World Building: Religions

My group and I have had problems role playing Divine classes in 4e. So many other classes enjoy autonomy because of the power source they belong to. A Martial character doesn’t have to ask someone else if they should swing a blade, but Divine classes have always hit that snag. Their power is essentially loaned to them and many of my players dislike the possibility of a restriction on what they can do as PC in my or anyone’s campaign. As I wrote last week, I’ve been working on a brand new campaign world and I spent some time thinking about how gods are to be presented in this world. I wanted to create a fertile base from which my players can choose Divine classes and still love to play.

Monopoly

An issue I’ve identified is the conflict of our modern monotheistic understanding and the polytheistic pantheon that 4e has. Even if you aren’t religious many of us understand religion as a one-god deal. The DMG 1 goes over the pantheon and does alleviate some of the issues we have understanding polytheism. Having studied Greek mythology at school I also know that there are some odd explanations for why a pantheon of deities works or even exists. For me, and how I world build, the 4e gods are akin to paragons of specific virtues. They are all worshiped by the common person because each god has a portfolio and is called upon by the mortal man or woman when it is necessary. Because of this, I look at most of the faiths behind the 4e gods as being mostly friendly (I’m talking about the good and unaligned gods here). A farmer in a small village may call upon Pelor to bless his crops, but he will invoke Bahamuts name when a thief has stolen something from him. The gods have a role to play. They do not dictate to their followers they are the one and only deity to worship. We leave that kind of ego-maniacal garbage to the evil deities.

The Other Half

Keeping with the DMGs explanation of the pantheon I also decided that gods do need to stay distant from my new world. They are close enough to grant powers to the faithful, but they are too busy to deal with the minutiae of the world. This means that it is fairly easy for a divine character or clergy member to interpret their gods will differently and not be smote instantaneously. This allows the freedom of choice that my players want without bending blessed knee to a greater power every day. So what about the less virtuous gods? The ones that espouse tyranny, murder, and destruction are simply aligned with some of Earths own former deities. Evil gods in my campaign are now like the Roman/Greek, Egyptian, or Aztec pantheons. They are old, forgotten, cruel gods who are rarely worshiped in this day of modernity. Of course that doesn’t mean cultists of these dark gods don’t exist, and some of them may become a problem for the group that wanders into my world.

Not So Kind

This free will now offered to Divine characters has a darker side. While the good and unaligned gods are in power, they may not always be worshiped by good and unaligned followers. The medieval Catholic church had its inquisitors that tried to spread its enlightenment through murder and torture. An overly zealous Bahamutian may take the concept of justice too far and start putting innocent people to the sword. My players may not take that path, but it will make for great story telling if one of them has to wipe out a small sect of fellow followers because they have become corrupt.

Comments, questions? Email me at shiftykobold@gmail.com or follow me on twitter @shiftykobold

I wrote today’s article in Ommwriter. If you’re having trouble doing writing of your own check it out here.

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One thought on “World Building: Religions

  1. I built my campaign world around a religious-military organization that basically acts as the King’s right hand. It was the first idea for my homebrew world, and everything else has flowed from there.

    One of my main NPCs will be featured tomorrow on Stuffer Shack if you are curious about my thoughts on religion in a D&D 4e world.

    Nice article!

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