Monday, March 16, 2009

The Cleric and the Faith Par II: Simple Dualism

The next step after "stop worrying and learn to love the class" is largely (OK, entirely) inspired by a house rule either created or carried over by one of my current GM's. I claim no initial creative impetus behind this, merely recognizing a good idea when I see it.

Faced with the same problem I am, he decided to basically invert the method of not worrying and letting every cleric be essentially the same. Instead, he asserted that there were only three religions in the world - Light/Good, Dark/Evil, and Nature - and that all potential deities of the various alignments were a part of one of the three pantheons and that each religions worshiped a whole pantheon (possibly focusing on one deity at times) rather than just an individual figure. The various priests of each religion were restricted in their permissible spells according to their religion: i.e., a priest of the Light could only cast the "positive" version of reversible spells (thus, no Inflict spells or casting Dark) while priests of Darkness could only cast the reversed spells (no casting cure light wounds for them).

What? What do you mean it's not exactly brilliant and innovative?

Ok, it's really not terribly innovative. It's really not, in the end tally, any different than just getting over a perceived fault and learning to love the game. Indeed, I'll be the first to admit that it also has a major fault: it's an example of fitting the game world to the rules rather than the rules to the game world. This is, in my opinion, what has gotten WOTC and Hasbro into such dull and terrible territory. They've created, in 3.x, some Frankenstein's monster of a rule set that veritably demands that the campaign be adjusted to fit the rules because adjusting the rules is either too much hassle or would cause a mass player revolt at perceived "unfairness" and that simply is bad game design. I'm very hesitant to set foot on that path lest it corrupt me.

However, I will say that in practice, it's really quite excellent. Again, it has the benefit of being simple and easily grasped, which is a great thing not only for new players, but for old players too and it's currently the mode I am considering most strongly for Thylia, but taken another step forward.

Instead of lumping the various gods and godesses (and other, genderless divine and semi-divine entities) into three "faiths," I want to strip out all of said deities and leave the frameworks as the net result. Thus, a cleric of the light does not worship a vague pantheon of good aligned deities, a good aligned cleric will worship the ideals of the religion of Light (i.e., goodness, love/agape, etc.) while an evil cleric will follow the tenets of the religion of Darkness (self-interest, evil, etc.). Nature, of course, can be thrown in to turn dualism into . . . "trinarism"? Of course, I've never been able to settle on whether druids actually worship Nature, or worship The Balance as exemplified by Nature. I've always been certain (mostly) that no self-respecting druid would worhship a deity at all and any reference to druidic deities must be chalked up to stupidity, momentary or otherwise.

Whether or not these various faiths are antagonistic towards one another is something that I simply haven't decided. While the idea of followers of Darkness being semi-productive members of society, and the two churches existing side by side, is aluring, it brings up questions that I don't really feel willing to answer, at least not at this point. Such as why otherwise good and civilized peoples tolerate the presence of a religion dedicated to evil acts right under their noses. Or how the two exist side by side without inciting vicious holy wars and blood baths in the streets: maybe they don't, that might be an interesting setup for an adventure. It can certainly add layers of complication and interest, but, in my mind, it seems to detract from an otherwise heroic atmosphere, something that I strive for.

Of course, a major problem with this whole thing is avoiding the Crystal Dragon Jesus meme. Or maybe I don't entirely want to avoid it? This is certainly a way for "normal fantasy" to pop up: an anchor point of semi-normalcy for players to grab hold of while the wierd shit goes on all around them and helps to focus the game less on the fantasy and more on the PC's. This is one of those waffling topics round these parts. Hell, I've actually seriously considered just importing Martin's "Faith of the Seven" whole hog into the game with absolutely no apologies whatsoever.

Well, anyway, next time, talk begins about pantheons of various gods, custom built. I anticipate that discussion to take at least two or three posts of this size or longer to cover, so if you're bored or antagonized by such talk, I apologize now. If you like to listen to me talk about such things, then I have to wonder just how crazy you really are.

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