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 Post subject: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:41 am 
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I am currently taking a hard look at my home-brewed world's pantheon and was hoping to kick off some comments in "The Temple District".

What are elements (if any) that give your own preferred setting's Deities a "TROS" stamp?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:18 pm 
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I'm swamped-busy and still don't have internet in my home, so this will be brief and not responded to for a few days, but...

The trick is that no one can be sure if the god(s) really exist or not. There should be lots of moral gray in whether being a faithful person is a worthwhile thing to do or not. Conviction can't come from miracles and spells--that's generally magic. Religions should be convoluted, complex, and at odds with a few others.

Think real-world.

Dieties should be hard (if not impossible) to confirm, but not entirely hands-off, either. Divine influence exists everywhere for the faithful...

Jake

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:48 am 
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If you want “TroSy” religions, the key is in my (never humble :P ) opinon to keep in mind that TRoS is a passion play. Lukewarm believes and universal tolerance probably don’t serve it well. You’ll want to emphasize the effects faith has on the world, as opposed to the effect the gods have on the world. It’s a deeply human thing, all about how humans are quite ready to tear themselves and each other apart about questions of religion and world-view.

Like Jake said, think of the real world. This does also mean that it is probably better to never let the characters know wether the gods exist at all, or at least wether their existence predates the belief in them. If the gods really exist and this existence is known, there is little room left for faith and for squabbles about who is right and who is wrong. And these passionate convictions and the things they entail are what makes a religion “TroSy”.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:55 pm 
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Hi Folks,

Both of you have made excellent points! In my original D&D campaign, there were clerics (and their spells) which left no room for faith or any other interesting elements. In the latest TROS version of my world, the absense of clerical magic or availability of the Gods has created some very interesting moments in the campaign.

One which I remember vividly concerns the PC's visiting the estate of a minor nobleman and being invited to mid-day prayers with the family in the estate's family chapel (dedicated to the campaign's "good" diety). You should have seen the player's eyes roll as yet another set of prayers were sent up "to some moldy old god"! :lol:

Removing the gods and clerical magic and just leaving the religious organizations has actually had the unanticipated effect of renewing my interest in that part of my campaign.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:03 am 
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Apologies in advance -- this is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine.

RPGs, in general, have a woeful understanding of faith. Most focus on the benefits given to to the priestly hierarchy. Few are even plausible from the perspective of a basic run-of-the-mill adherent.

You have a god of war. He grants abilities that look suspiciously like power-ups to his priests and paladins. Firstly, why would anyonbe other than a priest or paladin of this diety worship this god? In other words, why would any character not receiving palpable benefits from the deity be an adherent of this religion? Secondly, how do the characters who are priests/paladins of this god avoid quickly falling into the stereotype of being a two-dimensional war-monger whose energies are completely and utterly geared towards war?

This approach to the pantheon, where you have a god of this and a god of that, is often designed from the perspective of the spell/miracle list that the clerics and paladins will be able to access. So it starts out with, say, a bunch of healing spells that become a list which leads to a god of healing and as a last thought a bunch of Colour is built to create a religion around the god. This is a shallow and cynical approach that leaves the spiritual side of the game virtually useless in terms of the creation of story elements.

If you want a pantheon watch HBOs TV series "Rome". It presents the pantheon in a credible and meaningful way, where adherence makes sense for the individual who isn't given a bunch of miracles/spells to use at their discretion.

As an aside -- does it make any sense at all that a deity would allow a character to draw on its power for any action of which the deity did not approve?

If you are going to have a god or gods in your world make sure that it makes sense for ordinary people to believe and adhere to that god's tenets. At times, even if the gods aren't real, miracles should occur that are beyond rational explanation. There has to be some mystery to it for their to be mystics in your game world...

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:44 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Apologies in advance -- this is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine.

Ok, Ian started it, so blame him, not me… 8-)

The flawed understanding of polytheistic religions in roleplaying games is in my opinion a heritage of D&D. What most people don’t fully understand about polytheism in antiquity (the model for polytheism in rpgs) is mainly that every polytheist does fully acknowledge the existence of all gods, even those in foreign pantheons, and that he prays/sacrifices to whatever god he happens to need at the time. Your travel by sea? Sacrifce to Neptun for a safe passage. A war is on? Sacrifice to Mars that it passes you by. You are taking your wares to the market? Sacrifice to Mercury to strike a good bargain. You have an eye on a pretty wench? Sacrifice to Venus that she falls for you. She has fallen for you? Sacrifice to Priapus that you perform according to expectations.

Polytheistic religion is not a very personal, devotional thing where you are expected to live by some kind of code, it functions a bit like a machine. Push this button, and that happens – probably.

The European polytheistic religions id also not have what we would call a piesthood – the Oriental ones were different though, but steeped much deeper in mysticism and probably frighteningly alien to a modernmindset. Priests were basically laymen, and one was not priest of a certain god, but priest at a certain temple*. How one became priest at this temple was a matter of local tradition. In some temples priesthood was passed on in a family, in others it was a civil service post rotated annually, in others it was by public election for life. Most priests were not full-time clerics but performed their duties in honoray kind of way, like some people today devote some of their time to work for the Red Cross.

And there was no over-regional authority. No priest at one temple was the superior of a priest at any other temple. There were merely differences of prestige. A priest of Apollo at Delphi would have more prestige than a priest of Apollo at some rural shrine, but that was absolutely not different from how being a professor at Oxford is more prestigious than being a professor at some tiny backwater university.

And priests would acknowledge the entire pantheon (and indeed foreign pantheons) and even regularly sacrifice to other members of this pantheon. There are even ample instances of Greek priests on a tourist visit to Egypt erecting devotional inscriptions to Egyptian gods – unlike mootheists, polytheists do after all acknowledge foreign gods, and they acknowledge that in Egypt, the Egyptian gods have more power than the Greek gods (probably because the Greek gods take little interest in these parts).

That’s a far call from how D&D and simliar games portray polytheism. Their lack of understanding of the basic tenets of polytheism leaves these settings’ religions feeling woooden and unreal – as indeed they would never work.

TRoS’ own Weyrth does a good job at lumping all polytheism together under “Paganism” – polytheism, even different brands of it, should indeed be viewed as one faith, not unified, but certainly not at odds among itself. After all, being a professional historian of the ancient world I know of no instance where polytheistic societies warred with each other on religious grounds; the entire concept of religious war is an outflow of monotheism and its need to ascertain one so-called “truth” over all others. The very worst poltheists do is viewing the adherents of other faiths as pitifully deluded and mistaken.

End of rant.

*EDIT: This goes so far that, more often than not, any given temple was dedicated to several gods, with every priest there priest serving all of them. At another temple, the combination of gods would likely have been different, so that one temple’s priest might be priest to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva and at another’s priest to Jupiter, Mars and Vulcan. Generally speaking, any priest can conduct rites to all of the gods in his pantheon.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:37 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
You have a god of war. He grants abilities that look suspiciously like power-ups to his priests and paladins. Firstly, why would anyonbe other than a priest or paladin of this diety worship this god?
Well, in my games, this has boiled down to the influence and power of the priesthood. Want protection from the savages in our monastery? You're welcome here... for a day. If you wish to stay longer, you'll have to convert, and gods wrath on you, should you shun the teachings when the threat is gone. Sure, we'll protect your town from the savages if you a) provide us with the upkeep of our forces, b) convert.

Same thing with general services provided by temples. If you need to prove something that needs magic to be proven, visit the temple of justice, if you want to buy information on someone, visit the temple of night, if you want to weigh gold without fearing being cheated by magic, visit the temple of commerce, need mourners and staff for funeral rites, visit the temple of sea/grief. Of course, most temples do most things, but all temples have their own speciality.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
If you want a pantheon watch HBOs TV series "Rome". It presents the pantheon in a credible and meaningful way, where adherence makes sense for the individual who isn't given a bunch of miracles/spells to use at their discretion.
What do you mean exactly? The reputation Lucius got when he beat up the shrine? Or the "Atia of the Julii, I call for justice!" thingy?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:22 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
You have a god of war. He grants abilities that look suspiciously like power-ups to his priests and paladins. Firstly, why would anyonbe other than a priest or paladin of this diety worship this god?


higgins wrote:
Well, in my games, this has boiled down to the influence and power of the priesthood. Want protection from the savages in our monastery? You're welcome here... for a day. If you wish to stay longer, you'll have to convert, and gods wrath on you, should you shun the teachings when the threat is gone. Sure, we'll protect your town from the savages if you a) provide us with the upkeep of our forces, b) convert.


Which, in my opinion, doesn't work. This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
If you want a pantheon watch HBOs TV series "Rome". It presents the pantheon in a credible and meaningful way, where adherence makes sense for the individual who isn't given a bunch of miracles/spells to use at their discretion.


higgins wrote:
What do you mean exactly? The reputation Lucius got when he beat up the shrine? Or the "Atia of the Julii, I call for justice!" thingy?


Neither.

There are many, many examples in Rome regarding how the gods "work". The gods, for the most part, have tiny jurisdictions circumscribed by physical area and/or narrowly defined purpose. Everyone believes in all of them, and calls on any of them when they need something that falls under the domain of that particular god. Think Niobe prostrate before the "earth mother", Titus Pullo bargaining with a god, Octavia retreating after discovering she has been betrayed by Attia, or Servilia awash in the cascading blood of a sacrificial bull. There is no conversion between gods. Nor is there any belief that the gods require some kind of moral behaviour in exchange for their favour.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:51 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.

Which is the main pitfall into which so many settings have fallen. It is possible to graft certain monotheistic mechanisms onto a polytheistic religion, but it requires careful thoughts and tweaking, just like you can't simply use a machine for something it was never intended to do without adapting it.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
There are many, many examples in Rome regarding how the gods "work". (...) There is no conversion between gods. Nor is there any belief that the gods require some kind of moral behaviour in exchange for their favour.

And that’s what I meant with polytheistic religion being like some kind of machine. It prescribes no code of moral conduct and it offers little to no spirituality (this is incidentially one of the reasons why first mystery cults and then Christianity, who provide answes to spiritual questions were able to oust polytheism, and it is also why Buddhism largely replaced Shintoism in medieval Japan). The gods merely demand that you offer them some sacrifice on their special holy days. “Piety”, in a polytheistic sense, is merely a matter of fulfilling your ritual obligations of honouring the gods’ holy days and thanking a god when something good belonging to this particular god’s specific sphere of influence happened to you. If you have fulfilled these your obligations to the gods, you can expect them to listen to you when you come to them with a sacrifice, asking for aid in a certain situation.

Something a polytheist doesn’t do is adhere to one god while ignoring the others. It will of course come naturally that any given person will sacrifice more often to certain gods than to others, but this is merely something that follows from situations encountered commonly in that particular person’s walk of life. A merchant will frequently offer sacrifices to Mercury, and a soldier to Mars, but if the merchant enlist in the army and the soldier is discharged and takes up the occupation of a merchant, the situation will most likely be reversed. This is no conversion of any kind, merely a natural consequence of altered circumstances in people’s lifes making them turn to certain gods more often than to others.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 12:27 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Which, in my opinion, doesn't work. This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.
And it doesn't work because...?

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Nor is there any belief that the gods require some kind of moral behaviour in exchange for their favour.
And why is that required? In my games the distinction between a magic wielding priest (not all priests do that) and a mage is the organization they belong to. Priests belong to the temples and powerful mages belong into a guild, and then there are bunch of unaligned ones (dabblers not good enough to enter guild or mages who have not joined for other reasons). In fact one of the main issues is that the guild has lately grown so much in power that the temples feel threatened, as the guild doesn't distinguish what kind of magical services they provide... if the trend continues, temples will be reduced to more common tasks, as it is more beneficial to a magic wielder to belong into the guild, not to the temple. You will not lose your power to wield magic, if you piss of the priesthood with your actions and they cast you out, but you'll lose all the resources you had accesse to in the temple.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:23 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.


Grettir wrote:
Which is the main pitfall into which so many settings have fallen.


Yes indeed. It is a very shallow approach to the subject. It is interesting in a way that you have so many games desperately trying to prove that they are "realistic" and yet the designer shows an almost total lack of understanding of both faith and religion. Given the similarity in approach of so many games you'd almost think that everything the designer learned about religion was garnered from other role-playing games!

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 1:59 am 
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Hmm..it seems like in most game settings I have seen, all the "major" religions are set up with a hierarchy similar to the Catholic church in Europe during the middle ages. I would like enjoy hearing of some alternate structures as that theme seems to have been played to death.

Questions: Why would any sizable number of folk even consider worshiping an "evil" god?

Hmm...maybe a better question would be; Is there even a need for "good" or "evil" gods?

PJ

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:51 am 
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higgins wrote:
Ian.Plumb wrote:
Which, in my opinion, doesn't work. This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.
And it doesn't work because...?
To clarify... No, it isn't real polytheism. No, it isn't real monotheism. But what do you see so wrong in that, to say it doesn't work?

pbj44 wrote:
Questions: Why would any sizable number of folk even consider worshiping an "evil" god?
We just had a discussion regarding "good" and "evil" here: viewtopic.php?p=3554#p3554

Feel free to quote that thread and reference if here. This is more appropriate topic for that kind of discussion anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:13 am 
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higgins wrote:
To clarify... No, it isn't real polytheism. No, it isn't real monotheism. But what do you see so wrong in that, to say it doesn't work?


In my opinion it doesn't work as a reasonable representation of why people adhere to a religion. The idea that a religion works because of the benefits it provides -- that adherence is simply a logical decision to accept the tenets of the religion in order to gain access to the benefits -- ensures that there is no distinction between a secular organization and a religious one.

In my opinion having a bunch of monotheistic religions acting as a pantheon is a construct that is simply illogical. There is no way the human desire to express faith could result in that construct. As such, it isn't "realistic."

Regardless, these facets of faith and religion may be unimportant to your group. The playing of faith-based characters and the exploration of spiritual themes may not be what your players are after. In this case, it should work just fine.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:37 am 
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pbj44 wrote:
Questions: Why would any sizable number of folk even consider worshiping an "evil" god?

I have in the past had success with believable evil religions by using one of the following basic tenetes:

-) A bit like real-world Satanists (the serious ones, not the childish cat-sacrificers), they hold that the “good” religion is actually the “evil” one and ther own the “good”. Like Satanists hold that Lucifer as a Promethean figure who has awakened humans to knowledge and self-awareness (you know, the apple thing), members of an evil religion could hold that the entity that is demonized by the good religion is actually a liberator of mankind, whereas the good god wants to hold humans in ignorance and slavery.

-) The evil religion holds that their god will in the end triumph, that his eventual victory is certain (think Cthulhu). Depending on the twist one wants those who adhere to the evil god will later inherit the (hellishly reformed?) earth or they will else simply be the last who get exterminated by the evil god; in the first instance you would worship out of greed, in the second out of fear and desperation.

pbj44 wrote:
Hmm..it seems like in most game settings I have seen, all the "major" religions are set up with a hierarchy similar to the Catholic church in Europe during the middle ages. I would like enjoy hearing of some alternate structures as that theme seems to have been played to death.

Look at what I’ve written on polytheistic religions above for a start.

For once, something that to my knowledge no polytheistic faith has ever had is any kind of over-regional hierarchy. A religious head of a certain town or barony is feasible (but even that has little historical parallel), but above that level there is no higher authority.

Any and all antagonism for religious reasons should be removed entirely, both among the gods of the same pantheon and between various pantheons. There can be rivalry out of economic or political or legal reasons, but never due to theological differences. No polytheism has ever claimed to own the “one and only truth”. That’s unfortunately a natural outflow of monotheism’s claim that there is only one god (theirs), and with it comes religiously-fuelled hate and persecution.

Polytheistic religions do not proselytize.

Many Polytheistic religions don’t have professional clerical castes (European ones at least didn’t, Oriental and Asian and American ones did). Most priests are only part-time priests, with usually only the temple’s “high-priest” serving full time. Also, priestly training is mostly informal.

Polytheistic religions do practically never place any kind of moral demand on an adherents lifestyle. There are no guidelines how to conduct one’s life, commandmets of any sort apart from “honour the gods”. Subtract all moral teachings and behavioural constraints and imagine that the only thing that Christianity would demand for eternal life would be that you attend mass every Sunday and fast before Easter and you’ve got it.

European, Oriental and Asian polytheistic systems know no kind of mass or other ordered religious service. There might be special processions or mystery plays on certain hly days, a few times a year, but that’s it. People go to the temple when they want to give thanks for some success or ask for the god’s aid. In that case they bring some devotional offering, which is usually sacrificed by the local priest in a short, improptu ceremony.

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