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Author Topic: The one true faith  (Read 11692 times)
Jake Norwood
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« on: May 14, 2002, 08:16:17 AM »

Although the world for TROS, Weyrth, is intentionally broad, we did something special with the religions--something that is pretty uncommon for FRPGs...

We left the matter of religion up in the air. Who is the one true god or pantheon? Are they all right? All wrong? There isn't any official "priestly magic," though genuine miracles are very appropriate in a TROS game...

So what do you all think...what's the deal? Is Fahal God? Are the Three? How about the path of the Thayers or the Vows of the Prophet...

How do you/would you handle miracles, divine interaction, issues of faith and religion, holy wars and crusades, and "true conversion?"

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2002, 08:31:44 AM »

Oh, just drop that bomb, why don't you?

My take is to do what the pulp sword-and-sorcery authors did - provide no evidence whatsoever that religious faith or acts consistent with a religious ethos actually generate metaphysical "power." Such faiths definitely are social institutions. Such acts definitely carry "protagonist power" through the Spiritual Abilities. However, neither of these validate the notion of divine energy or miracles in operation in setting terms.

Why would I do that? To place the conflicts about religious institutions and religiously-motivated acts right where they are for us - which I think is the only way for stories about these things to be relevant in the uniquely-gritty TROS way.

I do not see TROS as "mythic fantasy" in the sense of Glorantha. For Hero Wars (or for its predecessor, RuneQuest), gods and divinity are crucial elements; the actual conflicts of play reflect such things as found in Babylonian and Greek mythology. Man and gods, crossbreed child of man and god, man vs. gods, all of these are relevant in a game like this.

However, TROS is - and this is a big "to me" - about people. They have to deal primarily with other people. Even magic is about what one person is doing; therefore it's the Spiritual Attributes of the sorcerer that concern me (considering that I probably will not be able to lop off his head before he fries me, given any competence on his part). In this sense, any given person is making ethical decisions with the same foundation that any other person has - the interior dance between faith and doubt.

Therefore I plan, in my game, to have religious institutions and religiously motivated acts play a major role. In fact, one of the players chose "Destiny: become a religious icon," as well as "Religion: a man makes his own truths," which as you can will be a fine pair of contradictory influences on the game. But to have either such an institution or such acts carry metaphysical, intrusive weight due to their religious content ... no, to me, that moves a setting well away from person-dealing-with-person and into the mythic category.

Again, I emphasize that this is a personal take on the game/setting, and I make no claim that I'm conforming with the rules or the book in any way.

Best,
Ron

P.S. I treated religion (or more accurately, religious issues) very similarly in Sorcerer & Sword, in setting terms, as well as in The Sorcerer's Soul, in thematic/metaphysical terms.
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2002, 08:38:13 AM »

Ron--

Thanks for that. These are the kinds of responses I'm looking for, not a "this is the way it is." Even if I tell you MY take on religion in Weyrth (something I'll hold back until the end of this discussion, or maybe entirely) I do not intend "MY" take on religion in Weyrth to be the right one...

The general flavor--that men have to figure out the gods for themselves, and that no avatars are coming down to explain or prove anything--is solid, though.

But the real answer...that's the question...The Riddle of God...

Jake
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2002, 08:53:08 AM »

I think Ron hit it on the head before I could. I'm starting my RoS campaign this week, and a large part of it will center on religion. I want religion in my game to be a motivator for people, not an actual metaphysical force in the game.

I'm using the Gelure-Oustenreich-Farrenshire setup provided in the book for my game, with one small change: Emperor Uglub of Gelure isn't as "Dark Lord" as he appears in the book. To be certain, he's willing to take the world by force, but his propaganda is great, and directly strikes the Church of the Three-Gods-Become-One. He appeals to the people by saying that, yes, he is the Dark Betrayer Reborn, but he's here to help them throw off the shackles - that every man has divine power within himself, and sorcery is an expression of that that the traditional religious power structure has kept down. (The parallels between this and, say, Aleister Crowley's version of Satanism are not accidental.)

My purpose in all this is to use religion in RoS as a reflection of the way man views himself and his morality: is it better to serve one's self or others?
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2002, 09:00:28 AM »

I think Ron makes the most important point, and makes it well. Well enough, at least, that I couldn't expound upon it any without detracting from it.

However, I will say that there is a very, very slight bias in favor of Thayrism. The book's intro speaks of Triumph, the Forger God. The Riddle of Steel speaks also of Triumph.. Many players who don't want to deal with Weyrth equivalents of real-world Religions will definitely glom onto Thayrism. It's suitably fantastic, yet bears some similarity to some well-known mythologies. The fact that Thayrists are persecuted most places also makes it a great adventure hook.

Not saying that good players won't choose a variety of religions, but I think you may get a larger amount of Thayrist PCs than the setting might indicate.

A note, not a criticism.
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2002, 09:13:14 AM »

Thayrism has turned out to be pretty popular. The idea with mentioning Triumph in common Riddle-seeking and what-not is not unlike the common use of Roman and Greek Gods and myths in everyday Christian Medieval parlance, parable, and writing. No christians back then really specifically believed in the old Latin and Greek Pantheons, but the mythology remained.

That's kinda the idea.

However...maybe the Thayrists are right...

Or maybe its the Fahalanim...

When we write "Weyrth 1999" we'll have to insert door-to-door thayerists and Fahalanim...could be fun ;)

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2002, 09:34:04 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

I'm using the Gelure-Oustenreich-Farrenshire setup provided in the book for my game, with one small change: Emperor Uglub of Gelure isn't as "Dark Lord" as he appears in the book. SNIP


Apologies for the slight deviation

Very interesting! Coincidently if I run TROS on Weyerth (instead of my homebrewed world) I was planning on making Uglub a charismatic demigog (sp?) rather than an all around "evil guy"

Uglub genuinely cares about his people unlike a lot of the corrupt and evil leaders of the rest of Weyerth.

Basically IME Weyerth is late Middle Ages Earth with very few  fantastic elements. That means in most places it is a horrible place under the rule of the strong. Fuedalism isn't romantic IMO it is tyranny second only to a crimocratic government.

There will be few bright spots. Helena for sure  possibly fauth as well. But other than that  I want to show up the stifling lack of prosperity and happiness most folks have.

Of course people in Gelure are scared, religious propaganda  maybe?
 
Religion will become a tool of ambition used to whip the masses into  obidience to the fuedal order rather than a tool of spiritual liberation.

Where do  the Riddle Seakers fit in? They are the troubabdors and champions of the people. At least in the popular mind.  Of course the Riddle Seekers are just men. Some are good, some are bad. I figure they represent  self enlightenment, liberation and Gnosis over blind faith.

Troubador Warriors, now if I can just resist calling one Gurney Halleck :)

 I figured I might as well take advantage of the games "agnostic" leanings and play them to the hilt. The truth, Who Knows

If I run the home brew I am going for a "Robert Howard" feel and religion will get the brush over.

Unless its a handy temple of Set or some Elder God ;)

Ahh Adventure seeds
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Nick the Nevermet
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2002, 09:48:34 AM »

I'm going to try to not repeat what Ron put in his post, as I agree with it all, and it'd be a waste of time for me to repeat it or you to read it

Beyond the personal motivations of the character(s), i'm also interested in how these religions influence the setting and the background.  One of the real deceptive things about Wyerth is that while it looks a LOT like Earth, it differs in some ways that make for some extremely large differences, I'd think, and religion gets sucked into that.

Specifically on religion, though, things get very interesting from my point of view.  Obviously, the church of the Three-Become-One is superficially Christianity, or specifically Catholicism.  Ignoring points of theology (for many reasons), there are some significant differences, between Christianity and the Xanarism:

1) First, Christianity started off as a sect of Judaism, then spread through the Roman Empire.  From the two historical sources (Imperial Church and Thayrism), it appears that Xanarism was spread from its outset through military conquest.  This is also linked to another Earth/Weyrth difference: The Empire Xanar founded didn't fall.  Its shrank over time, but it hasn't fallen.  Thats a HUGE difference from Europe.  It'd take me a long time to think of just how many differences this would mean, but some that spring to mind immediately are a larger population and a long history of stable government. (both of which would have big effects by themselves).  And in the center of all of this is the Imperial Church of the Three Gods Become One.  The ultimate social lynchpin, holding things together with what would appear to be a stronger grip than what the Catholic Church had.


2) Thayrism and Paganism.  Its a very old story in history, fiction, and gaming to have an Imperial/official religion that controls the more 'civilized' areas, and a pagan/Druidic religion in the more folk, rural, or 'tribal' areas.  This also exists in Wyerth, with paganism being common among the peasantry in several countries, as well as being teh dominant religion in Picti, and Savaxen.  This may be an old story, but it still works: Two different moral forces in combat against each other, physically or otherwise, in a way where either one can be painted as being in the right.  Even both could be.  Being a fan of Pendragon, I can appreciate this religious tension.  Its sadly a tension thats often lost in other games, either because the author has ignored religion totally, or has made a thoroughly inconsistent set-up.

However, the existence of Thayrism changes this dynamic in some really interesting ways.  Thayrism accepts the story of Xanar, but inverted.  Instead of him being a concquering savior, he is an Immortal hero that has rebelled against his father, the patron Deity of the True Pantheon.  In doing so, Xanar allowed other gods, supernatural creatures, and sorcery into the world.  Now, there are a lot of different ways to interpret the Thayrist faith, but at the core it is essentially revisionist history.  Thayrism is at the moment the ultimate wild-card in the religious make-up of Wyerth, because it can mean so many different things and have so many different roles (chances are they aren't ONLY anti-Imperial Church terrorists)

3) Stahl Atheism:  Of everything in the setting of Weyrth, this I admit was the one thing I had the biggest problem swallowing.  It pushed my "religions matter in fantasy worlds dammit" button pretty hard, especially because the REST of the world seemed to deal so well with the issues of religion.  But then I thought about it.  First of all, the rejection of the Church was clearly a political move first and foremost.  The peasants of Stahl must have one of the most religious collections in Mainlund; nothing is officially accepted, so as long as its done quietly, anything is tolerated.  For the nobility, however, they need to upkeep their distance from the Church.  After a generation or two, the new Stahl nobility will have a minimal knowledge of the Imperial Church.  

However, this "atheism" is, I suspect, rather different than what atheism is today.  The only two tenants given in the book are that it rejects gods and it rejects magic from existing.  On the God-issue, many religions have proven you don't necessarily need a God central to the religion.  It can be an enhanced philosophy, and I'd imagine that is what Stahlish Atheism is: A religion based in a philosophy of how a noble should act.  I don't have experience with comparative religion, so I won't say much about this beyond I think such an idea is viable, and would be seen as totally godless atheism compared to the norm of 15th Century Europe.


In general, I love the religion interplay in Mainlund.  I'm especially interested in seeing how Stahlish atheism gets fleshed out, and, well, Thayrism is my lil pet. :D
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2002, 10:06:11 AM »

Hey,

One possible take on Stahlnish atheism is to draw a partial parallel to 20th-century Soviet dogma. The state purported to support a fully material-oriented outlook, which is "atheism" if you'll excuse a hideous perversion of a complex concept, but in practice, until the 1970s or so, the state brutally encouraged the sanctification of Lenin, and after him (in a darker way), Stalin. Statues, art, icons, you name it - functionally, you had state-endorsed gods to worship.

Now Stahl is not an industrialized or semi-industrialized modern nation, nor does it have a particularly centralized government. I'm not claiming full parallel. I'm suggesting that people who say they are "atheist" or "irreligious" or what-have-you rarely are, and that cultures in a general sense probably never are.

What would a daily "religious act" look like in Stahl? I'm betting that the local gentry and burghers do a lot of gazing at statues of and reading stories about paragons of Stahlnish cultural pseudo-history. (And I agree that the peasantry is certainly practicing Three-in-One in secret almost to a man, as convincingly suggested by Nick.)

Best,
Ron
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Bankuei
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2002, 11:05:24 AM »

Jake, I think this is the quote you need to put on the website:

Ron sez:
Quote
...the interior dance between faith and doubt


What's the first thing that you create? Your philosophy.

You don't choose an alignment, a god who gives you all the answers(although you may think he/she/it/they do), or some other arbitrary game mechanic.  You are a person, without any real understanding of the larger scheme of the universe.  Does it have meaning?  Or are you seeking it?  Or do you have time to even worry about it at all?

Whitewolf hooks players on the power on conspiracy, the knowledge of some bit of the universe, and ripped all the grand mystery out of mysticism and the occult.  Here, you don't really know a lot, other than what anyone else knows, and your struggle is to understand how to make "What you should do" link up with "What you must do".  Of course, either one of those concepts is also up in the air.

It's creating your own approach towards life that makes this game intensely personal, and the exploration of your character based on their SA's and philosophy that tailors it to the players.  Without a game dogma of "the truth", players are left to squabble it out and search, just like folks in real life.

Chris
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Jaif
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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2002, 01:36:33 PM »

Thayrism rung true to me a bit more than the others.  However, if I run a campaign in Weryth I would run from the premise that there were no Gods, and that all the religions were inventions.  I wouldn't tell the players that, though, as I'd want to leave the field of belief open.

On Stahl: I see the Stahlist nobles as power-hungry people who see religion keeping them from their power.  They personally don't care, and I imagine they often have their own private beliefs, but the official policy is rather zealously followed when there's enough religious noise.  In other words, the nobles aren't busy rooting out religion, they just don't want to see it.  Heck, they probably ignore festivals if they're fun enough and don't have a thick religious coating, but just a think religious crust. :-)

On Uglub.  Interesting: I too wouldn't run Uglub as evil, heart-of-darkness stuff.  In fact, I'd keep the idea that he's defending the rights of the oppressed.  Uglub would be a standard conquerer type to me: he wants power, lots of it, and that's his primary drive.  As far as he's concerned, you're either with him or against him, and he has no problem exterminating those against him.  However, once you get outside that he's a rather orderly, just person who frees the serfs and offers a place to the oppressed sorcerers of the land.  Of course, he's quite happy to benifit from the sorcerers of the land, but in his mind he's also doing because it makes sense.

In fact, I'm not sure Uglub himself would be a sorcerer in my game.  It would be interesting if the whole "Dark Betrayer" thing was a propaganda move.  Or perhaps he's a halfling w/some powers, and he uses the "Dark Betrayer" as a usefull cover.

-Jeff
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Nick the Nevermet
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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2002, 03:19:30 PM »

First, I very much agree with Ron that Stahlish atheism will most likely turn into a reverence for those who embodied the Stahlish 'spirit'.  This may develop into something with elements of ancestor worship and a rather extreme cultural chauvenism (spelling?).  I'm still working on how the "...and magic doesn't exist either" fits in.  Obviously, since magic is so rare, this could easily exist.  Still, I would wonder how they'd explain the supernatural in a more sophisticated way.

Second, on the subject of Gelure... eh, *grin* I like the idea of its leader being evil & nasty, as per my Gelure thread.  I think it works well for the game to have him be that way, but thats just my view.  Stuff that is clear in any case, though: he's dictatorial, efficient, and disliked by pretty much everyone who is important (Or will be after his conquering).  Not that I would ever advicate a meta-plot (Personal issue there), but it'd be interesting to see how Uglub's reign goes.  He could establish Gelure as a permanent power, or there could be a counter-revolution against him, or both.  For some reason, my view of him is a kin to both Hitler and Napoleon in that all three swept themselves into total power as the replacement to an old regime seen as ineffective (at best), and then turning the country into a military powerhouse. (*sigh* I need to read more history...)

On the subject of Thayrism, I agree with Wolfen that many players may be drawn to make Thayrist characters.  With that being said, the Thayrs can be many different things.  For example, they could have been around since Xanar, just like their history suggests.  Or, on the other hand, The religion of 'thayrism' may have been developed recently, possibly by an academic who had 'discovered the truth' of the world through his studies.  Another question, related to teh first: how homogenous Thayr theology & practice is.  For example, do they ALL support terrorist action against the Imperial Church, or do some beleive The True God and Lord is taking care of it himself through the Rising of the Moons?

There are a ton of these kind of questions I could ask and give different answers to, and thats why Thayrism is popular with me, at least: its not fixed, and most of the possibilities it offers me are interesting.

*smirk* Oh, and Jake: You see, Fahal AND Thayrism are right.  You see, when the Children of Eimekal were defeated by Xanar, they scattered.  The Grey Father was one of the surviving children of Eimekal, and he took his followers to a harsh land that nobody in there right mind would go to: Fahal.  There he gave them laws to live by to ensure they survived, and after a time, left to see what the world was becoming.  See? It alll connects...
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2002, 07:41:16 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hey,

One possible take on Stahlnish atheism is to draw a partial parallel to 20th-century Soviet dogma. The state purported to support a fully material-oriented outlook, which is "atheism" if you'll excuse a hideous perversion of a complex concept, but in practice, until the 1970s or so, the state brutally encouraged the sanctification of Lenin, and after him (in a darker way), Stalin. Statues, art, icons, you name it - functionally, you had state-endorsed gods to worship.

Now Stahl is not an industrialized or semi-industrialized modern nation, nor does it have a particularly centralized government. I'm not claiming full parallel. I'm suggesting that people who say they are "atheist" or "irreligious" or what-have-you rarely are, and that cultures in a general sense probably never are.


Actually, one of the interesting things about the Communist revolution in Russia was that all the Marxists were telling Lenin that he was a fool for trying to get Russia to accept communism precisely because it was not an industrialized nation. As an essentially Aristocratic Agrarian society, they argued that Russia was a stage or two behind where a nation had to be to accept such a doctrine. Apparently they were correct in that Lenin failed to establish the Communist Utopia, but he did manage to set up a materialist dictatorship. Which is what we're looking for.

So I see your proposal as eminently feasible. A powerful leader like Lenin takes the stage in Stahl at some point, and performs an unlikely coup in the capital city. Then a "crusade" gathers momentum to bring the rest of the country in line and eliminate the old oppressive nobility (red army versus white army). Of course, this simply establishes a new nobility, allthough they might call themselves something else. In the end you have a materialist dictatorship (instead of the Communist Utopia), one in which religion is suppressed and state support is instead encouraged as a replacement.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Mike
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Nick the Nevermet
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2002, 08:26:10 AM »

Actually, I slightly disagree with you on a two points

The first is on the use of a revolution.  While a revolution would certainly be able to shift the nobility from being followers of the Imperial Church to Stahlish Atheism, I don't think its necessary.  I want to do the least injury to the pre-existing history, in which Stahl declared its independence by a unanimous vote among nobles in 1302.  Also I like the idea of a version of nationalism sweeping through Stahl and kicking out the Imperials.  For a revolution against the old regime, there is Gelure, and in a few other threads its become clear that Uglub can be portrayed in several lights. (I forgot who mentioned Satanism as emancipatory)

By the time the Stahlish nobles voted, there has been over a century of very big problems in Xanrium, ranging from economic depression to corruption to several unsuccessful civil wars.  Before this, there were the Crusade.  Seeing how Stahl has always been a very martial culture, I can easily see any succesful Stahlish crusaders becoming near saints in their homeland.  I see this as the genesis of reverence for Stahlish heroes and leaders that Ron talked about in his post.

On top of a culture that admires its own greatly, the Empire it is beholden to shows itself to be corrupt and inefficient.  This is a great set-up for traditional, conservative forces within the nobility to gain prestige and popularity, leading to their 'atheism' spreading with an evangelical furvor, culminating in an independence movement.

The second point of slight disagreement (and this is REALLY minor), is the idea of a materialist dictatorship as the desired endpoint for the Stahl of today.  Again, according to the book, Stahl is obscenely decentralized, to the point that several of its territories accidentally became indpendent countries.  This suggests a feudal set up of the nobility, and a materialist dictatorship implies (at least intended) centralization.

At the core of Stahlish Atheism would seem to be an extreme ethnocentrism.  Stahlish philosophers, poets, leaders, and generals would all be reinterpreted as understanding the spirit of Stahl.  But it lacks a centralized state, so it won't become a centralized dictatorship.  *smirk* That is until the Stahlish version of Bismark pops up
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2002, 08:41:43 AM »

Hey Nick,

Blut und ... Stahl? Ya think?

Mike, I think we agree on the whole leader-as-icon thing in terms of religion-by-any-other-name, but your further parallel with Soviet Union and Stahl isn't really where I was going with it.

Best,
Ron

edited to capitalize my name (vanity, I know)
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