If you follow me on my personal blog you will know that I make no secret of my own atheism. And my kids are getting raised in a similar fashion, not intentionally, it is just how it is working out. And for better or worse, like attracts like so my sons friends that are in the game are not from heavy church going families (which is why we can run games on Sundays for one thing.) That is a personal introduction into what I think is a very interesting subject: role playing and religions.
By the time I first started playing D&D I was pretty well versed in ancient mythology. I still own my well thumbed copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. And I had exhausted the library of books on Norse mythology. So when I started role playing I had those ideas in my head. But not any real idea how things like a Cleric would interact. Than I got this book:
The Deities & Demigods book did three things. First, it helped me think of Clerics as something beyond some stereotypical Crusader type. Second, it introduced me to a number of mythologies that I was not aware of before, and was very educational. Third, because I got the first edition I learned about Elric, and the Michael Moorcock books. And that really got me thinking about worlds outside of Earth and Middle Earth. And even more interesting it got me thinking about Gods who would interact with characters. I know that is common in the Ancient Earth mythologies but it was not the same.
Which meant that I began thinking of how I would play a Cleric differently now. And looked at characters in books differently as well. Perhaps the next most influential fictional character for me along these lines is Tempus Thales from the Thieves World books. Because as my friend remarked Tempus assumes the Avatar of his God, Vashanka, on earth. That really ups the ante from being just a Priest or Cleric. And introduces a whole different level of power and possibilities.
So by now I really get the idea of how this system works. Of a Cleric following certain restrictions because that is how his God teaches. And then being able to turn around and perform certain things on behalf of his God. Understanding that makes the role playing of a Cleric in games like D&D and Pathfinder a lot of fun.
But here’s the thing. In a group of experienced gamers like my Denver game running that kind of character is easy. But in running a game with the boys, they just do not have that understanding and background. All they know is that a Cleric casts different spells, can heal, and gets to wear armor. So the role playing aspect of being a Priest is kind of lost on them. Which is kind of sad. Because one of the things we have a lot fun with in our Denver game is the fact that we have 2 Clerics and a Paladin, all following different Gods, and therefore getting into contests about whose God can do what.
And one of the harder parts of using a home brew campaign is that you have to create a new pantheon. But, since none of the boys is playing a Cleric I didn’t really have to create one. Now Danny is playing a Dwarf Priest, but I can give him the name of a Dwarf God, and he is good. So it is very different running a game with new teenagers instead of experienced players when the question of religion comes up.
I did take some time to create names for all the 5E Clerical domains when I first began to put together the campaign. But since none of them have even come up I can just bag that. Instead the approach I will use from here out is a dualistic pantheon: Good God, Bad God. And if a Cleric takes up a certain domain it is more a question of how a religious order teaches, like the different Catholic Religious Orders. From a game mechanics perspective it will have no impact. But from a story perspective it makes things much easier. So that’s how I tackle on of THE big issues in my campaigns.