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D&D 5E The Bible Is A New 5E Setting

The Adventurer’s Guide to the Bible is a 5E setting and adventure set in the first century AD.

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The 350-page book, created by Bible enthusiasts, included four new lineages, a range of subclasses, and an adventure for character levels 1-10, along with a full first-century AD setting with locations like the Library of Alexandria and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, NPCs, and monsters such as giants, seraph serpents, angels, and demons. The adventure itself involves a search for three missing Magi.

It's $25 for a PDF, or $39 for a hardcover.


Cleopatra is dead. Rome and Parthia struggle for control of the Fertile Crescent in a bid for world domination, while local politics in the Middle Kingdoms become increasingly divisive. The prophecies of the so-called “Messiah” have long been forgotten, and an ancient Evil lurks in the shadows, corrupting the hearts of humankind. Three of the wisest mystics known as the “Magi” travelled to Bethlehem following a star they believed to be a sign. They never returned. Hope grows dim as the world descends into darkness. What we need are answers... and those brave enough to seek them.


This isn’t the first biblical era setting for D&D, although it might be for 5E. Green Ronin released Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Era for 3E over a decade ago.

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

J-H

Adventurer
I've seen mention of the disciples calling Jesus "Rabboni" or "Teacher" at some of their earliest meetings, so He may have done some rabbinical studies and may have been teaching in a more conventional sense.
Not sure I buy it, as I made it all the way to age 37 or 38 before hearing anyone put that concept forward.

Generally, I think staying off the Biblical narrative and using it as an adventuring backdrop only is a good idea.

So we have Rephaim, Nephilim, and Giants now? That's going to be hard to split up stat-wise. I'm guessing something like, respectively orc or dwarf-lite, yuan-ti-lite, and goliath-lite. It depends how much they want to shoehorn typical D&D species differences into a "just human" setting.
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
e seen mention of the disciples calling Jesus "Rabboni" or "Teacher" at some of their earliest meetings, so He may have done some rabbinical studies and may have been teaching in a more conventional sense.
Not sure I buy it, as I made it all the way to age 37 or 38 before hearing anyone put that concept forward.
The titles are Rav and Ribon.

Rav means "master", including in the sense of a master of Tora knowledge, whence "teacher".

Rabbi means "my teacher". While talking to a teacher, one politely says, "my Teacher".

Ribon means "master" or ruler.

Riboni means "my master".

The way Jesus does midrash on the biblical texts, demonstrates he is highly educated in Tora study.



So we have Rephaim, Nephilim, and Giants now? That's going to be hard to split up stat-wise. I'm guessing something like, respectively orc or dwarf-lite, yuan-ti-lite, and goliath-lite. It depends how much they want to shoehorn typical D&D species differences into a "just human" setting.

I would make them all humans.

Rfaim are aboriginal tribes who venerate ancestors.

Nfilim are warrior aristocrats who descend from human leaders who were worshiped as gods.

The "giant" appears to be Goliath, a normal human with the gigantism medical condition.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Nephilim are the descendants of the children of fallen angels and human women.
Regarding the Nfilim, the Bible never mentions any "fallen angels".

The text describes powerful humans that considered themselves divine, who took whatever women they want. The descendants of these divine ancestors become famous warriors.

Compare how kings like pharaoh describe themselves as divine. Compare how kings and emperors choose for themselves from the most beautiful women in their territory. At one point, during the Bronze Age, this is a brand new phenomenon. Compare how many warrior noble families claim descent from these divine ancestors.



Genesis 6.4
הַנְּפִלִים הָיוּ בָאָרֶץ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְגַם אַחֲרֵי כֵן
אֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים אֶל בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם
וְיָלְדוּ לָהֶם הֵמָּה הַגִּבֹּרִים אֲשֶׁר מֵעוֹלָם אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם

"The Nfilim were in the land in those days. And also afterward.
So that the descendants of the divine ones would come toward the daughters of the humanity.
And they would make the heroes born to them, that are the men of the (famous) name, from the timespan (ago)."
 


Looking at the art clearly the Nephilim are intended to be akin Aasimar with holy light surrounding them.

Giants are well giants.

Rephaites look kind of grey, almost undead like. Maybe they will be Akin to Tieflings or Dhampyrs?
 

I think it will be interesting how they handle those "missing" years of Jesus' life, where there is very little in the Bible from about when he was 13 until he was 30. I wonder if they will use the theories that some of those later years were spent in India and learning the ways of the Hindu religion, an maybe Buddhism as well, as part of why he presented a softer, gentler new religion to contrast the older, more literal and violent Jewish faith.
That's the perfect place to put the PCs in!
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage

I had never heard of these before, but they appears to refer to them as semidivine ancestors or giants.

Nephilim - Wikipedia

Nephilim are also sometimes called giants.
The Hebrew word Rfaim means ghosts. The Tora never says the Rfaim are tall.

Deuteronomy 3.11 says Og was one of the remnants of the aboriginal Rfaim. He was a local king with a royal bed that was 9 cubits (say 4½ meters). The bed was big, but he wasnt. The bed is a royal luxury, perhaps involving fertility rituals.

The word Gigantes is Greek, and these references to "giants" are much later legends.
 


"The Nfilim were in the land in those days. And also afterward.
So that the descendants of the divine ones would come toward the daughters of the humanity.
And they would make the heroes born to them, that are the men of the (famous) name, from the timespan (ago)."

Yep, the Sons of God, or angels, fallen or not, screwed the daughters of man, and their babies were the Nephilim. The First Book of Enoch names the Sons of God as fallen angels. And yes, you will say that is a non-canonical book, but I am non-religious, so all religious texts are just fairy tales to me and I will use whatever fits the situation/setting.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Yep, the Sons of God, or angels, fallen or not, screwed the daughters of man, and their babies were the Nephilim. The First Book of Enoch names the Sons of God as fallen angels. And yes, you will say that is a non-canonical book, but I am non-religious, so all religious texts are just fairy tales to me and I will use whatever fits the situation/setting.
Note, in Hebrew, sometimes the Hebrew word Elohim is singular, and sometimes elohim is plural. The adjective Eloah means "divine". The plural Elohim sometimes functions as an abstract noun, "Divinity". It normally does so in contexts where it is a proper noun, a name, that takes a singular verb. So, "Divinity is", or "divine ones are".

The Bible occasionally calls humans "Divinity" (Elohim) or "divine ones" (elohim).

For example, when God tells Moses to talk to Aaron, God tells Moses, "You will become Divinity for him." (Exodus 4.16). Similarly, telling Moses to talk to the pharaoh, "See (it), I gave you (to be) Divinity for Pharaoh." (7.1). Moses is a normal human, but he serves as the image of Divinity when speaking on behalf of Divinity.

Remarkably, when a criminal is brought before a judge, the Bible calls this human judge "Divinity" (Elohim). (Exodus 22.8). The human represents the justice of God.

Relatedly, in the context of doing good actions, God says to Israel, "You are descendants of God your Divinity". (Deuteronomy 14.1). One is the image of Divinity when doing compassionate actions. The context also implies some sense of immortality, so as not to scar ones body in memory of the dead.

And so on. In some contexts, humans are Divinity.



In the context of the Nfilim, the Hebrew for "the descendants of divine ones" can be understood in the sense of being the "members" belonging to the group who are "of divine ones". Compare how the phrase, "the descendants of prophets", means the persons who are prophets. Thus, "the descendants of divine ones" are normal humans who are worshiped as divine gods.

Alternatively, perhaps the Bible implies, these "descendants of Divinity" are originally righteous humans who do compassionate actions and speak prophetically, thus become Divinity in this sense. They grow powerful, but unfortunately, start to abuse their power.

Either way, whether humans who are worshiped as gods, or humans who do the will of God, these divine humans are normal humans.

From an archeological perspective, I tend to assume these are humans who are worshiped as gods, namely polytheism. So by analogy, Zeus would originally be a human who would be one of these divinized humans, and Herakles would be one of the Nfilim, a "hero", who descends from him.

However, judging by how the terms, "Elohim" and "descendants of Elohim", are used elsewhere in the Bible, the biblical perspective may well imply that these parents of the Nfilim are originally righteous humans who do the will of Elohim. But. Who have abused their authority.



Psalm 82 is instructive here. And remarkable. Essentially, God "Divinity" stands before the judicial court of "divine ones". God says that despite the fact that they actually are divine, they will die the way normal humans do, because as judges, they fail to protect those humans who powerless.

Psalm 82
אֱלֹהִים נִצָּב בַּעֲדַת אֵל בְּקֶרֶב אֱלֹהִים יִשְׁפֹּט
עַד-מָתַי תִּשְׁפְּטוּ עָוֶל וּפְנֵי רְשָׁעִים תִּשְׂאוּ
שִׁפְטוּ דַל וְיָתוֹם עָנִי וָרָשׁ הַצְדִּיקוּ
פַּלְּטוּ דַל וְאֶבְיוֹן מִיַּד רְשָׁעִים הַצִּילוּ
לֹא יָדְעוּ וְלֹא יָבִינוּ
בַּחֲשֵׁכָה יִתְהַלָּכוּ יִמּוֹטוּ כָּל מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ
אֲנִי-אָמַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם וּבְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כֻּלְּכֶם
אָכֵן כְּאָדָם תְּמוּתוּן וּכְאַחַד הַשָּׂרִים תִּפֹּלוּ
קוּמָה אֱלֹהִים שָׁפְטָה הָאָרֶץ

"
Divinity (Elohim) is stationed in the council of Deity (El).
In the midst of divine ones (elohim), the one will judge (them).

Until when would you ones judge (by) evil? You ones would lift up the presence of malicious ones.
You ones must judge (for) a poor one and an orphan. You ones must do altruism (for) a humble one and an impoverished one.
You ones must make the poor one escape. You ones must rescue the wanting from the hand of the malicious ones.
(These divine ones) did not know (it). They will not understand (it).
They will walk around in a darkening. They will make all of the foundations of the land wobble.
I myself said.
You ones are Divinity.
All of you ones are the descendants of the Highest.
However, you ones will die as humanity (does).
And you ones will fall as one of the chiefs (do).

Divinity, you must arise! You must judge the land!

"

This Psalm can easily be understood to be about "the descendants of Divinity" and their Nfilim who are born from them. God gave them power to do good, and to judge fairly. But they abused their power, and damaged their land. In some sense, their unjust violence caused the flood.



The "descendants of Elohim" are normal humans who are in power over other humans. They abused their power, and used their power, to take whatever women they wanted. The "daughters of humanity" are from the human masses who lack power, the non-elites. The "descendants of Divinity" are normal human men who have normal human semen, who produce normal children with normal human females. The descendants, the Nfilim, are normal humans.
 
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dave2008

Legend
The "descendants of Elohim" are normal humans who are in power over other humans. They abused their power, and used their power, to take whatever women they wanted. The "daughters of humanity" are from the human masses who lack power, the non-elites. The "descendants of Divinity" are normal human men who have normal human semen, who produce normal children with normal human females. The descendants, the Nfilim, are normal humans.
Doesn't the fact that they have power over other humans mean they are not "normal" humans?

Now while I think your analysis is obviously true in some sense (there are no divine beings - they are all human), the real questions is how did / do people understand these texts? It seems the popular interpretation is that they are not simply human but something more? For a game, I am lest interested in the scholarly interpretation and more interested in the popular interpretation. Unless of course the scholarly viewpoint adds something interesting and fun of course!
 

At first I thought (as a Christian who loves playing D&D) "oh no, what a train wreck!", but I have to say it's growing on me. Certainly those behind it are.

A couple of people have commented on the Spartan choice. FWIW here's the designer's response about including them:

You're totally right! And it was actually for some of those reasons that we thought a "Spartan" made a better addition to an adventuring party than "Legionnaire." (By the way, we're not ruling out the appearance Legionnaire archetype.)

Spartans were definitely declining, and existed as little more than a novelty to the Roman empire. However, Sparta was not directly governed by Rome the way that pretty much every other city along the Mediterranean was. This gave Spartans a bit of freedom from the politics of the Rome/Parthia conflict, and many Spartans became mercenaries, traveling as far east as Nineveh (that I know of). Many Spartans also stayed at home and their lives dwindled into the shadows of history, but others... became adventurers!

The problem with playing a "Legionnaire" class (in my mind) is that Legionnaires are beholden to Rome and her strict military hierarchy, which would create a weird problem for players. You either have to obey the commands of your superiors in any roman-occupied city (which is half the world), or defect, which means you are no longer welcome in any roman-occupied city. On the flip side, legionnaires would be instantly killed or captured for entering Parthian territory. Some of this could lead to cool story moments, but mostly we felt it would be annoying to have to deal with this in a globe-trotting campaign, if that makes sense.

The other nice thing about Spartans is that no one really cared about them anymore, since their civilization and culture had become irrelevant. Thus, a Spartan has just as much reason to travel the map as anyone else, which is kind of what you're looking for in a party member.

Anyway, that was our thought process. Let me know what you think!

And here's what they said about the decision about what dates to use:

We decided to set the adventure during a "blind spot" in the Bible. Literally nothing is written about the years 20-27 CE, and that gives players the breathing room to tell their own story without "messing up" the narrative of the Bible.
I can see this working akin to AL seasons that are related to hardcover campaigns without ever directly interacting with those plotlines.
 

Please, nothing of nonenses like the DaVinci Code.

Real religion doesn't like "magic" but it is different the fictional fantasy settings where no-sentiente creatures, without idea of esoterism or ocultism, can use special tricks as pokemons.

Here the rule is "Deult vult" (Gods wants). For example if Hercules faces Samson (when Great Alexander invaded Israel) if God wants, Samson can defeat Hercules. If Athena disguses herself like an ordinary mortal for a theological debate with saint Catherine of Alexandria this wins (and later Athena is baptized Christian!).

There is a polite way to allow "angel" PCs. Maybe you don't remember the 80's TV show "Highway to the Heaven" where the main character, Johnatan Smith, was a mortal who after the death the is relived and sent by God to help people.
 


At first I thought (as a Christian who loves playing D&D) "oh no, what a train wreck!", but I have to say it's growing on me. Certainly those behind it are.

When Testament came out I don't remember it generating much negativity (either from believers who were upset, or by people who were offended by religious content). Personally I am fine with designers tackling the bible from any number of angles. Obviously there is always going to be a segment who will take issue with religious content from one side of the aisle or the other, but we afford movies and novels the breathing space to cover this stuff creatively. And even though I have my own religious point of view (which is definitely more Catholic than Evangelical), I like seeing stuff like this emerge and I like seeing creators given the space to tackle it how they personally want to (even if that is from a place of criticism). Whether the project reflects what they truly believe or reflects what they think would be interesting and cool for gaming. There doesn't have to be just one biblical setting after all, anyone is free to make one. I could see anything from a very grounded historical approach, a protestant approach, a catholic or orthodox or Judaic one, to an alternate history horror approach. Heck when I did my Caligula game, the game wasn't biblical at all, but because of the time it was set, I drew off some religious sources for inspiration. And this book has led to one of the more interesting discussions on the forum about religious based gaming content, so I think as long as people can be open minded and respectful of one another's differences in viewpoint in the conversation, it is all cool.
 

damiller

Explorer
When Testament came out I don't remember it generating much negativity (either from believers who were upset, or by people who were offended by religious content). Personally I am fine with designers tackling the bible from any number of angles. Obviously there is always going to be a segment who will take issue with religious content from one side of the aisle or the other, but we afford movies and novels the breathing space to cover this stuff creatively. And even though I have my own religious point of view (which is definitely more Catholic than Evangelical), I like seeing stuff like this emerge and I like seeing creators given the space to tackle it how they personally want to (even if that is from a place of criticism). Whether the project reflects what they truly believe or reflects what they think would be interesting and cool for gaming. There doesn't have to be just one biblical setting after all, anyone is free to make one. I could see anything from a very grounded historical approach, a protestant approach, a catholic or orthodox or Judaic one, to an alternate history horror approach. Heck when I did my Caligula game, the game wasn't biblical at all, but because of the time it was set, I drew off some religious sources for inspiration. And this book has led to one of the more interesting discussions on the forum about religious based gaming content, so I think as long as people can be open minded and respectful of one another's differences in viewpoint in the conversation, it is all cool.
I had mentioned up thread that at one point I had a Call of Cthulhu adventure mapped out set in this/around this period. The Investigators would have been roman citizens tracking down a mysterious cult that drank the blood of men. At the end they find out the cult is a group of Christians.
 

I had mentioned up thread that at one point I had a Call of Cthulhu adventure mapped out set in this/around this period. The Investigators would have been roman citizens tracking down a mysterious cult that drank the blood of men. At the end they find out the cult is a group of Christians.

Mine was set in 38 AD. The premise was Caligula was really a god, and he was at war with the minions of Neptune (who because they were of the sea, sometimes had a Cthulhu vibe), with the players being special agents dedicated to rooting out the threat. I didn't get too into Christianity, but I did mention the possibility, because of the ichthys (the Jesus Fish), they might be mistaken for members of the Cult of Neptune, or if the GM wants be part of it. I don' think that symbol was used widely for a century or so, but I figured there could be early uses in the campaign.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Now while I think your analysis is obviously true in some sense (there are no divine beings - they are all human), the real questions is how did / do people understand these texts? It seems the popular interpretation is that they are not simply human but something more? For a game, I am lest interested in the scholarly interpretation and more interested in the popular interpretation. Unless of course the scholarly viewpoint adds something interesting and fun of course!
Regarding "popular interpretation", it depends on which population one is talking about.

A population that is more strictly Bible-oriented will maintain the biblical outlook, which is mainly only humans and one infinite Divinity, where angels are little more than the interaction between the two.

But a population that is less Bible-oriented will find ways to make sense of their own local indigenous folkbeliefs.

For example, in early modern Scandinavian folkbelief, there is a troll who is a preacher with a congregation of trolls. If I remember the story correctly, he argues that all of the different kinds of trolls (Norway also has many goodlooking trolls) dont need Jesus, because trolls arent humans, and never fell in the way that humans fell. The preacher says, the original Adam had two wives, while in the Garden of Eden. The first wife is Lilith. She is immortal and was never cursed with death. Lilith is the mother of all of the trolls, who are also immortal. Eve is the second wife. Adam and Eve are no longer immortal. They gave birth to all of the humans who are mortal and need of being saved from death.

It is amazing that Norway became aware of Rabbinic Jewish midrashic traditions about Lilith and her Shedim offspring. Perhaps it is even more amazing that Norway adapted these Jewish traditions to explain Norwegian culture. The Norwegians were dissatisfied with a Christian theology that made everything either good or evil. The Norwegians wanted to find a biblical way to explain their own animistic traditions, where the beings of nature are capable of both good and bad. The midrash that was based on wilder interpretations of biblical texts offered more space for Norwegian folkbeliefs.

Likewise, the cowtail of the Norwegian trolls is also from the Jewish midrash. When humans do evil, the Shedim become more "beastly", with cattle features. But when humans do good, the Shedim become part of the "armies of the heavens and the land", appear more human, and become more helpful. So, in the Norwegian version, the tails fall off. The indigenous Norse animism involving animal shapeshifting made the appearance and disappearance of cattle features a natural fit.

So, popular interpretation depends on which population. The Greek-speakers saw the tradition of the Nfilim where a powerful and brutal group were destroyed by the divinity, and thereby blended in their own similar traditions about the Gigantes. These giants have nothing to do with the Bible, but they are important to certain Hellenistic ethnicities.
 

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