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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Monotheistic Religions

    Why is it that every world has a Greek/Egyptian style pantheon? Why are there so few monotheistic religions? And why does there have to be a personal god? Why not have something like {scrubbed} with no personal deity but a platonic ideal to pursue? I always found it strange that my Cleric based on {scrubbed} had to acknowledge other gods in order to fit into any settings.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2020-10-27 at 11:57 PM.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Most religions in-setting are either polytheistic or henotheistic because monotheism means that you can only have one deity in the entire setting, and that one deity won't fit everyone in the setting. If you want the deities to actually do anything, then monotheism ceases to be sensical ("Loki doesn't exist!" "Then what was he doing burning down our village last week?"). So if you want multiple conflicting religions, and deities which actually do something, then henotheism is the closest you'll get.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Unavenger View Post
    Most religions in-setting are either polytheistic or henotheistic because monotheism means that you can only have one deity in the entire setting, and that one deity won't fit everyone in the setting. If you want the deities to actually do anything, then monotheism ceases to be sensical ("Loki doesn't exist!" "Then what was he doing burning down our village last week?"). So if you want multiple conflicting religions, and deities which actually do something, then henotheism is the closest you'll get.
    Quite.

    If there's only one deity, and that deity explicitly exists, then everyone ends up acknowledging the deity and you end up largely eliminating religious conflict from the setting entirely - especially in a D&D style world in which the gods can communicate directly to their followers and just stop things like heresy and schism from occurring in their church.

    Monotheistic high fantasy is certainly possible - LotR is monotheistic after all - but it tends to be laser-focused on stories about saving the world from the Evil One (TM) and their slavering hordes of soulless minions who can be safely slaughtered. The Wheel of Time is a nice modern example of how this sort of thing is set up - a good but distant creator deity and a much more immediately threatening evil entity influencing the world who must be stopped.

    Additionally, mechanistically in a game like D&D, if there's only one deity, and that deity has clerics, the world is going to get converted over into something closely approximating that deity's ideal world in short order, rendering it unplayable. D&D even explicitly acknowledged this in Planescape, in that the various divine realms in the Outer Planes where deities have absolute control over the local reality, tend to be very one note and only worth visiting when they are forced into interaction with some other realm.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Are you sure about that?
    Eberron also has some religions that don't involve worshipping gods.
    Greyhawk has Pholtus who has followers who deny the existence of other gods. Pholtus himself is a bit unclear about that.
    Pathfinder has Razmir who claims to be the only god, and he's not even a god.

    Ofcourse, you are right. It seems to be the default assumption. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, it gives players options like cleric domains.
    It's also what the players expect, to the point of nearly every fanmade pantheon being the same spreadsheet pantheon with different names.
    Cramming all the domains into one god is hard, so that's not a thing the writers would like to do.
    Setting up religions/gods against each other is an easy trope to use. You can't do that if you only have one god.

    The good news is that you can make up your own setting that doesn't have any of those constraints. One thing I want to run is a campaign where all religions contradict each other in various degrees. There might be some overlap between religions, but it's not very clear which one is the right one, because none of them are.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    I haven't given much thought to other systems, but in 3.5 I once had something that pretty much mirrored Christianity in Europe in flavor. There was only one "God" (can't remembered the actual term I used), but sects were devoted to various Saints, which functioned virtually the same as the standard D&D pantheon. A specific church of "Saint John" (not to be confused with any of the real-world Saint Johns) might offer Knowledge and Magic, for example.

    I think such an idea was actually in one of the old sourcebooks. It was so long ago, I can't remember which.

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    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    And, of course, there's some monotheisms within the various pantheons.

    For example, the Theocracy of the Pale, in Greyhawk, is very henotheistic... they acknowledge other deities exist, but regard them all as inferior, and subject, to Pelor. Slen and Pel Brolenon, in Kingdoms of Kalamar, are both theocracies devoted to evil deities, and those deities alone.

    In David Eddings' Elenium, the western nations of Eosia are monotheistic, with the Rendors to their south being heretics, but still worshiping the same deity, but much of the rest of the world are polytheists with their own pantheon... the trolls have 5 troll-gods (fire, ice, fighting, food, and... mating), the Styrics have a literal Thousand, the Tamuls have an unknown number of deities who are regarded as being very flighty.
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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Unavenger View Post
    Most religions in-setting are either polytheistic or henotheistic because monotheism means that you can only have one deity in the entire setting, and that one deity won't fit everyone in the setting.
    Why do you need a monotheistic world to have a monotheistic religion? Why can't the monotheists view other gods as demons, {scrubbed}

    A lot of people point out that in a world where people can call on miraculous powers then everyone would believe. And I think that's a valid point. But I also think that a lot of people would find ways to explain it that don't include acknowledging other deities as deities.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2020-10-27 at 11:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    In the Deryni novels by Kurtz there is a single monotheistic church and a crapload of faith-based conflict. Monotheism does not automaticly eliminate religious conflict. You can have multiple faiths devoted to a single deity, and even with very miniscule differences create friction.

    Example:

    The Annointed King Fydrox lead an army to overcome the heathen hordes. While he was away at war his heir usurped his throne and the rightful king and his youngest son converted the heathens to the true faith as they built an army strong enough to retake the holy kingdom.

    The death of The Annointed King Fydrox in a war to defend civilization from the godless hordes was concealed by a younger brother to the rightful heir. The would-be usurper raised a savage army and lead them against the Holy Kingdom, spurring generations of bloodshed.

    Both sides of this conflict believe their side is in the right, and have holy texts to prove it. Among other things, both texts agree that the other side is lying.

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Why do you need a monotheistic world to have a monotheistic religion? Why can't the monotheists view other gods as demons{scrub the post, scrub the quote}

    A lot of people point out that in a world where people can call on miraculous powers then everyone would believe. And I think that's a valid point. But I also think that a lot of people would find ways to explain it that don't include acknowledging other deities as deities.
    We can't discuss real world religions on this forum, so there isn't much we can do to address some of this.

    In general terms, monotheism and individual agency are difficult to reconcile. Table top games are about giving all of the agency to the players, to the point where settings like Forgotten Realms get criticized for having too powerful of mortals. Why doesn't Elminster fix it is way worse when it is "why doesn't the all power, omniscient overlord do something?"

    Either everything is "just as planned" or the deity isn't actually all-powerful, which undermines the experience for a lot of players.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2020-10-27 at 11:55 PM.
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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    We can't discuss real world religions on this forum, so there isn't much we can do to address some of this.
    Sorry. I wasn't trying to start real-world theology debate, it's just the only reference I have for monotheistic religions still resulting in fantastic stories.

    To your other point, I haven't seen any complaints about monotheistic religions in my games. I have a Paladin and a Cleric right now that love sharing the true faith among the goblinoid peoples. I would just love to play in a game where I can be the Evangelizing Priest because I love the character concept but it seems like I'm the only one who runs games with monotheistic religions. I thought I'd ask why and I've gotten some really good answers so far, even though I disagree with them. It's nice to see how other players and DMs think about this stuff.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    It's difficult to have true monotheism in a world with direct evidence of multiple deities. One faith can claim another faith's gods are false all they want, but if the priests of those gods can keep casting spells in the same way you can, then you're going to sound rather stupid. Likewise, it's rather absurd to have multiple faiths in a world were there really is only one deity and that deity can and does actually answer prayers. Game of Thrones has this problem - most people in Westeros worship the Seven, a religion that doesn't do anything, while in the presence of multiple faiths that possess real (if limited) mystical power (Martin's failure to properly define what is actually going on with the Red God is a major world-building problem in the ASOIAF setting).

    There's a fundamental difference between the nature of religious faith and religious conflict in a fantasy world where a religion or deity directly impacts the world in an observable way - via priestly spellcasting, supernatural miracles, or even verifiable prophecy - versus one where this is not the case. In the case of verifiable evidence of supernatural power failure to believe is not simply a matter of opinion, it means you are wrong. A nice classic example: Han Solo says he doesn't believe in the Force in Star Wars A New Hope and he's wrong. The Force exists, you can't deny it and make it go away. Even when an absurdly powerful regime like the Empire tries to propagandize it out of knowledge it's still there, and it keeps cropping up.

    Star Wars is actually a good example of how to have religious conflict in a world were there is only one supernatural source. In Star Wars different societies and people believe in the Force in different ways, including many who believe it is the will or power of a deity, and because the Force isn't a conscious entity, their abilities still work. A conscious deity, by contrast, is extremely unlikely to let such things happen, especially if said deity can communicate directly.

    This influences even polytheistic settings. For example, in a world were deities can't communicate it's common for one culture to co-opt the deities of another culture through exchange and trade but give them a different name and rituals appropriate to the new culture. This makes sense for reasons of cultural interchange and linguistic variance, but it makes no sense in a D&D style world where a deity can just shout into the ear of their priests what their name actually is.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Which also depends on what the deity wants. If the deity desires conflict it may well give different accounts to different cultures.

    What if the deity doesn't want to take sides, but wants the mortals to work it out?

    What if divine magic is not granted by a deity but fueled by the faith of the caster?

    What if the deity donsn't 8nswer when clerics call?

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Another monotheistic setting within a polytheistic game world? The Moonshaes, especially before the first Moonshae Trilogy. Everyone worshipped The Goddess, except for the Northmen. The world at large is polytheistic, and acknowledges The Goddess as a manifestation of Chauntea, but the local area is extremely, but not violently, monotheistic.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Also, consider that a cleric can worship a single PANTHEON rather than a single GOD yet be just as driven and fanatical in his insistence that his is the only pantheon to follow.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Goblin

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Why is it that every world has a Greek/Egyptian style pantheon? Why are there so few monotheistic religions? And why does there have to be a personal god? Why not have something like {scrubbed} with no personal deity but a platonic ideal to pursue? I always found it strange that my Cleric based on {scrubbed} had to acknowledge other gods in order to fit into any settings.
    Because polytheism is the best way to avoid religious conflicts that can spread from characters to players.

    You can certainly do a monotheistic setting and make it interesting. You can even play a monotheistic cleric in a polytheistic setting just by having it deny the divinity of other gods. "Look, Thor isn't a god. He's simply a very powerful being who demands worship and hates trees. Banjo is the one, true god."

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by jjordan View Post
    Because polytheism is the best way to avoid religious conflicts that can spread from characters to players.
    I suspect this is a big part of it with published settings. It's difficult to have a monotheistic religion that won't be interpreted by some people as a commentary on one or more prominent real-world religions or an invitation to bring those real-world beliefs and conflicts into the game. Maybe that just causes occasional player conflict, which is bad enough, or maybe it gets traction in the media, which is worse. D&D has a bad history there, and I'm sure WotC wants no part of it. Polytheism is just all-around safer.

    Besides, fantasy polytheism has been part of D&D for so long now that it's just a given. For a lot of players, it just wouldn't feel like D&D without the multitude of deities. I'm kind of in that boat myself - I enjoy the various tropes that go along with the D&D experience, including the cosmology.

    Also, more gods = more splatbooks.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Thanks for the responses. I like seeing the different perspectives on things. I just want to play zealous priest preaching their faith to the masses of fantasy medieval Europe. So far, I've never met a DM that was cool with that. I think the point about people being uncomfortable with public religion probably explains that the best, I can certainly see how that can lead to IRL conflict. I also think a lot of it has to do with DMs feeling like a pantheon of gods is easier or more aesthetic than a single, monotheistic faith.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Thanks for the responses. I like seeing the different perspectives on things. I just want to play zealous priest preaching their faith to the masses of fantasy medieval Europe. So far, I've never met a DM that was cool with that. I think the point about people being uncomfortable with public religion probably explains that the best, I can certainly see how that can lead to IRL conflict. I also think a lot of it has to do with DMs feeling like a pantheon of gods is easier or more aesthetic than a single, monotheistic faith.
    Most clerics and similarly religious characters do believe that their god is the best, even if they acknowledge the existence of other gods. Durkon will happily explain the advantages of worshiping Thor if asked, and a more forwards version could get started on much less pretense. The major practical limit is how far you can go before you annoy the other players.

    If there's only one god in a setting and that fact is inarguable (for instance, if only that god can grant clerical powers), that fact will have massive downstream repercussions for the setting. It's doable, but the proselytizing priest archetype is quite workable even in a default polytheistic setting.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    The major practical limit is how far you can go before you annoy the other players.
    This. As people in this thread have pointed out, there are numerous viable ways to play a proselytizing priest in a polytheistic setting, ranging from "sure there are other gods, but Pelor is the best" to "those other gods aren't real gods, they're demons sent to deceive mankind away from the worship of Pelor, the one true god." However, if your DM has objected it may not fit with the game your DM wants to run or be fun for the other players. Which might be your fault, might be their fault, or more likely it's nobody's fault you just have different expectations for the game.
    Last edited by TheStranger; 2020-10-28 at 08:31 PM.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by TheStranger View Post
    However, if your DM has objected it may not fit with the game your DM wants to run or be fun for the other players. Which might be your fault, might be their fault, or more likely it's nobody's fault you just have different expectations for the game.
    Yeah, that's what I think it boils down to. I've run games with monotheistic religions and my current Paladin/Cleric dynamic duo are loving playing up the crusader schtick and the rest of the party enjoys it as well. I just haven't found a table that I can do that at. It sucks but if not getting to play a character concept is the worst thing that happens then it was a pretty good day.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Why is it that every world has a Greek/Egyptian style pantheon? Why are there so few monotheistic religions?
    1) Because medieval-fantasy takes huge inspiration from western mythologies.
    2) Because having a monotheistic religion can make some players and/or DMs uncomfortable as the frontier between making statement about the fictional world and making statement about the real world becomes more and more slim.
    3) Because the more you have powerful beings that disagree with each others, the easier it is to build interesting conflicts that are not just "good vs evil". It also opens the possibility for a character (NPC or PC) to become a god, which is a nice ultimate goal.
    4) The pantheon of gods is linked to the alignment system. Once you have 9 alignment, it's only natural to have one god embodying the meaning of each alignment (or multiple gods embodying the multiple variants of the same alignment).
    5) Because that's how it is. D&D's setting are medieval politics with pantheons and sorcery. That's arbitrary. You could have a setting in Renaissance or Bronze age with very few changes required to make it work. You could have a setting with eastern-style religions and peoples venerating spirits instead of gods too. But that's just how D&D was in the past, what peoples are used to in D&D, so what most peoples expect from D&D in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Why not have something like {scrubbed} with no personal deity but a platonic ideal to pursue?
    5e Paladin do that. They get their power from their oath, and might not have any God linked to them.
    Druids/Ranger also get divine power without venerating a particular god.

    It's just Cleric that remain firmly linked to a deity. But that's kind of the whole concept of the class.
    Last edited by MoiMagnus; 2020-10-29 at 07:57 AM.

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    We can't discuss real world religions on this forum, so there isn't much we can do to address some of this.
    I propose somebody start a duplicate thread on ENWorld and we continue the discussion there. I'd do it myself but I don;t have a copy of the unredacted topic post.
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Why do you need a monotheistic world to have a monotheistic religion? Why can't the monotheists view other gods as demons, {scrubbed}

    A lot of people point out that in a world where people can call on miraculous powers then everyone would believe. And I think that's a valid point. But I also think that a lot of people would find ways to explain it that don't include acknowledging other deities as deities.
    The meaning of a word is a matter of arbitrary convention. If "deities" is intended, understood, and used to refer to miracle-working supernatural beings worshiped by mortals, then that's what "deities" means. In that case, someone who believes that mortals worship multiple supernatural beings who perform miracles believes in multiple deities. If that individual further incorrectly believes that the word "deities" means something else, then they may believe that the statement "I only believe in one deity" is true, but they still believe in multiple deities, if you understand the distinction (or even if you don't). So if the term "monotheist" is reserved for someone who believes in only one deity, then that individual isn't a monotheist.

    And frankly, a specific contrived definition of "god" strikes me as more likely to be espoused by someone who knows what "god" means, probably as part of a strawman argument. The Athar from Planescape are an actual published example. They may make some good points, but as soon as one of them says "The Powers ain't gods, berk", asshat readings are suddenly off the chart, because the asshatometer only goes up to 9K. And so far as I can tell, pretending that "god" means something more than it does seems to be a key part of their Faction. (And yet, they're still not all that unreasonable by Sigil standards. I'd rather spend time with one of them than with one of the Harmonium.)

    If you want to be super picky about how you use a particular term, that's your business, but insisting that your weird in-group decides what words really mean is just being difficult. If your goal is to communicate, don't do that. And if you're trying to actively impede communication, then you're just being an asshat, now aren't you?

    There are lots of potential issues with playing a character who is some variety of douche. (An opportunistic backstabber, for example.) Player characters who severely need to perform an extract-cranium-from-rectum maneuver are probably more likely to somehow be thought of by their players as behaving reasonably and even commendably, which may pose problems even with a group otherwise okay with douchey PCs.
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Quite.

    If there's only one deity, and that deity explicitly exists, then everyone ends up acknowledging the deity and you end up largely eliminating religious conflict from the setting entirely - especially in a D&D style world in which the gods can communicate directly to their followers and just stop things like heresy and schism from occurring in their church.

    Additionally, mechanistically in a game like D&D, if there's only one deity, and that deity has clerics, the world is going to get converted over into something closely approximating that deity's ideal world in short order, rendering it unplayable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    It's difficult to have true monotheism in a world with direct evidence of multiple deities. One faith can claim another faith's gods are false all they want, but if the priests of those gods can keep casting spells in the same way you can, then you're going to sound rather stupid. Likewise, it's rather absurd to have multiple faiths in a world were there really is only one deity and that deity can and does actually answer prayers. Game of Thrones has this problem - most people in Westeros worship the Seven, a religion that doesn't do anything, while in the presence of multiple faiths that possess real (if limited) mystical power (Martin's failure to properly define what is actually going on with the Red God is a major world-building problem in the ASOIAF setting).

    There's a fundamental difference between the nature of religious faith and religious conflict in a fantasy world where a religion or deity directly impacts the world in an observable way - via priestly spellcasting, supernatural miracles, or even verifiable prophecy - versus one where this is not the case. In the case of verifiable evidence of supernatural power failure to believe is not simply a matter of opinion, it means you are wrong.

    This influences even polytheistic settings. For example, in a world were deities can't communicate it's common for one culture to co-opt the deities of another culture through exchange and trade but give them a different name and rituals appropriate to the new culture. This makes sense for reasons of cultural interchange and linguistic variance, but it makes no sense in a D&D style world where a deity can just shout into the ear of their priests what their name actually is.
    If you asked politely, something like 60% of the world's population would explain to you how it's possible that undeniable physically impossible miraculous events happen on a daily basis and yet their religion is not a single-faction universally held faith.

    Quote Originally Posted by Devils_Advocate View Post
    The meaning of a word is a matter of arbitrary convention. If "deities" is intended, understood, and used to refer to miracle-working supernatural beings worshiped by mortals, then that's what "deities" means.
    Is my egocentric Tiefling Wizard not a miracle-working supernatural being worshipped by mortals? Is he a diety?
    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    A lot of people point out that in a world where people can call on miraculous powers then everyone would believe. And I think that's a valid point. But I also think that a lot of people would find ways to explain it that don't include acknowledging other deities as deities.
    The simplest explanation being "Clerics of that religion are just Wizards who lie."
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Without getting into specific real world religions, note that the strict dichotomy between mono and polytheistic religions isn't exactly how this works. D&D is sadly lacking in making use of most of these ideas; but I suppose they've had their share of problems with religious groups already. Still, I think some of these ideas can find a home in a homebrew campaign setting.

    You've got a whole lot of different options here.

    First, there are nontheistic faiths. Again, no examples -- but there are religions which aren't about worshipping a specific deity or supernatural being at all. Other religions believe there are spirits in plants, animals, and some inanimate objects, and that you should interact with the specific relevant spirit in any given scenario.

    From there, we still have a lot of options between "polytheistic" and "monotheistic". Some of these may not sound very familiar; if you're interested in looking into it further offboard, you should. The reason is that while a modern faith is fully monotheistic, now extinct branches of the faith may have had a somewhat different view. Again, I won't get into specific religions here.

    So, first we have the DND style polytheism, with multiple groups worshipping different pantheons of gods. Of course, that's not exactly how things always worked in the real world. Often different polytheistic faiths would share gods; perhaps two ancient empires meet and begin trading. Soon philosophers in both nations are coming up with explanations of how their chief gods are actually the same being, just with different names. Gods are traded, borrowed, merged and split.

    Following this we have Monolatry and henotheism. In henotheism, you acknowledge that a whole pantheon exists, but you only offer worship to one God. Under monolatry, you only worship one god but believe that other nations may worship their own gods - it isn't a matter of whether they exist or not, but whether your tribe has a relationship of worship with a given diety. We see this come about in a few ways:

    1) a god associated with a specific profession might get the vast majority of the worship of people of that profession. A sailor may only worry about the god of the sea. A farmer may only worry about the goddess of the harvest. A king may decree that the only one god from the pantheon should be worshipped.

    2) a god associated with a specific city-state or a specific tribe may rise in prominence among members of that group, until members of that city-state greatly prefer the worship of this god over others in the pantheon. In this scenario, they may still consider themselves part of that pantheon, and their people a subset of the greater nation. However...

    3) over time, the one deity which a group places chief importance on might rise even higher, to the point where the philosophy shifts. Instead of "this deity out of this pantheon has a special bond with our people and so deserves the most worship" we get "this deity has a special bond with us, and worshiping another deity means forsaking that bond. Other nations have their bonds with their own deities, and this is good. But for one of US to worship another deity would be a terrible betrayal." Think of it this way.... you've got a married couple, John and Jane. If John sleeps with other women, Jane is likely going to be pretty pissed at him. But if she hears that John's friend Jake had slept with his own wife, that's not likely to annoy her. Even if she learned that Jake had cheated on his own wife, she may think less of him, but isn't going to feel like Jake wronged her PERSONALLY. And of course, she expects John not to cheat -- she doesn't expect him to proclaim belief in only one woman. That's closer to the relationship between a monolatric society and their god.

    4) from here, we get to a monotheism with an asterisk. Yes, there is only one god, and it is your god. But, there are other beings out there that can influence reality. These other beings might be very powerful- the extreme case being Dualism, where you have two gods who are equal and opposite, sometimes evil and good but other times it is more complex than that. In that case, the evil god is as powerful as the good (and maybe they are worshipped equally). More typically these other non-god beings are weaker. They can be good, or they can be bad, there can be a few or uncountable hosts of them. Sometimes they're responsible for misfortune. Sometimes you pray to them so that they'll intervene on your behalf with the main god. And when you run into a people worshipping other gods, you might conclude that they were fooled by some of these beings into worshipping them instead of the real god.

    As you can see, there are tons of options for faiths beyond Mono vs Poly theism, and we just scratched the surface here. I think many of them can work in a d&d setting and hope to see some greater creativity expressed in that department.

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncymancer View Post
    Is my egocentric Tiefling Wizard not a miracle-working supernatural being worshipped by mortals? Is he a diety?
    I mean, roman emperors were basically treated the same as gods, particularly in small villages of not entirely clear political allegiance. If the individual can have everyone you know wiped out on a whim, I'm not sure it even matters if they're supernatural.

    Obviously, most systems sort of dump this concept so you have powerful village-destroying creatures you can fight, but in practical terms the locals probably would treat the local adult dragon as a regional god.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sandmote View Post
    I mean, roman emperors were basically treated the same as gods, particularly in small villages of not entirely clear political allegiance. If the individual can have everyone you know wiped out on a whim, I'm not sure it even matters if they're supernatural.

    Obviously, most systems sort of dump this concept so you have powerful village-destroying creatures you can fight, but in practical terms the locals probably would treat the local adult dragon as a regional god.
    Well, it depends on whether or not the actual gods would object to that sort of poaching or not, or whether or not there's a demonstrable difference between the role of something that just happens to be really powerful and something that is actually 'divine' - the ability to grant spells for example.

    This gets down to a broader point in that, when dealing with things like divinity, faith, and religion in a fantasy world, the out-of-universe understanding of what is really happening, and how the world is actually structured needs to be clear to the creator, and in the context of shared universe production all potential creators. Whether or not the population in-universe has any idea what's going on may vary, and in single-author fiction it's permissible to hide the truth from the audience too, to a point, but the ultimate truth needs to be out there somewhere.

    Once that's nailed down the resulting understanding of religion and faith in-universe should follow from the established parameters. For example, if you have a world where there's an actual pantheon of deities that can grant their worshippers access to clerical magic, then all other forms of faith will fade into nothingness because they will not be able to produce the same outcomes. There might be any number of different ways to worship the pantheon or individual gods within it, but a nontheistic faith that couldn't grant spells simply wouldn't be able to compete and will become extinct. Likewise false faiths - ex wizards casting spells and pretending to clerics - would gradually be exposed and destroyed and would have at best a limited life cycle of periodic deceit compared with actual faiths that can more efficiently offer actual divine boons.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    Why is it that every world has a Greek/Egyptian style pantheon? Why are there so few monotheistic religions? And why does there have to be a personal god? Why not have something like {scrubbed} with no personal deity but a platonic ideal to pursue? I always found it strange that my Cleric based on {scrubbed} had to acknowledge other gods in order to fit into any settings.
    Look for games with settings that are closer to history or to real world legends. In Pendragon, for example, PCs can be Christian or pagan, with both of those modeled closely after the way they appear in late medieval King Arthur stories. Several of the historical campaign supplements for AD&D 2e incorporated monotheistic religions as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    Look for games with settings that are closer to history or to real world legends.
    I've been trying, but it really looks like I'm the only one who runs those kind of settings. I really want to play a super zealous cleric but everyone seems uncomfortable running that kind of game, but plenty of people are willing to play in one. Also, I would kill for a pendragon game.

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    Default Re: Monotheistic Religions

    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncymancer View Post
    If you asked politely, something like 60% of the world's population would explain to you how it's possible that undeniable physically impossible miraculous events happen on a daily basis and yet their religion is not a single-faction universally held faith.
    No, I'm pretty sure that some people deny all physically impossible miraculous events.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncymancer View Post
    Is my egocentric Tiefling Wizard not a miracle-working supernatural being worshipped by mortals?
    Well, ****, dawg, you know your character better than I do!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chauncymancer View Post
    Is he a diety?
    If he's been cutting out carbs, maybe. :P

    More seriously, though: The meaning of a word isn't an inherent property of that word, but comes from a broader context. A language is the product of the history that has shaped that language. I wouldn't expect the inhabitants of a different world with its own history to use the same words as we use. And even if they had a word that roughly translated into the English word "deity", the meaning of that word would come from the context in which that word is used, not the context in which anyone in real life uses the word "deity".

    One might think that a word means what it is believed to mean. But consider the following: Combustion was once thought to involved the release of phlogiston. There most likely were people who would have given an answer involving phlogiston if asked to formally define "fire". Assuming for the sake of argument that phlogiston isn't a real thing, does that mean that two people who shared such a definition weren't talking about a real thing when they spoke to each other about fire? Well.... if one of them told the other about a fire, the one told would still be right to be cautious around the thing called "fire", and could still correctly expect to be able to use it to heat things, and have a good idea of what it looked like, and so forth. As such, it seems fair to me to say that such individuals used "fire" to refer to the same thing that we do, but just had some incorrect beliefs about it... even if those beliefs led them to define "fire" differently.

    I put forward that IF "deities" is intended, understood, AND used to refer to miracle-working supernatural beings worshiped by mortals, then that's what "deities" means. I chose that narrow hypothetical because that's a clear case. Departing from it much gets us into philosophy of semantics and different meanings of "meaning". Language in general is vague. Pretending that it isn't impedes communication, while acknowledging the vagueness of language facilitates communication.

    And one particularly egregious form of pretending that language isn't vague is treating one particular contrived definition of some term as the one correct one. This is my issue with the Athar. Their argument is akin to "A king wields absolute power, but no supposed 'king' is truly omnipotent, so they're all frauds". Such flagrant equivocation is hardly even clever. Some may sincerely believe such statements to be accurate, but drinking one's own proverbial Kool-Aid isn't going to convince any skeptics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Well, it depends on whether or not the actual gods would object to that sort of poaching or not
    At the point where gods intervene to prevent anyone else from collecting tribute, they rule the mortal world directly. A setting in which there are no mortal rulers save as underlings to gods does seem like an interesting idea, but that's pretty unconventional. (Any examples?) Not being able to become emperor without divine backing is one thing, but not being able to run a protection racket on any scale because a deity will personally show up to kick your ass if you do?

    I suppose that if the gods were all unified, they could prevent mortals from fighting with each other on large scales and maybe even make crime so uncommon that they could personally deal with all of it. But that would give loads of potential conflicts foregone conclusions, which really limits a setting, especially for an RPG.

    If various gods are enemies, on the other hand, they probably have more important things than the affairs of one village to worry about, so they delegate that stuff to their high priests or chosen monarchs or whatnot, and they delegate it to their own underlings and so on and so forth, up to the point where dealing with a local crime boss is left to someone whose success in doing so isn't guaranteed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    This gets down to a broader point in that, when dealing with things like divinity, faith, and religion in a fantasy world, the out-of-universe understanding of what is really happening, and how the world is actually structured needs to be clear to the creator, and in the context of shared universe production all potential creators. Whether or not the population in-universe has any idea what's going on may vary, and in single-author fiction it's permissible to hide the truth from the audience too, to a point, but the ultimate truth needs to be out there somewhere.
    Deciding ahead of time how various things work can help to keep things consistent and avoid contradiction later on. But why things work the way that they do isn't directly relevant.

    For example, my understanding is that Eberron answers the question of whether its most commonly worshiped deities exist with a resounding "Maybe". How that works is that those deities never clearly directly intervene and can't be clearly directly interacted with. And... that's it. The hypothetical details of why make no difference to what happens in an Eberron story because it's insulated from those details.

    Someone who wants to know what's really happening in an Eberron campaign may be advised that what's really happening is that a bunch of geeks are rolling dice and telling entertaining untruths. I would generally expect for the authors of fantasy worlds to have the understanding that they write fictional stories about imaginary events that never actually happened.

    The "canon" of a given work of fiction is the contents of that work. When something is not addressed by a fictional work, there is no "how things really are" that has been left unexplained. Because it's fiction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    if you have a world where there's an actual pantheon of deities that can grant their worshippers access to clerical magic, then all other forms of faith will fade into nothingness because they will not be able to produce the same outcomes. There might be any number of different ways to worship the pantheon or individual gods within it, but a nontheistic faith that couldn't grant spells simply wouldn't be able to compete and will become extinct.
    Different outcomes aren't at all necessarily inferior. For example, it would be perfectly reasonable to design a D&D campaign world in which all clerics get their magic from deities, but the other religious classes druids, paladins, monks do not. Flashy superpowers aren't the only possible practical benefit to a religion, either. A religion can impart useful knowledge and/or values, and/or build a community of people who trust and help each other.

    And while obviously members of religions that confer worldly power will tend to be in charge, that doesn't necessarily mean the elimination of other religions. For example: Let us suppose that only the ruling class can afford to make the requisite offerings to the gods, as they use their divinely granted magic to extract everything they can from the working class, so as to maximize the frequency with which they can hold extravagant parties with lavish banquets and massive orgies and ALL of the drugs, because aristocrats gonna aristocrat. In that case, it becomes quite useful for the ruling class to promote a working class religion that teaches disdain of luxury, contentment independent of material conditions, and so on. So as to keep peasant uprisings at a minimum, you understand.

    The peasantry need not have a naive understanding of the situation, either. They may be quite happy let the aristocracy live off of the fruits of the peasants' labor so long as the aristocrats only kill each other in wars while the peasants get to keep peacefully working the land even as that land changes hands. Practical negative consequences for the privileged elite can really help to sell the whole "The devout do not crave wealth" thing. Because if you are an aristocrat and want to maintain your aristocratic lifestyle, you should try to avoid the majority of the population becoming resentful of you. History has shown that the people getting fed up with the nobility and the clergy can really result in a nation losing its head. At which point, as above, so below, as it were.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Likewise false faiths - ex wizards casting spells and pretending to clerics - would gradually be exposed and destroyed and would have at best a limited life cycle of periodic deceit compared with actual faiths that can more efficiently offer actual divine boons.
    Under the assumption that clerics are more powerful than wizards, obviously a church with clerics will be more powerful than a church with wizards when all else is equal. Why assume that, though? They've both got the "grants access to superpowers" thing going for them. If the wizards needed to lie, then that could eventually lead to them being less trusted, when people find out the truth. But... they don't need to lie. They can be totally upfront.

    "We teach how to achieve understanding, self-discipline, prosperity, and, yes, even magic without the need to suck up to some extraplanar entity who isn't even aware of your personal existence. It's a more enlightened and rational form of spirituality. ... Now, you may have heard some unflattering things about us; but we need to cover our expenses, and not being a charity does not make us a 'scam'. The vast majority of our members will tell you that our organization has immeasurably improved their lives. And we so reliably improve our members' earnings potential that we can afford to make generous loans. Why not attend our free introductory seminar, to a get a sense of what we're all about? There's no obligation."

    If gods show up to personally stomp all over any wizards who do that, well, that takes us back into "Gods directly rule the world in a way that precludes most stories" territory.
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