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Religion in Call of Cthulhu: Boon or Bane?

Trismegistus

Explorer
Good evening.

Father Mateo is a character that appears in both the "Mansions of Madness" and "Eldritch Horror" board games (the image below is from "Eldritch Horror". And it was through him that I became fascinated with the role religion might play in the worlds of H.P. Lovecraft. It only seemed natural; many of Lovecraft's stories make use of occult knowledge and books so why not explore the other side of the coin?

If the opportunity ever presented itself, I would very much like to play a priest in a Call of Cthulhu campaign. It would be interesting to see if faith offers additional protection from -- or vulnerability to -- the denizens of the Cthulhu Mythos. It would also be interesting if the character's "Luck" score was interpreted as "Faith" for those with a religion-based occupation.

So to any Keepers who have had a religion-based Investigator in their campaign -- or to any Investigator who has played one, I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the subject. Thank you so much!

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MGibster

Legend
So to any Keepers who have had a religion-based Investigator in their campaign -- or to any Investigator who has played one, I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the subject. Thank you so much!
I've had religious characters in my Call of Cthulhu games but I've never had an Investigator who was an ordained priest of any religion. It's certainly nothing I've banned in any of my games I've just never had a player come to me with that concept. But these religious characters might have ordained priests as contacts, going to church might help them unwind, and a priest might have access to that all important psychoanalysis skill to help the Investigator recover some much needed Sanity.

In the context of Call of Cthulhu, faith doesn't really offer any protection from the sanity blasting truths of the universe. But faith doesn't really hurt the character either. But as their Sanity drops, and they start abandoning the "truths" they lived their lives by, their old religion is just as likely to be dropped as faith in family, science, humanity., etc., etc.
 

Voadam

Legend
I've read a review of 7th Ed. Cthulhu Dark Ages that I think said faith and medieval mindset was used as a sort of new mechanic for addressing sanity stuff, fitting bad things into your worldview led to less problems is what I remember. I can no longer find any reviews of it but it sounded neat.
 


practicalm

Explorer
Most games wouldn't see traditional religions have any power to help against the Lovecraft horrors. I could see some games allowing for priests that have learned the forbidden knowledge in order to contain threats. That would be within the realms of possibility but something I would require a player to grow into or to have a challenge to contact within his/her church organization.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
So to any Keepers who have had a religion-based Investigator in their campaign -- or to any Investigator who has played one, I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the subject. Thank you so much!
I’ve had a few in my games before. It could be my bad luck, but they have tended to be played by real-life zealots who used the Call of Cthulhu game as an excuse to preach both in-character to the other investigators and out-of-character to the other players. As a result I’ve stopped allowing religious zealots in my games (both as players and as characters).

I think Call of Cthulhu in general is not a great place for positive depictions of faith. It’s a game and setting that runs almost completely opposite to real-world faith. I could see the faithful learning the truth if the world and becoming the most ardent cultists, but not having faith be a shield against the Mythos. That would run counter to the spirit of the game.

I’ve also been re-reading some older Call of Cthulhu stuff. Specifically the Keeper Companion, vol 1. The relevant line that’s sticking out is: “when these prehistoric civilizations crumbled, their knowledge was lost and belief in Cthulhu was replaced by belief in the weak gods of Earth.”

To me, that kinda perfectly encapsulates the world Call of Cthulhu exists in and is trying to create in the game.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
My very first CoC character had been a priest who started off by using his faith as a bastion against the things he was battling, eventually (and maybe a little blasphemously) revising said beliefs to incorporate the new horrible things he had learned, and in the end revising his beliefs to the point where he became a raving leader of cult devoted to Nyarlathotep.
 

Trismegistus

Explorer
My very first CoC character had been a priest who started off by using his faith as a bastion against the things he was battling, eventually (and maybe a little blasphemously) revising said beliefs to incorporate the new horrible things he had learned, and in the end revising his beliefs to the point where he became a raving leader of cult devoted to Nyarlathotep.
Lovecraft himself couldn't have written that story any better. Outstanding!! (y)
 


Ulfgeir

Adventurer
I think we had an ordained priest in one of the campaigns I played in, but not entirely sure. I know that I will at least not let mundane religion be any protection from the mythos when I run more of Call of Cthulhu Sverige. I can maybe see that a priest schooled in exorcisms might be able to do some things, but that should really be an exception, and I would be treating that as if they were casting a banishment-spell.

But as others have said, it might help in recovering the sanity afterwards, as in you recover by talking to other people, and get help processing your experiences. On the other hand a religious fringe group might be a very good base for worshipping an aspect of Nyarlathothep or promoting things that will help Hastur, and not knowing what it is they do.
 



Nytmare

David Jose
I know that I will at least not let mundane religion be any protection from the mythos when I run more of Call of Cthulhu Sverige.
Yeah, I always prefer modern religions to just ever so gently brush up against an understanding of what the mythos is. I've always kinda liked the idea that the stories we tell ourselves were kinda put there to protect our feeble little monkey brains from attempting to tackle the big picture.
 

It has been so long since I last played CoC, that I do not remember if there were ever any priest PCs, but I like the was some other games handle Faith, like in the World of Darkness, where it is your faith and belief that makes a vampire vulnerable to a holy symbol, and not the symbol itself. A person without faith will not hold the evil at bay just by waving a cross around. Though in WoD, I think the faith and belief the vampire had in his mortal days may also influence what effect a holy symbol had on them. I don't remember the details on that now. So for CoC, I could see a strong faith keeping lesser evils at bay, but stronger ones would just look at your priest and laugh. Or take the faith and holy symbols in D&D. Those are powered by the deities that actually exist, and for them to be powered that way in CoC, you would have to decide if the human gods are real or not.
 

GreyLord

Hero
NOT CoC, but D&D. It's amazing what a High Level Cleric can do with a Party to ruin Cthulhu's day!

In that instance, their faith (and whoever their deity is showing their power through them) can absolutely be a Bastion (along with a Good weapon from a Fighter and a few arcane spells from a Wizard) against the lunacy inducing visions of insanity that the Cthulhu verse brings...if you can get your hands on the stats of course (and there's more you can do in destroying good or evil from those same types of sources, but bringing that up to specifically, even though it's D&D may be too controversial to really go into detail here).
 

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