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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:54 am 
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Grettir wrote:
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.


That's fine by me -- no magic, no miracles, for PCs in Weyrth. At most they are a plot device the referee may use via a rare, even world-changing, NPC.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 4:20 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
That's fine by me -- no magic, no miracles, for PCs in Weyrth. At most they are a plot device the referee may use via a rare, even world-changing, NPC.


I would like that very much. We could make it clear to future perusers of Weyrth that it is designed that way, and advise them very strongly to make the supernatural and its impact on Weyrth the very theme of their entire campaign if they do so much as allow even a single "magical" PC. And to talk about this with their group beforehand, to establish a clear-cut social contract to this end.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:47 pm 
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I would like that very much. We could make it clear to future perusers of Weyrth that it is designed that way, and advise them very strongly to make the supernatural and its impact on Weyrth the very theme of their entire campaign if they do so much as allow even a single "magical" PC. And to talk about this with their group beforehand, to establish a clear-cut social contract to this end.


Now I have had PC sorcerers, played by mature players, whose magic did not in any way impact the game world in any foreseeable fashion, to the extent that the only one who knew there was magic going on, was the PC.

Again, the world itself, and the rest of the PC's, were unchanged and unimpressed by this fact. I have always had more fun playing in this setting when the supernatural was wholly unknown, and if it appeared, terribly scary, because it is unknown.

I believe Lyrax did a pretty good job on his campaign world, in attempting to design one that took more commonplace magic into effect.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 9:03 pm 
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In the Weyrth section we need a thread, "What happened to magic in Weyrth?". It details the fact that there is no PC magic or miracles, and why this is necessary from a design perspective. It then suggests what might need to be done by the referee if they want to increase the level of fantasy in their game.

If and when someone wants to do Gelure then we'll deal with that at the time, in a way that allows magic and miracles in that part of the world.

Is that workable?

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 9:23 pm 
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Suits me fine.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 8:46 pm 
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Stahlnish atheism is evidently a little different to me than it is to most of you.

In my mind and in my games (at least when I'm the GM), Stahlnish atheism is simply the belief that magic and the gods do not exist, and all the attendant dogmas and doctrines that spring up because of that. The nobles allow the peasantry to believe in their gods, because they know that those beliefs have no power. They (the nobles) just exchange knowing glances and winks when someone talks about religion, and they rarely get excited about it.

In other words, Stahlnish atheism is the belief that all other religions are wrong. It is a negative belief system, and therefore does not gain much popularity since it refuses to state much of anything other than "whatever the truth is, you don't have it!"

Sometimes, Stahlnish atheism is even a facade that is adopted to make the world more palatable and understandable to everyone. When a Stahlnish town got attacked by hef one night, they reported it as an "attack by wild bears." It's not that the soldiers didn't believe the creatures were more than bears, it's that you simply can't admit that there's anything out there you don't understand.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:36 am 
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Lyrax wrote:
In my mind and in my games (at least when I'm the GM), Stahlnish atheism is simply the belief that magic and the gods do not exist, and all the attendant dogmas and doctrines that spring up because of that.


I have reservations that his view does really work, especially in a medieval setting, where almost everybody believes in the supernatural and reportsof the fantastic and unexplainable abound. When I look at philosophies that were developed on Earth in much more sober times, they never did try to really deny the possibility of the god’s existence, all they ever did was establishing that the gods were unknowable and/or not interested in human beings. This is what Epicureism did, this is what Stoicism did, and even Nietzsche prefers not to loose a word about god’s existence at all, simply stating his utter unimportance for human life.

Even modern people, even if they term themselves atheists, do so often wrongly, as they are in fact almost exclusively agnostics. To be an atheist, you have to deny any possibility of the existence of a higher being – no “Maybes”, only ever “Certainly Nots”. If one acknowledges even the slightest possibility of the existence of god, one is not an atheist but an agnostic.

In view of atheism being so incredibly rare, even in our rational modern times, I feel that it is very unbelievable for a less enlightened age, and that the stance “if gods exist at all, they take no interest in us” works much better than “it is absolutely impossible that any gods exist at all”. It also goes better with your “whatever the truth is, you don't have it”, as this is an agnostic statement; an atheist would have to say “gods do not exist, so you are wrong” – no room for uncertainties and doubt.

Lyrax wrote:
When a Stahlnish town got attacked by hef one night, they reported it as an "attack by wild bears." It's not that the soldiers didn't believe the creatures were more than bears, it's that you simply can't admit that there's anything out there you don't understand.


Interesting. Why do you feel that hef (or gol or gorem) are viewed as “supernatural”? I have always felt that creatures without supernatural abilities could be viewed as absolutely normal and commonplace member’s of the fauna. Hef are extraordinary animals – but so is the duckbilled paltypus. The Stahlnish might easily view hef as clever animals with an unusual reproduction cycle.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:13 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
I have reservations that his view does really work, especially in a medieval setting, where almost everybody believes in the supernatural and reportsof the fantastic and unexplainable abound.


It's a fantasy world. It can have atheists if we want. I don't believe in unicorns or dragons either, but there they are.

Actually in my Stahl, magic, gods and supernatural anythings are often believed in, they merely cannot be mentioned in respectable company. Maybe none of them really believe in the atheism, but blaming anything on the supernatural is taboo nonetheless, and mentioning the supernatural is an offense.

What can I say? There's never been a real atheistic society, and I think it would be fun to have one. Besides, the Stahlnish don't seem to be people who like dabbling in 'maybes' and 'perhapses' too much.

Also, remember that their atheism is politically motivated, not something that springs from the heart. They know that if they acknowledge any possibility of gods, magic, or supernatural, then they'll have missionaries, witches, Imperials, inquisitions, and witch-hunters all over again, and NOBODY wants that. It's therefore not necessary for anyone to really believe that there aren't any gods, but for them to tell the world that there are no gods. Profession is more important than practice, even according to the religion, and I find that to be absolutely hilarious. Makes for great scenes.

Grettir wrote:
Interesting. Why do you feel that hef (or gol or gorem) are viewed as “supernatural”? I have always felt that creatures without supernatural abilities could be viewed as absolutely normal and commonplace member’s of the fauna. Hef are extraordinary animals – but so is the duckbilled paltypus. The Stahlnish might easily view hef as clever animals with an unusual reproduction cycle.

But they are incredibly rare. Stick a duck-billed platypus in front of an average member of our medieval societies, and they might well blame its appearance on witchcraft. I wouldn't blame them for doing so! Yes, if they continue to have hef attacks all the time, they'll come to be mundane creatures, but this particular episode was a singular event, with no precursors or predecessors. Because it was so inexplicable, it was blamed on something completely mundane, at least publicly.

It was their way of coping with anything they didn't understand. The Stahlnish take a different approach sort of like the Greeks' concrete thinking, but more so. They blame something that they know is natural and normal, and if there are enough hef in one place to be natural and normal... then there probably aren't many humans around (*cough* Savaxens! *cough*).

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 1:13 pm 
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First off, Lyrax, I don’t want to convert you to my view; I am just having a conversation, with hopefully something arsing from it that can be used to develop Stahl. I hope that is abundantly clear.

Lyrax wrote:
It's a fantasy world. It can have atheists if we want. I don't believe in unicorns or dragons either, but there they are.
(...)
What can I say? There's never been a real atheistic society, and I think it would be fun to have one.


That’s exactly it. There hasn’t been a single atheist society, and that’s for a reason; I have written about it above. Humans just don’t tick that way. And as the Stahlnish are still humans, this causes immense problems if we portray them like that, fantasy world or not; if the Stahlnish are human, we cannot have them behave in absurd and unhuman ways. And that’s exactly the problem for me if Stahl would be portrayed that way – I would find it absurd and unbelievable. As a referee, I couldn’t portray a character who believes something that is wrong – so patently wrong that it can be proven to him in a second:

Stahlnish: "Gods do not exist."
Oustenreicher: "Proove it to me."
Stahlnish: "I don’t need to proove anything. You claim that gods exist, you proove it."
Oustenreicher: "I don’t claim gods exist. I say they may exist, or they may not exist; I cannot know this. You claim to know the answer to this for sure; you seem to have some source of knowledge I lack. So please tell me, how can you know that the gods don’t exist?"

Proclaimed certainty of the gods nonexistence puts the Stahlnish immediately on the defense and makes them into laughing stock; I couldn’t portray them convincingly as a referee, and I couldn’t play one as a character. If the Stahlnish simply hold that “gods may or may not exist, but either way there is nothing to hint at their interference in human business”, their argumentation becomes rather unassailable – and I don’t feel anymore that they are absurd.

Lyrax wrote:
Stick a duck-billed platypus in front of an average member of our medieval societies, and they might well blame its appearance on witchcraft. I wouldn't blame them for doing so!


They certainly would; they believed in far stranger things than the duck-billed platypus. But if I apply your notion of complete atheism to Stahl and the hef, I think that one could surmise that the Stahlnish, denying the existence of magic, would simply claim all those strange creatures to be completely natural.

Sthalnish: "The duck-billed platypus a magical creation? There seems to be no end to superstition! There is no magic in that one. Weyrth is much stranger than the common faith-ridden peasant would ever dream of; and it’s all natural."

I feel that we are encountering a problem with porting our notion of supernatural into Weyrth. I think that the more often encountered strange beast without obvious “magical” powers, like hef, gorem, gol, etc. would have been considered to be quite natural beings. They are strange, sure, but they have always been around.

Medieval Europeens believed in the existence of tribes of one-legged humans using their sole but huge foot to shield themselves from the hot sun of their homeland by holding it over their head; and they didn’t think them magical, just part of the wonders that strange lands hold. I feel that inhabitants of Weyrth should think no different of strange, but not blatantly magical creatures.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 6:25 am 
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Grettir wrote:
First off, Lyrax, I don’t want to convert you to my view; I am just having a conversation, with hopefully something arsing from it that can be used to develop Stahl. I hope that is abundantly clear.

Likewise. Glad that's been said.
Grettir wrote:
Stahlnish: "Gods do not exist."
Oustenreicher: "Prove it to me."
Stahlnish: "I don’t need to proove anything. You claim that gods exist, you proove it."
Oustenreicher: "I don’t claim gods exist. I say they may exist, or they may not exist; I cannot know this. You claim to know the answer to this for sure; you seem to have some source of knowledge I lack. So please tell me, how can you know that the gods don’t exist?"


As an aside, this sounds much more like a 19th century conversation than a 15th century one, but that's Not My Point.

The above is not at all how this needs to play out. Those who follow Stahlnish atheism don't assert that there are no gods. They don't need to. If anyone brings up even the words 'god' or 'magic' in decent conversation, they can simply be horrified and avert their eyes or change the subject. It's taboo.

Now remember, this isn't something that they really believe. This is something that they've invented to keep the fanatics out. Or rather, it's something the king has invented. Anyone who mentions supernatural things to the king, perhaps they get summarily executed or something. Or he just glares at them and thinks of less lethal, more enjoyable things to do. The point is that the nobles all have to deny the existence of magic or gods, at least while they're in Stahl.

Note that they don't have to assert the non-existence of these things, they have to deny their existence. Humans can do this quite easily, since, rather than involving action and thought, it requires non-action and non-thought. All arguments regarding the matter are null and void, since magic doesn't exist. At least, not in Stahl.

It's like this: If you've got a dragon on top of the palace, not doing anything or killing anyone but just sitting there, and a king underneath who says he doesn't believe in dragons and he'll kill you if you keep talking about them, then you'll shut up about it. Most likely. Deviants, under that system, are quickly found and taken care of. If it can work for an elephant in the room, or the dragon on the roof, it can work for religion and gods.

Grettir wrote:
They certainly would; they believed in far stranger things than the duck-billed platypus. But if I apply your notion of complete atheism to Stahl and the hef, I think that one could surmise that the Stahlnish, denying the existence of magic, would simply claim all those strange creatures to be completely natural.


It's also very natural for humans, upon meeting something new, to name it after something they already know. Take the bison, for example, which is also called a buffalo. It's big and shaggy, it has horns and makes loud noises. Call it a buffalo.

If something comes after you in the dark with bloody claws and slavering jaws, you'd be a rare individual if you stopped to contemplate it's mating habits. You'll kill/hide from/run away from/get slaughtered by it first and ponder it later. Or, not so much in the lattermost case. But if you kill it, and there's not a lot left? Will you make up a name? Call it after something mythical? Or take the closest fit from the world you know?

So the way to decide whether this is: is this something that's always been around a lot? Or was this a new thing? A unique occurrence? In this particular case, all reports of hef had previously come from unreliable sources, like the Savaxen and the Celts. So, it was something in myth, not something in a bestiary, and therefore, may not be something you'd want to report to your decidedly atheistic superiors. This particular soldier decided it should be a bear, just to be safe.

Oh, and, uhhh, no pun intended on that 'only foot' phrase?

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 7:15 am 
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Lyrax wrote:
It's like this: If you've got a dragon on top of the palace, not doing anything or killing anyone but just sitting there, and a king underneath who says he doesn't believe in dragons and he'll kill you if you keep talking about them, then you'll shut up about it. Most likely. Deviants, under that system, are quickly found and taken care of. If it can work for an elephant in the room, or the dragon on the roof, it can work for religion and gods.


Ok, I can now see your point. If I understand you correctly, your take on Stahlnish Atheism isn’t euquating it with real atheism, you view it rather as some kind of super-denial. Deep down inside, most Stahlnish suspect that there are “things” out there, but few admit this to themselves, and even fewer talk about it.

While I think that this is workable and even fun, I have doubts that this stance could be perpetuated for several decades, let alone centuries. Denying something that is rather plain (the supernatural on Weyrth) is, well, highly neurotic, and a neurosis is not a stable state of existence – neither for a single human being, nor for an entire society. If Stahl’s denial of the supernatural was a recent one, I could embrace your model, but a nation with a history of several centuries of collective next-to-delusional neurosis is too implausible for me to stomach.

Lyrax wrote:
It's also very natural for humans, upon meeting something new, to name it after something they already know. Take the bison, for example, which is also called a buffalo. It's big and shaggy, it has horns and makes loud noises. Call it a buffalo.


Agreed 100%. And it goes even stranger than this. Take our modern word “elephant”. This word has been invented by the ancient Greeks as “elephas”, meaning literally “huge stag” – deer being the largest quadrupeds known to the Greeks before encountering elephants.

But if a soldier considers a new species never encountered before (the hef) some kind of bear, this has nothing to do with with denying anything supernatural, it is merely about the human habit of likening the unknown with the known, until further information is had. I thought that you meant that the Stahlnish do invariably call the hef bears, no matter how well known they are; this alone would seem strange to me, not likening them to bears initially.

Lyrax wrote:
Oh, and, uhhh, no pun intended on that 'only foot' phrase?


Absolutely no pun intended. There are extant travellers’ accounts from the middle ages who claimed to have met these people, and even stranger ones. I remember accounts of tribes of humans with ears so large that they could be wrapped around the body like cloaks and used as wings to fly! And while these accounts were not universally believed, they were also not met with complete incredulity. This goes a long way to show what medieval Europeans did consider possible.

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:48 pm 
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Thank you all for the discussion so far.

Howerver, as this has been my major sticking point with developing Stahl, I am going to call it the rationality/willpower blend of self reliance (and politcal opposition to the Seat) that was previously discussed.

Bringing forth this 'religion' by the High King so that he can simultanesouly thumb his nose at the Seat while asserting the dominance and superiority of every Stahlnish man seems reasonable to me. Call it an early attempt at forming a sense of Nationalism through religion.

Anyway, that makes sense to me. Any last thoughts before I set this in plaster and drive on to the political structure?

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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:53 pm 
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I always likes the Conan/Crom view. Crom gave man the gift of self-reliance and the strength to survive, only the weak pray to a god and Crom despises the weak. Very basic view of the idea, and possible too late to add anything to the discussion :)


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 Post subject: Re: Role of Religion
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:05 pm 
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That is in fact very similar to the rationalism/willpower idea for Stahlnish “religion”.

Men have self-reliance and the strength to survive (the willpower part). If this comes from any god, nobody can say; there is certainly no evidence to believe so (the rationalism part). And man does definitely not need any gods to survive and prosper (the willpower again).

I think it’s fine if the stubborn atheism is mainly a political thing and the Stahlnish are more of agnostics claiming most assertively that gods do obviously not meddle with humans – should they exist at all.

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