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 Post subject: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:19 am 
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This is the thread for discussing the role religion should, or should not, play in Stahl, both in its past, and its present.

There are many ideas out there, and many different viewpoints. Religion is, and always will be a hot topic, so please keep everything in context.

Any thoughts you have about religion in Stahl should be presented here. This is a MAJOR issue for any country, and I would like to get this relatively hashed out before driving on to develop the rest of the country. This is too important a foundation to build without.

Thanks in advance.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:55 am 
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Ok, as thisis the proper place I am going to restate what I said elsewhere:

Quote:
Why not make Reason the god of the Stahlnish elite?

I think of something along the lines of Stoicism – gods do not exist, only a kind of worldsoul, which s reason and cool logic, completely impersonal, an allpervading force, but completely impersonal and also not sentient. Rationality itself, a force and not a being.

This would allow for a kind of religion (austere meditation cells), but a religion that speaks only ever to the mind and leaves the heart untouched an unsatisfied.


I view this as a very interesting scenario:
At first, you have a people that is violently put off by the religion pervading all areas of life with their Xanarian overlords. They find slogans like "freedom of thought", or "to every man his own conscience", or "let common sense be our nation's soul, not superstition". In short, they undergo an age of enlightenment and rationalism, forming a very modern notion of laicism. Then, this movement becomes all-powerful and fanatical. What started out as wanting the people to be free to choose their beliefs forbids them to choose any belief at all. All of this is termed superstition; the existence of gods is not expressedly denied, but an agnostic stance ist taken: the gods are beyond us, nothing can ever be known about them for certain, all so-called revelations were only ever ravings of madmen, following any religious commandments is therefore pure folly and an inroad for making slaves of free people - religion in any form is therfore to be forbidden. Instead there is a very rigid, quasi-religious philosophy of pure, cool Reason. What was a good thing in the beginning has come full circle and supresses the population as badly as any religion has ever done. Religious beliefs are now forbidden, offenders are termed seductors of their fellow men and dangerous madmen and are summarily (tough of course in a very enlightened an painless way) executed.

A society like that seems to fit the Stahlnish, as long as it is not portrayed along the lines of the cooly logical and unemotional Vulcians from Starship Enterprise but rather like the ancient Spartans: very utilitarian, hard on themselves and on others, a kind of pseudo-Nietzschean social Darwinsim, survival of the fittest. The Stahlnish do neither deny nor suppress nor control their emotions, as these are of course part of human nature and have therefore their place in their nature-inspired philosophy of Reason.

A "religion" like that offers a lot of opportunities for play. I see SAs of emotionally and spiritually dissatisfied people all over the pace.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:38 am 
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Quote:
Why not make Reason the god of the Stahlnish elite?

I think of something along the lines of Stoicism – gods do not exist, only a kind of worldsoul, which s reason and cool logic, completely impersonal, an allpervading force, but completely impersonal and also not sentient. Rationality itself, a force and not a being.


Very interesting concept. Originally, upon reading the book, and 'developing' Stahl with my group I always say the 'aethism' concept more a matter of Will than Reason, if that makes any sense.

I saw the Stahlnish aethiesm a Will powered idea, with the basis being that, "even if gods and magic exist, our will can overcome sorcerers tricks."

To me, haveing it based in reason, would as you said, lead to a very logical and dispassionate people, at least on the surface. While haveing it based on Will would mean that the people are incredibly stubborn, very passionate, and believe wholeheartedly in the destiny that THEY carve out for themselves. Also, I see it as the nobility fostering the Will in themselves and each other required to seperate themselves from the Empire, and not subtly either. More of a 'This is how we are doing it, and if you don't like it, then come up here and change it.' attitude.

Both are very interesting paths, and I can see the plausibility of each on.

I would like to keep some form of the Aethiesm concept, albeit with much shoring, simply because that was the author's intent. If not for that, I would completly stymie the country in the church and paganism.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:24 am 
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stuh42l wrote:
Originally, upon reading the book, and 'developing' Stahl with my group I always say the 'aethism' concept more a matter of Will than Reason, if that makes any sense.


Makes a lot of sense and works fine.

But, as I have said, ascribing to Reason would not necessarily make the Stahlnish very disspassionate. What I have in mind was not “review your actions if they are logical and reasonable”, only “religion runs counter to all reason”.

Along these lines, I see a Stahlnish atheist demand of a religious man: “Proove the existence of your god, and proove all of your assumptions about your god”. As this can obviously not be done, religious believes run counter to reason; there is nothing in the world that would attest to their validity. Believing in Xanar and his commandments is therefore as reasonable as believing in the Big Flying Spaghetti Monster and its commandments; both have equal claims to existence and validity. The gods may be very real indeed, but nothing is ever known about them; religion is only a series of unproven assumptions about the higher powers, a figment of man’s imagination. Structuring your life after commandments invented out of the blue by other humans is clearly counter to all reason.

A belief like this would not make the Stahlnish cooly disspassionate, and it is also not at odds with your notion of will; quite the contrary, it ties in well with it. A theoroetical philosophy of Reason is a very good ideological basis for a practical philosophy of Will. As the gods are, to the Stahlnish, utterly unknowable entities, praying to them is no use; in this world, one has to rely on oneself. This makes the Stahlnish very grim and self-reliant beings – and self-reliance can be found at the very core of a strong and unbending will.

So I think Reason can easily be used as the philosophical underpinnings to Will, if you are thus inclined.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 9:37 am 
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Yes, I think they actually blend quite well together!

Now, of course, is to determine how vogue this is. According to the book, a good number of the serfs still worship either the church, or a pagan tradition.

As I plan to have parts of Angarhad still occuypied by Stahl, this becomes even more pertinent where the two peoples mix.

Also, do the nobles let the serf's belive as they will? Knowing that only a man with a free, noble mind could hope to understand that which is required by aethism? Do they look down on the serfs even more for not embracing it, or do they pity them some for the added 'cruch' religion must seem.

And what of nobles who do still hold to the church or paganism? Are these families outcasts, eccentricies, or just accepted as par? Are those that embrace aethism the odd ones?

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:15 am 
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stuh42l wrote:
Also, do the nobles let the serf's belive as they will? Knowing that only a man with a free, noble mind could hope to understand that which is required by aethism? Do they look down on the serfs even more for not embracing it, or do they pity them some for the added 'cruch' religion must seem.


The entire gamut from pitty to scorn to persecution ("weeding out the weakness in the Stahlnish stock", it might be called) is entirely plausible. This is a design decision about the flavour stahl is going to have.

stuh42l wrote:
And what of nobles who do still hold to the church or paganism? Are these families outcasts, eccentricies, or just accepted as par? Are those that embrace aethism the odd ones?


This, too, is a question of taste. Atheism might easily be viewed as fit for the ancient times of shaking off the Empire's yoke, but an outdated curiosity nowadays. But the more you go down this path, the more you deviate from Jake's original vision of Stahl. I would advise having many nobles be secretly somewhat religious, but make those confessing to it openly something lie social outcasts. Stahl is officially atheistic.

But it's mainly your choice.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:27 am 
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Grettir wrote:
Along these lines, I see a Stahlnish atheist demand of a religious man: “Proove the existence of your god, and proove all of your assumptions about your god”. As this can obviously not be done...


Part of the problem here as I see it is that just as the presence of reliable, repeatable magic requires a rethink on medieval ecclesiastical thinking so too the existence of reliable, repeatable miracles requires a rethink on what disbelief means. To me, disbelief is illogical in this context -- requiring a fanatical refusal to accept what is obvious to a rational mind.

However, that is not to say that with belief comes adherence. And this for me is the key to Stahl and Weyrth's version of atheism. Rather than a disbelief in the gods themselves it is a refusal to accept that they have any part to play in the affairs of men.

IMO, in a polytheistic universe the purpose behind the gods makes little sense. It always seems to degenerate into a "... the ways of the gods are unknowable, ever mysterious ..." and so there is no expectation for logic -- in the gods themselves, the people that serve the gods directly, or in the adherents that worship one god or another. Which is a fairly pathetic treatment of the whole area of faith. Therefore I lean towards the portrayal of the polytheistic spiritual firmament portrayed in the HBO series Rome. There are many gods. Each god is responsible for something, sometimes a big thing more often a small thing. If you need something to happen in that area controlled by a god you make an offering to that god. If the offering is acceptable then the god will heed your request. The concept that a god would want to control some aspect of your life, mould you into a better person, influence an individual's morality, is a monotheistic view of the spiritual. Not that I'm saying Weyrth is polytheistic -- just that it's a handy model for pagan belief.

Taveruun will have a monotheistic view as I need it to mirror the medieval catholic church of western Europe.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:10 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Part of the problem here as I see it is that just as the presence of reliable, repeatable magic requires a rethink on medieval ecclesiastical thinking so too the existence of reliable, repeatable miracles requires a rethink on what disbelief means. To me, disbelief is illogical in this context -- requiring a fanatical refusal to accept what is obvious to a rational mind.


I have often said that most fantasy worlds leave no room for disbelievers - the clerics work repeatable wonders, proof of the gods' existence is all around. But TRoS and thus Weyrth are different; the system does not at all provide for "clerical magic" - the priests are people like everybody else, only more devout (one hopes). Without the existence of "reliable, repeatable miracles", disbelief is just as easy as it is today, and no rethink of the meaning of disbelief is necessary. To me, this is one of the major beauties of Weyrth - one need not try to determine what proof of the existence of god and actually working and fully accepted magic would have meant to the development of the middle ages.

Which brings me to the Stahlnish stance on sorcery. Denying its existence is clearly impractical and should be ruled out as the official stance. But what about the Stahlnish thinking that magic is equally fickle and unknowable than the gods? "You can master your sword, boy - but you can never master magic, it will always be beyond you." Messing around with magic is therefore rejcted not because it does not exist, it is rejected as there is the conviction that it cannot be controlled and that its practitioners endanger all around them. Better to rely on oneself than on forces that are unknowable and beyond oneself. Do you think this Stahlnish approach to magic might work?

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:22 pm 
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Quote:
Do you think this Stahlnish approach to magic might work?


I definatly think its along the right line.

I must admit that in my games, magic is very very rare, so often many NPC's dont really believe in it.

However, I can see it as, "Well magic hasn't come out of the woods and stopped us" sort of attitude. Where mastering the sword, and the Will is what builds a greater nation. Those that would attempt to use magic are themselves, weak, relying on something that cannot be understood or controlled. The will and the mind can be understood, and it is will that gives strength to steel.

Therefore, under this model, you would have to deny magic if you wanted to remain strong.

Of course, I am still throwing a vote that a number of Stahlnish nobles secretly fear magic, or crave its power, forever seeking sooths and witches, following old pagan traditions. Being that close to the 'north' and to Angharad would make it impossible to not have some close encounters.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:33 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Part of the problem here as I see it is that just as the presence of reliable, repeatable magic requires a rethink on medieval ecclesiastical thinking so too the existence of reliable, repeatable miracles requires a rethink on what disbelief means. To me, disbelief is illogical in this context -- requiring a fanatical refusal to accept what is obvious to a rational mind.


Grettir wrote:
I have often said that most fantasy worlds leave no room for disbelievers - the clerics work repeatable wonders, proof of the gods' existence is all around. But TRoS and thus Weyrth are different; the system does not at all provide for "clerical magic" - the priests are people like everybody else, only more devout (one hopes).


Well Core presents something like that view yet The Companion provides a whole section that gives us the framework for adding miracles to the game. I'm not talking about clerical magic, with the gods' servants firing off a number of miracles per day. Reliable and repeatable can as easily be annually or generationally as long as many witness the event and it gets talked about for years.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:53 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Well Core presents something like that view yet The Companion provides a whole section that gives us the framework for adding miracles to the game. I'm not talking about clerical magic, with the gods' servants firing off a number of miracles per day. Reliable and repeatable can as easily be annually or generationally as long as many witness the event and it gets talked about for years.


Hmm...The way I remember this section from the Companion (and my memory may easily be wrong), I had the impression that this framework was not to simply represent holy men, but rather prophets and other major saints, people who would arise only once in a century, or rather once every few centuries. These would certainly be too long timespans to talk of real and repeatable miracles.

But no matter how the rules were intended, it would certainly be possible to use them for more frequent miracles, this is, again, simply a design question. I just feel that deviating from the "miracles are only rumoured"-stance would be deviating from the original idea in the same way as giving Stahl a religion would be. And proofing religious beliefs by the means of the even only infrequent miracles would multiply the problems for Stahlnish atheism.

Just to gather our thoughts, here is what seems to have been Jake's original idea for Weyrth, from the corebook p. 186:

Quote:
The gods and religions of Weyrth are very real to their followers: while rarely any so-called "proof" or miracles surface, the people continue to believe.


This seems to me to run counter to "faith-proven-by-miracles". It sounds like people not believing because of them, but in spite of their rarity. And while we are certainly not bound by Jake's every word, I would like us to have really compelling reasons to deviate from it.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 9:14 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
Just to gather our thoughts, here is what seems to have been Jake's original idea for Weyrth, from the corebook p. 186:

Quote:
The gods and religions of Weyrth are very real to their followers: while rarely any so-called "proof" or miracles surface, the people continue to believe.


This seems to me to run counter to "faith-proven-by-miracles". It sounds like people not believing because of them, but in spite of their rarity. And while we are certainly not bound by Jake's every word, I would like us to have really compelling reasons to deviate from it.


To me this is no different to the view that is expressed over magic. Magic-use is so rare on Weyrth that many people, not having seen or heard of its use, do not believe that it exists.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:03 am 
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Wonderful; it seems that we are of one mind on this after all. When you draw the correlation “this is no different”, you seem to strongly imply that one could equally well say: Miracles are so rare on Weyrth that many people, not having seen or heard of them happening, do not believe that they exists.

(The same might be said of the Sidhe, as a side note)

But this is exactly the kind of notion that does not require us to think about the consequences of “reliable, repeatable miracles” on the population’s faith and believes. Believers have faith in them because the scripture and the priests tell them that miracles exist, not because they have witnessed them – they are much to rare for that. But this is exactly the situation of Europe’s middle ages, so I see no necessity for doctrinal changes.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:53 am 
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Grettir wrote:
Wonderful; it seems that we are of one mind on this after all. When you draw the correlation “this is no different”, you seem to strongly imply that one could equally well say: Miracles are so rare on Weyrth that many people, not having seen or heard of them happening, do not believe that they exists.


The problem though is this creates a real issue from the game design perspective:

On the one hand the game designer states that magic is so rare that few people on Weyrth believe it exists.
On the other, a whole chapter in Core and one day ( ;) ) a whole supplement is devoted to the rules of magic.

On the one hand the game designer states that magic is so rare that few people on Weyrth believe it exists.
On the other, the player party happens to have a magic user in it. Of the six in the whole continent one is here.

So neither the players nor their characters think that magic isn't real in Weyrth.

I say we abandon the pretense to which there is only lip-service paid anyway. And in that light, do the same to miracles. IMO there's nothing worse than saying there are no miracles -- except for this character in the player group, who is the spokesperson for a god and through whom miracles occur.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:42 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
The problem though is this creates a real issue from the game design perspective:

On the one hand the game designer states that magic is so rare that few people on Weyrth believe it exists.
On the other, a whole chapter in Core and one day ( ;) ) a whole supplement is devoted to the rules of magic.


I feel that you are mixing two things up – rules that are designed to apply to many fantasy settings, and a single fantasy setting. Just because there are rules for magic and miracles means in itself nothing for Weyrth; what has been said expressedly about Weyrth does.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
So neither the players nor their characters think that magic isn't real in Weyrth.


This is not a problem at all. Virtually all medieval Europeans did think that magic was real; that says nothing about the reality of magic. The people of Weyrth should therefore belive in the supernatural just the same, wether PCs or NPCs.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
I say we abandon the pretense to which there is only lip-service paid anyway. And in that light, do the same to miracles. IMO there's nothing worse than saying there are no miracles -- except for this character in the player group, who is the spokesperson for a god and through whom miracles occur.


And I say let’s stay true to the flavour of Weyrth. That the game has rules for miracles and magic says nothing about this single setting.

It would be easy to point the problem you are talking about out to game masters wanting to set their games in Weyrth and to advise them to either require all of their players to place A to C picks into race or none at all, unless the campaign be set in a highly magical place like Angharad or Ehld. It is only logical that the supernatural band together. Other rpgs, Burning Wheel among them, make the same suggestion - either the entire group is mundane or the entire group is supernatural; game masters ignore this at your own risk.

I have to say that I am personally not interested in any settings save those with an extremely low supernatural factor, and that I am very disinclined to let my players ever play anything but nonmagical human beings. This is, like many things, a mater of personal taste, but I would very much like to have this issue resolved before I commit myself any further to developing Weyrth. I entered upon this project with the notion that the basic agreement from the core book that the supernatural does not play any role in the workings of society is upright.

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