Friday, July 25, 2008

All Right, If We Must

Max of Malevolent & Benign asked me in a comment, “Is Jesus a historical personage and/or religious figure in your world? Or do you just prefer those terms to BCE/CE?”

To begin with, I’ve never understood the need to introduce the terms BCE and CE. I recognize the argument about the exact date of Jesus’ birth, and that the change is supposed to reflect that, but since we’re continuing to use the Catholic Church’s assessment as the baseline, does it make much difference that we say “Christian Era” instead of “Christ”?

I haven’t gotten into the swing of that, as it were; and since almost all the texts I use predate the change, I’m somewhat ambivalent. But regarding the more interesting question:

YES, Jesus was a historical person in my world. He would have been, I suppose, a highly charismatic (20?), high-leveled cleric with a penchant for mass congregational spells. I should also like to point out that Zoroaster, Zarathustra, Confucius, Mohammed (ahem, no pictures please) and Prester John were also historical figures.

It seems strange to me that the D&D universe is more than willing to co-opt the existence of Amaterasu, the Shinto Goddess who appears in the Deities and Demigods, but that western mythological figures are somehow off limits. Not being religious, but having a solid religious education, I’m loath to separate out my myths on their political correctness.

My perception of religion in D&D is fairly loose, as I don’t play with alignments and I’m not keen to force my generally atheistic players to follow a path of intensified preoccupation with the day-to-day rituals their clerics might follow. Clerics are needed, of course, as I don’t have any silly rules about surging one’s own hit points at will (wow, that’s Hollywood, where the bullet wound in scene 4 is suddenly gone in scene 12)…and because they are needed someone in the party must invariably be one.

Every now and then I get to punish a cleric who decides he wants a little heavenly intervention, and I get to say, why would the heavens give a shit?

You’re probably asking, if the gods aren’t keen on the cleric to begin with, how is the cleric recharging their spells?

As I’ve said, it’s a big world and there are a lot of people in it. A cleric before they reach 9th level isn’t very unusual or particularly important; so the gods overlook the details in returning those spells. If it should come up later that a cleric has started a church and is still playing fast and loose with their religion, well…things could get pretty nasty.

I tend to see everything leading up to that as a sort of grace period.

A cleric may, if he or she wishes, choose to be Christian or Jewish or Confucian…or they may choose to follow the various mythologies from the Deities and Demigods or the much larger mythos from the actual planet earth (Wikipedia can be very helpful). Ultimately, of course, “God,” the monotheistic being, is ME. Think of it as the people in the world some 29 centuries before the time my world takes place suddenly having a vision that the dungeon master exists. Oh, and that Einstein would ultimately be wrong: god DOES play dice with the universe.

All the other gods, the “old gods,” also exist, in effect vastly powerful monsters and well worthy of being revered. Most of these old gods have multiple names, and many of their followers fail to recognize that different groups are actually worshipping the same god: Odin, for example, is also Zeus AND Ra and Shiva; apparent discontinuities are entirely the fault of those who worship, who cannot see the whole picture.

I do not have clerics take individual gods, but rather pantheons; if you are Celtic, you call on the god that applies in the situation that you are in. Diancecht if you wish someone to recover from an illness, Silvanus if you’re hunting for food and so on.

The great dominant religions tend to be those that are monotheistic, though not in India or Japan. Clerics choosing old god religions must nearly always be prepared for hysteria, hatred, intolerance and possible execution if they’re too obvious about their beliefs—particularly in the Christian world, which is by far the LEAST tolerant. In many parts of the world, the state religion is utterly passive about other religions that might present themselves.

That’s a quick overview. I might come back to the subject, but it isn’t a terribly important subject in my world, simply because most of what anyone needs to know about the specific religion is in any textbook one cares to find—as a DM, I’ve found it so far very easy to adhere to those mythological systems and bend my world to fit them. I suppose because there has been thought that went into their original design…not like the recent design of some rather clumsy and poorly educated publishers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How timely a post. Our campaign makes liberal use of the map of New Zealand, the south island to be specific.

-Mike