log in or register to remove this ad

 

Real Religion in Adventure Design

Asisreo

Hero
In the case of designing adventures, religion will often come up in parts of lore and background. Usually, these religions are either spin-offs of existing religions or entirely new religions with a host of different deities within the pantheon.

But I wonder...what about real, practiced religions being accessible in a TTRPG?

My interest is because real religions have such a rich and diverse set of traditions and cultures with iconic stories and memorable moments that define the beautiful aspects of the various regions they originate from. Having the party meet the Judeo-Christian Messiah or the Shinto Goddess of Sun Amaterasu or the Hindu Deity of Destruction Shiva would make for excellent encounters and events that not only show the lore of the fictional world but also gives context to real life religious figures and how they operate.

So, do you think these implementations of explicit religion can be done tactfully within an adventure, even one meant to be published for profit?
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

So, do you think these implementations of explicit religion can be done tactfully within an adventure, even one meant to be published for profit?
I don’t see why not. Historical settings, of course, do this by default. For example, I was involved in a playtest recently for an upcoming GURPS book about the Southeast Asian empire of Srivijaya. This involved discussions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The default assumption of the book was historical realism, but there were sections on adding fantasy elements and magic and whatnot. It was all quite respectful and tasteful.

This might be more difficult to pull off with a standard D&D adventure where there’s a strong “kill the monsters” vibe.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Much like as in forum discussions, i tend to avoid real religion in RPG play for the most part. It tends to be divisive. The exception would be modern games I guess, where actual religions are what's on offer. Even then, I'm not engaging woth the religions in any kind of core way, even in games where they mighr form the core background, as in a Conatantine sort of urban fantasy game.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I have always included real-like extinct (or nearly so, at least as far as I know) religions without problems, such as the classic staples Roman/Greek paganism, Norse and Egyptian. The only contemporary religion I have used is Shinto, but presumably not very realistically represented.

I have never used major monotheistic religions of the present, the real reason being that I don't find them interesting for a RPG. I can definitely see some appeal in a RPG game based on the real-world, with contemporary religions but also all the supernatural folklore, superstitions and sectarian myths (pretty much what is always being used in many games, books and movies such as The Da Vinci Code or the Diablo series).

It obviously depends on the people you have sitting at your table. I don't hang around well at all with intolerant people, and even if I invited the elders of my Italian family branch (many of which are in fact deeply religious) to play D&D together, I am pretty sure they would handle a Diablo-like fantasy setting with a laugh! They would be a lot more likely to frown upon excessive description of violence or scantily dressed characters, neither of which I feature in my games anyway.

But in a public environment, I would probably not pursue the idea, there are always people at large with troublemaking attitudes.
 


Aldarc

Legend
In short, "nope." My general preference on this issue is using (i) fictive analogues of real world religions rather than real world religions but (ii) respectfully representing its cult, piety, day-to-day practices of the people with the authenticity and significance of its real world religion counterpart.
 

Ulfgeir

Adventurer
I mean here in Sweden we had a diocese belonging to the state church publish at least 3 small games ("Quo Vadis?", "Ansgar", "Vägen") that they used in their confirmation-studies. Small games published in the late 80s/early 90s. So there, there was obviously christianity. Would I like to play them? Hell no.

I know Scion 1e got a bad rep for its portayal of certain religions. 2e is supposedly much better. No idea how well other games where you regularily interact with the divine is.

Then you have the thing that if you use a modern religion (especially if is a from a cultural minority that has been downtrodden), then you might want to have someone from that faith go through it as a sensitivity-reader. Your mileage may vary though, as what will be totally fine for one person would be seen as blasphemy by the more easily enraged individuals that see everything that is not exactly as they think it should be as an attack on their religion. So you can't please everyone. Of course, from an outsiders point of view, said enraged persons make for good villains/antagonists depending on the game, but one should be careful there as those persons might irl be prone to violence.
 

Voadam

Legend
Modern, historical, and future RPGs use real world religion all the time. It can be done tastefully or poorly. World of Darkness, d20 Modern, Shadowrun, Deadlands, etc. you can have stuff like a PC Baptist preacher.

Sometimes powers are added to real world religion aspects so the PC preacher might have true faith in a vampire game and the game must decide how it handles some theological truths, like whether only certain religions actually get reality stuff or where the lines are.

Meeting Jesus or Ganesh can be done, but it has potential to go poorly that should be considered.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
In the case of designing adventures, religion will often come up in parts of lore and background. Usually, these religions are either spin-offs of existing religions or entirely new religions with a host of different deities within the pantheon.

But I wonder...what about real, practiced religions being accessible in a TTRPG?

My interest is because real religions have such a rich and diverse set of traditions and cultures with iconic stories and memorable moments that define the beautiful aspects of the various regions they originate from. Having the party meet the Judeo-Christian Messiah or the Shinto Goddess of Sun Amaterasu or the Buddhist Deity of Destruction Shiva would make for excellent encounters and events that not only show the lore of the fictional world but also gives context to real life religious figures and how they operate.

So, do you think these implementations of explicit religion can be done tactfully within an adventure, even one meant to be published for profit?
It might be fraught with peril if people were genuine believers. You as GM might do something that the players feel does not represent the real world concept. This is why I tend to stay way way far away from real religions. If I want some of that flavor I change names, and mix things up a lot, to get the same effect without giving offense.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
My alternate 17th Century had Cromwell survive as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth and be succeeded by his son Robert Cromwell imbedding the influence of Puritan Witchfinders over England, Scotland and Doggerland. Of course the Witchfinders now have real targets since Ireland, Cornwall, Lyonnes and Britanny are dominated by Fey and Witches.

In Southern Europe the Grand Inquisitor became Pope and the Catholic Church began a purge of heresies and witchcraft, There was also reports of Demonic cults in Languedoc leading to the Catholic invasions of Southern France.

Various Protestant sects are rife throughout Germany, Hungary and Central Europe.

Baba Yaga and Werewolves dominant the Slavic lands beyond the Carpathians and the Ottomans are nearing Vienna with their clockwork war machines

ANyway I found that the various heresies and crusades against them made for interesting source material for gaming
 
Last edited:

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Best to use fictional religions, because using real ones in an RPG can result in looking at that religion through a new lens, like playing an RPG allows some people to look at being human (demi-?) through a new lens.

That's when the absurdities start popping up.

It might be fraught with peril if people were genuine believers. You as GM might do something that the players feel does not represent the real world concept.

Or this could happen.
 

MGibster

Legend
But I wonder...what about real, practiced religions being accessible in a TTRPG?
In Deadlands, set in the American old west in an alternative history with magic, mad scientist, and undead gunslingers, can play a Blessed. A Blessed is an individual who has been imbued with supernatural powers by the powers of good and this typically manifests itself as some real world religion. The game is set in the old west, so Blessed characters most often take the form of Christian clergy, nuns, and that kind of thing but the game makes it clear that characters could be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or any other faith. Blessed characters are expected to act in accordance to whatever their particular religion expects and failure to do so may result in powers being more difficult to use or outright lost. For example, Muslims are expected to pray five times each day and refrain from eating pork. A Blessed Muslim who didn't pray would be an example of a minor sin and it would be more difficult for him to use his powers until he atoned.

Now Deadlands is an RPG and it's not really the place to get into deep theological territories or attempts to play got'cha. So none of this, "What if I eat a pork sandwich by accident?" business.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So, do you think these implementations of explicit religion can be done tactfully within an adventure, even one meant to be published for profit?

I think you run into one basic issue.

Having the party meet the Judeo-Christian Messiah or the Shinto Goddess of Sun Amaterasu or the Buddhist Deity of Destruction Shiva would make for excellent encounters and events that not only show the lore of the fictional world but also gives context to real life religious figures and how they operate.

(Bold is mine)

The issue is in that bold. That context is far, far deeper than can be expressed in an RPG setting book or adventure or manual of deities. If the GM is not already well versed in the matter, an RPG supplement is not going to give them sufficient information to actually express that context in an accurate or meaningful way.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Only if it it is an important part of the setting and campaign and, even then, only if I know the players well and we've agreed on it.

But I would never publish anything based on real-world religions. At best, you'll almost certainly offend some people, at worst, you could be putting yourself in danger.

In my home-brew campaigns, I use custom made, fictional religions, though they may be inspired by real-world religious beliefs. In my current 5e game, I'm running a campaign a setting by a third-party publisher that uses Norse, Egyption, and Greek Gods. This is not an issue with anyone in my current group, but if an Asatru practitioner or Odinist, or some other neo-Pagan believer who worships these gods from "extinct" religions were to join the group, I would re-skin the pantheons.
 

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
I like how some have handled it: Lion and dragon does example has a proxy for things many of us know (Christendom).

know your group!

but really we deal with threads of the same cloth. Archetypes and shared things are the very stuff of myth!

D&D has it baked in whether we believe it or not. In AD&D it describes the crucifix as a holy thing!

and too, even clerics with exorcisms and bless are reminiscent of real world religions, plural! Blesses and exorcism are the stuff of most religious traditions!

but what is the angle? What is the groups maturity?

it all depends...

Are we framing the religion as a bad thing or just a fAct in the world? How does hellboy do it?
 


John Dallman

Adventurer
My interest is because real religions have such a rich and diverse set of traditions and cultures with iconic stories and memorable moments that define the beautiful aspects of the various regions they originate from. Having the party meet the Judeo-Christian Messiah or the Shinto Goddess of Sun Amaterasu or the Buddhist Deity of Destruction Shiva would make for excellent encounters and events that not only show the lore of the fictional world but also gives context to real life religious figures and how they operate.

So, do you think these implementations of explicit religion can be done tactfully within an adventure, even one meant to be published for profit?
I would definitely avoid publishing encounters with the central figures of currently-widespread religions, because it's impossible to portray them in a manner that won't upset some of their followers: the existing divisions in the religions make that very clear. Personally, I would not run encounters with them at all, because I don't think I could portray them effectively.

I have made use of real-world religions in campaigns. Most of this was in a long-running world-hopping campaign that visited many historical and alternate-historical worlds, mostly in Europe. One of the PCs was a 14th-century Hungarian knight who was a believing Catholic. He had occasional doubts about morality, and sought guidance, once from Augustine of Canterbury and once from Basil Hume. Portraying those gentlemen was an interesting challenge, which I seem to have coped with. This kind of thing works much better with older players (the group for this campaign were all over forty) who are prepared to think in some depth about their characters' motives.
 

Asisreo

Hero
My goal is essentially a celebration of these religions and a chance to share them.

Before publishing, I'd definitely vet them with actual practitioners of the religion. I feel like religion is often too bastardized or mocked in alot of TTRPGs, especially those that deal in fantasy. There are the presence of demons from judeo-christian canon but there are usually a distinct lack of spirits/angels/figures that promote the more important cultural aspects of the religion.

Maybe adding The Messiah is a bit too much for publication but having the players experience the story of David and Goliath in an almost beat-to-beat representation may be less prone to outrage since even protestant/catholic christian media has done almost parody-like recreations of these events.

On the opposite vein, there are less common but still openly worshipped religions that are being given inappropriate representation from all the way in pop culture. I know a woman that actively practices Hellenism and yet gods like Zeus or Hades are commonly ridiculed or demonized by TTRPGs.

So its about spreading awareness and having a more welcoming experience for those that prescribe to the religions rather than humiliate, isolate, belittle, or mock their practices and beliefs.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top