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Real Religion in Adventure Design

This has been a good discussion; I appreciate the genuine desire to do the right thing in it. Let me tell you a little about my experience.

I am a Christian from a mainstream denomination; I’ve always been a Christian and I’ve been a role player for 30+ years, of which the last 20 I have been living in the US. I’ve played a lot of games with a lot of people, a fair number of whom are Christian. I’ve helped run a D&D club in my local church and I’ve been involved occasionally at religious services at game conventions.

As @aramis erak says, the first thing I’d note is that antipathy for D&D is no longer a big thing in the mainstream church. I;m not not saying it’s not there — we have neighbors who didn’t let their kids watch Harry Potter because it had magic in it and I doubt they’d be happy with D&D playing (we never invited their kids to play D&D with us, respecting their beliefs). But overall it just doesn’t seem important in the Christian community. Honestly, it really shouldn’t be. Pretty anyway you read the Bible or major theological writings says that Christians should focus on helping other people and be less upset about exact beliefs. There are a hundred clear statements that you should help people in need for every one that says you should avoid contact with sin, so even if you do equate D&D with sin, it should be low on your priority.

Which brings me to my second point; Christianity is more than a belief system, it is also a culture. More specifically, it is a whole set of cultures. In my culture, our church is focussed on inclusivity, and you would be more likely to be condemned for opposing gay rights than for playing D&D (and in fact, several people have left our church because we are vocal in our support of the LBGT community). But other cultures are different. One strong cultural branch of Christianity is centered on trying to preserve a vision of Christianity that focuses on personal morality, on traditional families, on strong gender roles. That branch doesn’t focus on the core message of Jesus, but instead focuses on reacting against change and against what they see as evil influences on society. For them, D&D is another example of an evil influence that they oppose (mostly half-heartedly nowadays, as they are fighting bigger changes).

In my experience, I like the opportunity to see real religion in games. It’s like sex or romance — a powerful and fundamental drive that everyone knows should be fundamental to a setting, but is often left out because it is tricky. If you are running a real-world game, it should have religion in it to be realistic. If you are running a game in an imaginary setting, i’d suggest following the same kind of guidelines as you would for other cultures — be respectful, avoid hot-button topics, don’t consistently associate them with negative images.

So, try and avoid the “all paladins are stupid because their beliefs make them unwilling to compromise” trope. Don’t have a campaign focused on abortion or gay rights, and don’t use religious names in disrespectful ways.

However, do have fun playing with what-ifs! As a Christian I like to think a bit about my faith and enjoy it when GMs pose questions like “so, aliens — should they be saved?” Or “magic is observable, what’s the church’s attitude?”. Adding a big change or a focus like this is an excellent idea because it does two things: First, it engages those of us who are believers. And second, it adds a bit of distance between your portrayal and the actual culture, which helps smooth over any issues.

And really, really, don’t worry about making honest mistakes. Good players support their GMs and do their best to make the GMs vision work; hold Christian players to the same standard and have fun!
 

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However, do have fun playing with what-ifs! As a Christian I like to think a bit about my faith and enjoy it when GMs pose questions like “so, aliens — should they be saved?”
I asked that of a theologian (John Fearon, Order of Preachers - aka, Dominican), and he didn't know. So he asked Pope JP II. several weeks later, Friar John showed me the letter from the vatican. Hand written, but numbered:
Dear John,
One must only be a reasoning intelligent being capable of understanding the sacraments. Why do you ask?
John Paul II
So, I know that, at least for the 23 hierarchies in full communion with Rome, there IS an answer.

(My dad was the cathedral deacon for the Archdiocese of Anchorage's Cathedral for more than 10 years. I spent a lot of time around theologians. I had no idea that Friar John would get an official answer. Until he did.)
 



Ixal

Adventurer
I asked that of a theologian (John Fearon, Order of Preachers - aka, Dominican), and he didn't know. So he asked Pope JP II. several weeks later, Friar John showed me the letter from the vatican. Hand written, but numbered:

So, I know that, at least for the 23 hierarchies in full communion with Rome, there IS an answer.

(My dad was the cathedral deacon for the Archdiocese of Anchorage's Cathedral for more than 10 years. I spent a lot of time around theologians. I had no idea that Friar John would get an official answer. Until he did.)
There was a short lived SciFi setting (mostly for a video game, Sword of the Stars, but they put a lot of effort into developing it) where the church was a major player as they started missionary work again once alien live was discovered, even managing to embed themselves into the ruling families of an alien empire.
I effect the Vatican had a better understanding of intergalactic politics and alien races than the official space agency of earth and all the really good books and notes about it were written in Latin.
 

There was a short lived SciFi setting (mostly for a video game, Sword of the Stars, but they put a lot of effort into developing it) where the church was a major player as they started missionary work again once alien live was discovered, even managing to embed themselves into the ruling families of an alien empire.
I effect the Vatican had a better understanding of intergalactic politics and alien races than the official space agency of earth and all the really good books and notes about it were written in Latin.
There are several authors who have written the Catholic Communion (it really is more than just the Roman Church) increasing missionary work post-contact. Orson Scott Card, in his Enderverse, has a reasonable extrapolation of the Roman Church, with the same "dogmatic error" as Rev. Fr. Andrew Greely: Female priests and bishops. Otherwise, both have written the Church as reaching out to ETs. Several others have had presence of the Catholic and Orthodox communions off-world, but without a good working knowledge of extant dogmatic structures. I've often had issues with misportrayals of various churches in the media.
Which, bringing back to topic, One of my great discomforts with 7th Sea is that John writes it with the Gnostics holding the majority at the end of the first Ecumennical Council... It's right in that uncanny valley for me.
 

Esau Cairn

Explorer
Orson Scott Card, in his Enderverse, has a reasonable extrapolation of the Roman Church, with the same "dogmatic error" as Rev. Fr. Andrew Greely: Female priests and bishops.

I took Card's perspective to be that by that time, there would be female priests and bishops. But from a conservative Catholic viewpoint, that would constitute a dogmatic error.
Back an aeon ago, when I was a non-Catholic in Catholic high school, the token renegade Jesuit teacher had AC Clarke's short story "The Star" as required reading over Christmas break. A nice fusion of religion and physics.

We use real-world regions and their adherents often in our games (particularly T2k and Delta Green), and perhaps because folks usually at the game table are from at least five different religious backgrounds (with one surviving a politico-religious genocide in the 90s), our in-game depictions are equal parts unflinchingly critical and evenhandedly fair.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Which, bringing back to topic, One of my great discomforts with 7th Sea is that John writes it with the Gnostics holding the majority at the end of the first Ecumennical Council... It's right in that uncanny valley for me.
That entire setting is a massive uncanny valley that has never sat well with me.
 

I took Card's perspective to be that by that time, there would be female priests and bishops. But from a conservative Catholic viewpoint, that would constitute a dogmatic error.
Back an aeon ago, when I was a non-Catholic in Catholic high school, the token renegade Jesuit teacher had AC Clarke's short story "The Star" as required reading over Christmas break. A nice fusion of religion and physics.

We use real-world regions and their adherents often in our games (particularly T2k and Delta Green), and perhaps because folks usually at the game table are from at least five different religious backgrounds (with one surviving a politico-religious genocide in the 90s), our in-game depictions are equal parts unflinchingly critical and evenhandedly fair.
By even a relatively moderate practical Catholic view, women in the presbyterate are heresy, period - the definition of dogma is that which cannot be changed, ever, as it's directly revealed word of God via the Church. Denial of any dogma is an automatic excommunication, until one forces assent of will upon accepting that same one. And it has multiply been dogmatically declared impossible to ordain women to the presbyterate. (Note that papal election is not considered a dogmatic act... and popes have been removed for belief of heresies - none taught them as pope, but there were a couple close calls.)
Essentially, that's a change that would split the church in half, right quick. And if endorsed by a pope, he'd cease being the pope the moment he said it.
And it's a break in verisimilitude for me. Huge one. I have a number of friends for whom, finding out Rev. Fr. Andrew Greely has written a prediction of the church embracing heresy, stopped reading any of his works. I've read that he was formally censured for The Final Planet.

Different people are going to have different reactions to such. But when one portrays a long established "unchangeable truth" of a major religion in a recreational use setting (books, games), many of even the lax end of that faith are going to be annoyed by it.

If one wants to have a Catholic church with female priests and bishops, it's better to use one of the many of the "schismatic catholic churches" which already ordain female priests and bishops. From the Roman viewpoint, that includes Mariavites, Utrecht Union, "Old Catholic" churches (all of which trace back to the Utrect Union), one of the Malabarese churches, a couple of odd Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox schimsatic groups...
Or to explicitly be set in an alternate timeline/universe, where that dogma never was declared.
 

pemerton

Legend
By even a relatively moderate practical Catholic view, women in the presbyterate are heresy, period - the definition of dogma is that which cannot be changed, ever, as it's directly revealed word of God via the Church.
There are many Catholic priests who think that there is no principled theological objection to the ordination of women. I'm not going to express a view on these boards as to whether or not I agree with them. But clearly they don't think od themselves that they're heretics!
 

Ulfgeir

Adventurer
A
There are many Catholic priests who think that there is no principled theological objection to the ordination of women. I'm not going to express a view on these boards as to whether or not I agree with them. But clearly they don't think od themselves that they're heretics!
Ah, but do they expect the Spanish inquisition? :)

And there has been throughout history lots of cults and religious leaders that I think we can fairly safely label as villains by today's standards.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
And there has been throughout history lots of cults and religious leaders that I think we can fairly safely label as villains by today's standards.
And a lot of cults which were labelled villains back then but would be seen much more sympathetic today (Cathars for example)
 



Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:

Folks, when you start saying that people with particular real-world religious beliefs should, or should not, be labelled as villains is a point at which you bush up against the no real-world religion rule.

Take several steps back from that line, please and thanks, or the thread will just be closed.
 

Retreater

Legend
I have used my own experiences with real world religions to inform my campaigns, but unless I am running something set in our world (like Call of Cthulhu), I don't use real religions, historical figures, etc. For me it breaks verisimilitude and can ruffle feathers of the players.
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
It's super-table-dependent, and I personally would stay away from any of that if it involved real-world religions people were still practicing. Too much risk of really pissing people off.

I mean, you might be playing with a table of Christians who would really enjoy being paladins and clerics of God fighting devils. But you'd know that about your group. None of us would.

I was from a mixed marriage (Jewish-Christian), joined a discussion about including Jewish elements here because I thought it was a neat idea, and it had to be shut down because apparently there were Jewish posters accusing each other of antisemitism. My point is, even if you think you're OK talking about this stuff, you're often not, and then someone goes and gets really offended and doesn't tell you.

The old rule used to be that you didn't discuss politics, religion, sex, or money in public. Seems sensible enough (unless you're in a club devoted to that sort of thing like a Bible study or you're volunteering for some politician of course).
 
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There are many Catholic priests who think that there is no principled theological objection to the ordination of women. I'm not going to express a view on these boards as to whether or not I agree with them. But clearly they don't think od themselves that they're heretics!
It's a dogma; See Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, penned by HH John Paul II, making it blackletter and reiterating and dogmatizing what HH Paul VI said to the Anglican Communion when the Anglicans decided to ordain women: women are invalid subjects for priestly ordination. HH Paul immediately closed the dialogues towards mutual recognition. That also lead to the eventual formation of the Anglican Use within the Roman Church. HH JP II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis uses the "settling the question once and for all" wording...
Link to OS in case you care to read it - I linked to the English, rather than the Latin or Italian: Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994) | John Paul II
The thing is, most Catholics in the US don't know the catechism. Most have never actually read the official catechism, let alone the assorted doctrinal statements made ex-cathedra.
And note, the issue was in discussion in the 2nd century, too... and the 16th, 19th and 20th centuries...

If doing Alt-History, the place to make the change would be St Paul's ordination of St Pheobe. If he had ordained her to the presbyterate, the whole of Catholic History would be different. He did use the Greek "diakonos" for her, and she was trusted by him to teach from his letters.
We also know that, in the second century church, the deaconesses were communed in the same manner as the deacons, unlike the subdeacons, and actually had authority over the subdeacons. St Paul, such a rabble-rouser... ;)
 


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