they're considered to be strange.

There's also a pantheon of evil (and one CN) gods, called the Dark Six. Legend has it that they were once part of the Sovereign Host, but were kicked out for being bad. Some people pray to them as well in times of need or just because they feel that a particular aspect of them is appropriate at the moment. For example, someone seeking to woo the love of his life might pray to the Fury, who is the god of Passion.

Eberron's gods also do not involve themselves with the world. They might not even exist - they certainly don't seem to be around on any plane people can go to, or anything like that. People don't have direct communion with the gods or anything like that. That leaves room for differing opinions, and heresy, and stuff like that.

The clergy of the Sovereign Host are pretty accepting of varying opinions. When the human civilization has encountered new cultures and discussed religion, their attitude hasn't been "Oh, your war god is wrong, he does not exist. You should worship Dol Dorn instead." It's been more along the lines of "Oh, so you worship a war god called Gru'umsh. That's interesting. We call him Dol Dorn."
 

Voadam

Legend
"Your deity doesn't exist"

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

"Yeah, you call them god lasers, but they look just like the magic lasers of the wizard over there to me. Just because your magical tradition says your power comes directly from the gods does not establish that it does. Magic doesn't prove gods."

In 3e you had options for godless clerics. In 2e you had options for priests getting their powers from faith alone or from abstract forces or in Dark Sun from elemental powers or powerful sorcerer kings. All of them can call down flamestrikes. Clerical magic does not itself establish gods.

Even the appearance of an avatar or the full deity itself is not necessarily enough to remove all doubt from observers. You have some people saying Pharoh is a god, others say he is merely a powerful ruler claiming to be a living god. Mortals with magic makes this harder to establish conclusively for an observer who cannot see the rulebook or character sheet that says human or god on it.
 

Voadam

Legend
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?

Most D&D religions have a default pantheistic base cosmology so monotheistic religion probably would not apply.

Gods could be distant and unknowable with a mostly hands off approach leaving things to mortals to handle mostly on their own.

Gods could act through mortal intermediaries such as oracles.

Religions could have stories of the acts of the gods.

Religions could provide structure for the worship of gods.

Church hierarchies could arise.

Religious institutions could become politically active and powerful in society.

Lots of flexibility in how religions can be used in a D&D world.
 

Umbran

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

"Yeah, now prove that those are form a god, and not from some other source."

I think the "evidence of the existence that the gods exist" is way, way overstated. There's all sorts of sources of various magical events in the D&D rules - any edition. Everyone gets to produce fantastic effects. Miracles abound. What proof is there for the root origin of any of them?

Especially when the 3e rules explicitly state you can have clerics and paladins who don't follow gods. Sorry, that blows the whole, "gods clearly exist" right out of the water.

Consider: you can change the metaphysic out from under all divine powers - so they come from belief, rather than an actual god - and nothing else changes. The players don't even have to know! How strong is the case the gods must exist then?
 

Raven Crowking

First Post
Miracles abound. What proof is there for the root origin of any of them?

Especially when the 3e rules explicitly state you can have clerics and paladins who don't follow gods. Sorry, that blows the whole, "gods clearly exist" right out of the water.

Agreed, and this was true of 2e as well, where clerics/priests could specifically gain their powers from cosmic forces and/or philosophies.

Of course, one of the chief differences between a pre-modern and a modern worldview is that, in the pre-modern worldview, almost everything has some form of animus, can be considered "alive" in a sense, and can be considered to have volition. (In modern times, when one says that a gun "wants to" be shot, we have a sense of a more ancient worldview.) Gods in this sense are not necessarily anything special. The world abounds in spirits that have their own goals and powers.

One very common premodern idea was that magic, rather than being a force itself, invoked those spirits to do the magician's bidding....and those spirits could and would skew the request to their own ends. The unpredictability of some earlier edition spells model this, IMHO, quite well.

One notes, however, that "prove that your godlaser is divine" might be answered with said godlaser rather than a rational argument, especially if the cleric were far more powerful than the questioner. Abuse of authority is probably no less prevelant in a D&D world than it is in the real one. ;)


RC
 
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