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A Wilder Religion
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alexandraerin
One of the panels I attended at Wiscon was on building religions in fantasy and fiction, and one of the things I took away from it is that religion is about connections within a community, about how people relate to each other, and I think that's something to keep in mind when tackling religion in A Wilder World. I'm specifically adopting the idea that different types of clerical/religious characters will be defined by how they relate to people/the world rather than in terms of what special magical powers they have.

This is more of a clarification of thinking than anything else... as I noted in my post about clerics, I've already been thinking about clergy/characters of faith in terms of their social and temporal power.

A bit of a preamble: there is no default world map for A Wilder World. The basic rules offer a framework for a "road campaign", which assumes that the player characters are traveling from place to place (chasing someone, being chased, traveling there and back again, whatever) and that the setting of the next adventure the GM is going to run is down the road, over the hill, or around the next bend. The world is assumed to be a "big" one, in the sense that cars and jet technology and communication networks makes the world "small": it is dangerous and difficult to travel, so ten miles is a significant distance to most people.

This means that a lot of religion is going to be a local matter. Each town might have not just its own temple or shrine, but its own god, who is likely to be the god of [town/region] as the god of [specific natural force/cosmic concept]. For purpose of world-building and character-building, though, some religions and religious concepts will be included that can transcend local boundaries.

Rather than presenting players with a list of globally recognized gods, what I'm planning on doing is presenting them with a list of (sometimes overlapping) cosmologies and philosophies, some of which don't require gods, some of which have room to fit in any number of local or personal deities, or can accommodate things like "generic fantasy cleric of healing and light" or "battle priest of thunder god" without much trouble.

One of the basic flavors of theism are Omnists, who are basically pantheists sometimes verging on deists. They believe that all gods are a manifestation of the All, which is normally both remote to mortal affairs and omnipresent. Omnists refer to a mortal-relatable manifestation of the All as the One... any such "god" that mortals interact with is this distillation of the All into a form that we can comprehend. There is only one One, because the One is really the All.

Omnists believe that the mortal world and mortal life are a mirror of the divine All, so they assume that what is good for continuing and enriching the lives of mortals is pleasing to the All. They follow rules that they believe will lead to a better life. They pray to the All for guidance and protection, but they do not believe that the All judges. An Omnist prayer for forgiveness expresses hope that no one will be hurt by their errors or that those who have been hurt will forgive them.

An Omnist temple is a place of contemplation and study as well as a community meeting hall, a place of celebration for the whole community in Omnist-dominated towns and a place for the Omnist minority to come together in solidarity where they are less common. Omnist priests are community leaders, teachers, and judges. Their authority is derived from a mixture of tradition and their own demonstrable wisdom.

A related flavor is Monists, who are what happened when people with individual gods discovered Omnism and decided that their main god is the One who created the All, and all other gods are either manifestations of that All, or their One wearing a mask, or completely false gods, depending on their levels of zealotry and tolerance. Some Monists only worship the One as the One, others worship a local, personal, or otherwise more-tightly defined manifestation such as the One of the Whistling Hills or the One of the Blazing Fire.

Monists believe in divinity as something that is local and personal and can be interacted with, so their prayers for intervention tend to be immediate and direct. Their concept of forgiveness is rooted in the idea that the One can be (and often is) angered or pleased by mortal action, so when they believe they have transgressed, they seek the One's forgiveness.

Because Monists have a concept of divinity that is active, they tend to be active and outward-facing in their faith. They believe in carrying their faith out into the world with them, reaching beyond their own community with it. Not all Monists are crusaders or missionaries, but a missionary or crusader is likely to be a Monist.

Monists may organize into hierarchical sects, or practice a universal priesthood that relies on individual initiative and personal revelation. Monists believe that all authority is personal, though they disagree with each other on what that means.

Omnism and Monism are often in disagreement with each other about finer points beyond the nature of the All and the One, but they aren't necessarily in conflict with each other. In particular, neither side believes that the All or the One are in opposition to each other. They simply disagree about which is the original and which is a manifestation of the original. Some Omnists hold that it doesn't actually matter, the All and One are both manifestations of each other, but to Monists, not agreeing that the One created the All is the same as saying that the All created the One.

Monism is a relatively young idea, though one that has traveled fast and far. Omnism is an old one that offers little conflict with local beliefs, so Omnists can be found in many corners of the world. Since Monists and Omnists both believe in the existence of the All and the One, and the All and the One aren't incompatible with the existence of individual local gods, greeting others in the name of the One or the All is held to be a relatively inoffensive or even benevolent thing. A Monist who is making a point to be open and hospitable will greet an Omnist in the name of the All (and vice-versa).

So, you can play an Omnist or Monist and encounter people who share your religious sensibilities just about anywhere. Even when you encounter a local religion that is not specifically Omnist or Monist, you can still relate to it through your character's faith.

Note that I'm not saying that all religions in the game fit into Monism or Omnism, or any of the other included frameworks. If the people of the Sandy Shore started worshiping a coral-haired sea goddess seven hundred years ago, they didn't automatically sort themselves into a bucket labeled "All" or "One" and when the first Omnist or Monist reached their villages they wouldn't have all immediately converted. The game design purpose behind Omnism and Monism is to provide a framework for fantasy religions that makes them, essentially, portable and cross-platform compatible.

So, your Monist paladin can talk to the priest of the Coral Goddess without having to condemn her as a heretical servant of a she-demon. You can help recover the gems that serve as the eyes of the goddess's statue and do so in the service of the One. Even if you have a specific concept of deity that your character follows, even if you're not a staunch Monist so much as a follower of that deity, being aware of the theories surrounding the concept of the All and the One gives you some theological breathing room.

(You can also play a close-minded zealot, though you can do that even as a Monist or an Omnist. A single-minded Monist can refuse to acknowledge the One under any false names or guises, a close-minded Omnist can refuse to give any respect to any lesser manifestation of the All, or anyone foolish enough to worship such manifestations. Even if you're playing a zealot, Monism and Omnism can help give you a handle on what that means.)

GMs who wish to create a single unified pantheon for their world (or set the game in an explicitly mapped out region) can also use Omnism, Monism, and the others as sample frameworks, of course.

I'm also including a specific church that sort of roughly follows the pre-medieval Christian/Catholic church model of hierarchy that is theoretically answerable to a central authority but time and distance are pretty big barriers to communication so you have bishops basically acting like independent powers and wholly independent local offshoots like the Coptic and Celtic churches will also be included, so that players who want to play as a priest in the sense most familiar to most English speaking people will have that option.

The Church of the Everlasting, as it's called, is Monist, though they believe that other Monists are distracted by an illusion and only they see the true nature of the One, the All, and the Everlasting One Who Is All. (Yes, they're dualistic trinitarians.) The included character elements that represent having an organized church rank or connection above local priest implicitly apply to this church, though they could make use of other ones created by the GM or player.

This entry automatically cross-posted from http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/392902.html. Comment hither or thither. Void where yon.

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