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Wanting players to take in-game religion more seriously

intently

Explorer
I'd like my players to take their characters' in-game religions more seriously, along with that of NPCs, rather than treating the various gods like spell vending machines and clerics as no different from wizards. Any tips, that aren't too heavy handed? I've broached the subject out of character, but haven't achieved what I'm hoping for.

Basically, the characters treat any show of devotion to the gods as a joke. Obviously I'm not offended on behalf of these fake gods, I just want a different tone.
 

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Saelorn

Hero
Start smiting people. The next time someone treats Pelor like a joke, while in a region which worships him, that PC is struck with a pillar of flame for 10d6 damage (no save).

The one deity who everyone takes seriously is Vkandis the Unsubtle.
 

Warrior Poet

First Post
Basically, the characters treat any show of devotion to the gods as a joke. Obviously I'm not offended on behalf of these fake gods, I just want a different tone.

A couple of suggestions:

1) Start withholding spells. Clearly, spells cannot be trusted to devotees who treat their service to the divine as a joke (unless one of them serves the god of sarcasm, or farce, or similar, I suppose). Spells are a means by which gods directly influence the world, and are thus an important and potent incarnation of deific power. If servants don't demonstrate sufficient attention to the rigors and severity of the world's gods, then why would the world's gods ever trust them with something as important as spells or similar means of imparting divine contact?

2) Lure them with temptations by an opposing deity. Divine servant not sufficiently devout in the service of the chaotic good deity of good health and good cheer? Seems like an excellent opportunity to introduce agents of (and eventually the actual) lawful evil god of severe and undiminished retribution (or similar). It gets even better if they decide to throw in with the tempter, because that's a deity that won't hesitate to dispatch devils or other minions if they get out of line.

Best of luck!

Still learning,

Robert
 

Olrox17

Hero
You may try to make the gods more active in their interactions with the game world. When divine beings are literally walking the earth on a regular basis (perhaps in their avatar forms), giving awesome boons to their faithful servants and making life harder for silly unbelievers...well, the players might feel more compelled to at least respect organized religions.

When that faithful NPC paladin they laughed at so much receives an holy avenger (that only he can use) from his god for his good service, who's the fool now?
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
The skald above has it right. If your gods A) exist and B) aren't taken seriously, why would they provide magic for their "followers?" Cut 'em off.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Just ask the players to take them more seriously. And be sure to explain what you mean by that. If they want to, they will. If they don't want to, prepare to be accepting of that going forward.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Just ask the players to take them more seriously. And be sure to explain what you mean by that. If they want to, they will. If they don't want to, prepare to be accepting of that going forward.
Agreed. If a DM in my group took one of the more punishment oriented approaches above, our divine characters would be more inclined to defy the gods than to fall in line.
Mans for some, the point of playing a divine character is to play with old tropes like Aramis and Friar Tuck, which for some, don't work well if the gods walk around, hit you with a stick when you don't take your religious duties seriously enough, etc.

lastly, understand that for some, unironic displays of religious devotion are uncomfortable, for any of a few dozen reasons. Perhaps it's hard for them to take religion seriously at all, or perhaps they do IRL, and so pretend devotion to pretend gods is just a bit much for them.

I suggest more more talking about what you want, And what they want
 

Eltab

Hero
Have your NPC clerics and paladins do more than just sit around waiting for an Epic Quest of Good to drop in their lap.
- The bandits up Dry Creek were brought to justice by that low-level Classic Paladin that you were laughing up your sleeve at for his piousness.
- Mother Teresa endorsed the local Cleric for his devotion to aiding the poor; he now has more help than he knows what to do with (and there aren't any more desperately poor people locally).
- A Druid figured out the herbal cure for a sickness - it came to him in a dream.
- The multiclass Rogue/Cleric (who secretly has perma-cast Zone of Truth on his office furniture) has started the Grameen Bank (low-interest loans to the debt-enslaved).
- LE multiclass Paladin/Fighter confronted several rampaging demons (CE) and defeated them, praying for might the whole time.
All of them credit their good fortune to the influence of the gods, acting behind the scenes or subtly to help out people who take up the gods' causes.

You can't make the PCs adopt any particular attitude towards religion, but if in your world respect towards the gods makes your life run smoother, they will eventually find it easier to at least ACT IN PUBLIC with respect.
 

intently

Explorer
Thanks, these are all good tips.

Do you think it would be fair and reasonable to have npcs act dismayed or offended by mockery towards the gods? To what extent? If a shopkeeper refused to deal with the party after hearing their jokes, would that be too heavy handed?

(And passive aggressive of me as the DM?)


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

Thanks, these are all good tips.

Do you think it would be fair and reasonable to have npcs act dismayed or offended by mockery towards the gods? To what extent? If a shopkeeper refused to deal with the party after hearing their jokes, would that be too heavy handed?

(And passive aggressive of me as the DM?)


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

Of course NPCs would be dismayed - making fun of the gods would mean likely misfortune in the area the god or gods mocked were in control of. Mocking the rites of, say, the deity of luck or wealth would terrify the locals (and should terrify the players as well). They might even form a mob and hand the characters over to the authorities to be tried for blasphemy. Go ahead and Google some of the historical punishments for blasphemy if you want a hair-raising experience...
 

Saelorn

Hero
Do you think it would be fair and reasonable to have npcs act dismayed or offended by mockery towards the gods? To what extent? If a shopkeeper refused to deal with the party after hearing their jokes, would that be too heavy handed?
It's the least you could do. Remember, your primary job as the DM (after describing the environment and adjudicating uncertainty) is role-playing all of the NPCs. You should have them do whatever makes sense for them to do, upon witnessing such behavior.

You're the DM. You know exactly how the world is supposed to work. This should help to convey that to the players, so they will know how the world works and can play their characters appropriately.
 

transtemporal

Explorer
You don't even need sanctions from the gods themselves really (and in any case, I don't think this warrants it). If you were an ordained minister in a church and you started badmouthing god and making fun of prescribed rituals, they'd probably ask you to take some time off. In the most extreme cases, like questioning doctrine or actively and heinously subverting sacred rituals, they might kick you out of the church altogether. So that means nothing to the PCs right... until they can't get healing or raise dead services from that church, or any other aligned church. Afterall the other churches don't want to catch the wrath of your god by allowing you to circumvent those strictures.

Personally, I don't think being flippant is enough for the god him/herself to take notice. In the same way that people mourn in different ways, people also worship in different ways. It doesn't make them less devout. I wouldn't actually take away their class abilities unless they were actively acting against their god, or in a way which was completely antithetical to the gods tenets.

Disrespect is a different matter. To my mind, you can oppose the gods and unless they are very petty gods, they couldn't care less. They might even give you props for showing initiative. But disrespecting them and mentioning them by name may warrant some kind of personal attention. Any time this happens, I get the player to roll % dice without telling them why. There is basically a 5% chance that an avatar of that god appears and messes the blasphemer up good in some kind of thematic and poetic way appropriate to that god.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I'd like my players to take their characters' in-game religions more seriously, along with that of NPCs, rather than treating the various gods like spell vending machines and clerics as no different from wizards. Any tips, that aren't too heavy handed? I've broached the subject out of character, but haven't achieved what I'm hoping for.

Basically, the characters treat any show of devotion to the gods as a joke. Obviously I'm not offended on behalf of these fake gods, I just want a different tone.

One way to do this (and a way that mirrors how religions work a lot of the time in the Real World): the faithful control the politics and behavior of every significant organization or civilization the party comes across.

To make it very Medieval Europe: the gods are all organized into a single Church, and that Church is very wealthy and influential. The people go there weekly. The gods inspire pilgrimages to holy sites. Saints are mentioned more than any other heroes. The leaders of the church are the power-brokers in the places where they live, and even in the broader kingdom: to be a true king, the Church must recognize you.

In play, this manifests as the Church affording special privileges to the religious characters. In order to meet with a particular NPC, they need to show up at church. The church's leaders are patrons of the party, and the missions they undertake are specifically for the church first and foremost. Every meal is opened with a prayer, everywhere the PC's go. Every oath and contract is sworn with the names of the gods. Money is printed with holy symbols.

Make the gods important to the NPC's of the world first.

If the party expresses in-character irreverence, make sure the NPC's react appropriately - with fear, with disdain, with ostracism. Influential NPC's become unfriendly, even hostile.

You might also get at the heart of the matter by linking each character to the Church in some way (as would be the case being raised in such a religious setting). Ask each player to describe the Church that they attended in their homeland. Link it to their class, or their background. (You might consider adopting training rules, and making sure trainers are members of the church)

Of course, get player buy-in for this. If you want them to be "respectful" characters, talk to them about it, say it's part of the tone you're going for. If the players aren't on-board, then no amount of anchoring is going to really change that, and they might just rebel.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

Well, my guess is that your group is more of the "it's just a game" side of things and you are more on the "it's a hobby" side of things. I've found that those that play RPG's (D&D in particular) just as a lark, or to blow of steam, or to pass a few hours in the afternoon before they go do the 'real' fun stuff (movies, bar, club, whatever) just don't care about any of that stuff. And pretty much the exact opposite for those who love RPG's and treat them as a serious hobby (e.g., would much rather play a 12 hour RPG session than go to a club/movie/bar/etc).

If your players are the later...the hobbiests... then explaining and asking them to take it a bit more seriously (in-game religiosity) is probably your best bet. You may need to bring the point up in-game every now and then as a reminder, but that should be worst case scenario.

If your players are the former...the gamers... then implement a "number rating" that everyone in the world has. Call it, oh, "Piety", "Devotion", "Belief", "Fervour", or whatever. Explain that as one does things for and in accordance with their religion they get points in this. As they err from the path, points are lost from this. Explain that this new "Statistic" is a gauge on how well healing spells may work on them, how likely they are to be successfully raised from the dead or resurrected, how likely it is their god will intervene on their behalf ("divine intervention"), and how likely they are to garner favours from others (especially clerics, druids and the like!). Explain that the gods take morals belief in them and their devotion to "the path" very seriously, and this seriousness extends to mortals. A town might be more willing to risk a deal with a Cult of the Goddess of Pain and Suffering, than to trust a group of adventurers who mock, ignore or otherwise joke about the gods.

There. Now when they start to 'take gods for granted', just say "Ok, after the healing spells are done, and you all have a good laugh at calling for the "walking band-aid", you can all subtract 4 points from your Fervour". Eventually they will start to get the point...and, if you're lucky, they'll at least stop being "irreverent" towards religion (e.g, they'll bite their tongue rather than say "Ooooo...what? Is your God gonna smite us or something? ....oooOOOOoooo...spooooky....I'm so-o scared! LOL!"
).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 
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Draegn

Explorer
I have my divine players using "spell points" to cast spells. These points do not recharge. They have to be earned through role playing. Conduct a sermon, build a shrine, convert new worshipers, etc... For example at lower levels some farmers approached the group asking for help in recovering their stolen oxen, crying about how the fields needed to be plowed in time for planting. The druid split off and stayed with the farmers shape changing to a bull to pull the plow while the others went off looking for the cattle thieves. The druid gained converts, preached, had a small shrine built and earned points for spells.
 

Dualazi

First Post
Of course, get player buy-in for this. If you want them to be "respectful" characters, talk to them about it, say it's part of the tone you're going for. If the players aren't on-board, then no amount of anchoring is going to really change that, and they might just rebel.

While I wouldn't want to encourage derailing the campaign, I think that rebellious players in such a setting would definitely be doable, either as switching to a deity more inline with their anti-authority nature, or by trying to push for reformation within their own organization. I would rather the players be allowed to make such decisions and suffer the consequences that arise from the game world rather than push for them to switch to respectful characters.
 

By and large, whatever behaviours your game rewards are the behaviours you'll see more of.

So, if you want your players to take in-game religions more seriously, reward those who do so. And my recommendation for this would be simple: rename Inspiration to "Divine Inspiration", and only give it out to those PCs who show proper respect to the gods. Those who don't can continue to adventure, and that's fine, but they'll never be Divinely Inspired.

And, as an added bonus, if the players involved ask why they never get Inspiration, you can intone, "the gods find your lack of faith... disturbing." :)
 

Just ask the players to take them more seriously. And be sure to explain what you mean by that. If they want to, they will. If they don't want to, prepare to be accepting of that going forward.

Yeah, I don't think that punishing players is the right way to go. Just ask them to take it more seriously, as Iserith suggested.

But also, you can try and make the powers of the gods feel more active. You don't have to literally send avatars down to earth. There are more subtle ways to do this.

For example, in my own campaign some evil creatures cannot enter a domain that is blessed in the name of another deity. And a ship that has a figurehead in the shape of a deity, will inherit some properties that are unique to that deity.

Also, making an offering to a deity, or receiving a blessing from a priest, has positive effects on the party. They will not be attacked by bandits if they make an offering, or pray to the god of merchants and travel.

Making an offering to the god of storms will ensure beneficial winds while at sea, or they could ask for bad weather as well, if the god feels that the enemy of the players deserves punishment.

Likewise, evil deities also have their spies everywhere. Usually in the form of a specific animal. The Goddess of chaos always sends moths to spy for her. The lady of the flesh sends all manner of vermin to spy for her. But they dare not enter the church of the goddess of the sun. And a swift prayer to a powerful deity can instantly repel any such spies.

See, if your players feel that there is actually some merit to treating these fictional gods with respect, then they might be more inclined to do so.
 

GameOgre

Adventurer
I like using the stick instead of the carrot with Gods. Smite early and smite often. My gods are fickle and like mankind full of hubris and ego. Mock them at your peril.

Everything I ever read in legends about the Gods from out world(I'm not talking modern day religions here but ANCIENT Roman and Norse and Greek Mythos!) Had the Gods infighting and squabbling against each other and demanding respect and humility from mankind.

In my games they send their servants on quests to slay some offending creature or carry out some task for one of their offspring on a regular bases! Fail and Suffer!

Heck I even recently pulled a Bard's party into Hades realm to (pay back) Hades for the use of his Cure Wounds spells he had been granting the bard. The Bard was like I had no idea it was coming from you! Hades said"That Was the General Idea! Now FOOL your task....."

I encourage everyone to run the Gods like Gods. The are not a plot device but actual NPC's of Epic Power levels that employ Clerics and Paladins and Warlocks and more to accomplish their ends. Give them personalities and goals and don't be afraid to go far past the ideas in the books.

If Ares orders his priest to kill the Orc Warchief a almost impossible task don't be afraid to reward faithfulness with the timely arrival of a Horde of Fire Elementals erupting from a nearby fissure, that lay into the Orc Warband. The Lord of Fire leading them Ffaierin repaying his debt to Ares.

If at a pinnacle moment in the game The Cleric of Hera and her band are finally engaging the Medusa of Toldaris do not be afraid to have a nearby statures face suddenly transform to Hera's Face, scolding the Medusa and gloating while the PC's recieve the benefits of a long rest immediately.
 

Arial Black

Explorer
It's a balancing act. No DM wants the (unrealistic) situation of clerics acting as if the deity that grants them spells doesn't exist or doesn't matter.

On the other hand, no player wants the DM to take control of his character away from him by making seemingly arbitrary rules and restrictions.

Do you think it would be fair and reasonable to have npcs act dismayed or offended by mockery towards the gods? To what extent? If a shopkeeper refused to deal with the party after hearing their jokes, would that be too heavy handed?

This is the way to go. Having the gods smite them with lightning whenever they piss the DM off with an off-hand comment doesn't seem realistic, and realism is your friend here.

Can you imagine what would happen in real life if you went to Mecca and started slagging off God? That's how Christianity used to be. In 'the good old days' there were fatwas and burnings at the stake and crusades and the phrase, "Burn the heretic!" was as common as, "Bring out your dead!"

Have NPCs realistically respond. That doesn't mean that individual shopkeepers would commit suicide by launching an unarmed attack against a group of well-armed murder-hobos, but he might well refuse to serve you, or he might inflate the prices, pass the word around to other tradesmen, gather an angry mob, start a riot against the ruler for allowing such blasphemers to walk about mocking God and going unpunished, almost like the ruler agrees with them! No ruler would let that lie! They would have to respond, and bring their considerable forces to bear against the blasphemers/party!

BTW, this is also the best way to deal with any murder-hobo type behaviour; a realistic response from the world. It's not you the DM who is punishing them (Rocks fall; everybody dies!)! It's simply the realistic consequence of their own behaviour.
 

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