Tuesday 12 October 2010

Rational Role-players?

I noticed when reviewing the replies to my post on scary books that, like me, quite a few of the commenters were rationalists. I wondered to myself if this was common amongst gamers, and thought "Aha, I smell a poll coming on"

I'm not religious but I do have a fascination for where religions and mythologies come from, what basic human needs they answer and how they evolve, shift and develop. I'd like to think that when my game gets some players and gets going, the pantheons will be realistic, rounded and sociologically credible. In true sandbox style, I may even let the players develop their own deities and mythoi.

RPGs have had their run-ins with religion in the past (Dark Dungeons, Pat Pulling, the renaming of devils and demons for 2e...) but I know for a fact that there are religious roleplayers, atheist roleplayers and no doubt a sizeable chunk in the middle.

I'm curious as to the proportions and whether religiosity or lack thereof affects the RPGer's approach to their games, especially given that in at least two (D&D et al, and CoC) the existence of deities as such is taken as a fact.

Let me know your views on this one. I'm intrigued...


  1. I don't consider myself religious, but I would tend consider myself spiritual--but maybe only because that appeals to the ladies more than saying one's agnostic. ;)

    Religion/belief systems have always been an interest of mine, so that's tended to influence my game more than my own beliefs--other than perhaps my belief that such things are important.

  2. I'm a religious gamer (Episcopalian, which is the American branch of the Church of England). For the most part, it doesn't inform my fantasy gaming beyond having a pretty good feel for ritual and ceremony. My religions in such games are pretty pagan and often rather dark. Gods tend to be not-so-omnipotent or omniscient, and owe more to the myths of the Norse and the peoples of ancient Mesopotamia than my own faith.

    All that said, the Bible's a great inspiration for stories, characters, and situations, but I usually use it in a way that most players won't recognize where stuff is coming from.

  3. I'm a hardcore atheist but I do find religions pretty interesting. I don't think my views have much effect on how I view religion in games, although I'm perhaps more open to the idea that the gods are hostile, indifferent, or phony (aliens/magicians/etc.) than some gamers I know, and I am amused by the idea that lawful or even "good" gods might also be ruthless, intolerant, even cruel.
    For my own nascent campaign I'm taking the view that the gods get their power from the worship and belief (and sacrifices!) of their worshipers, so in principal someone could fool a populace into worshiping him and thus become a minor deity. Hmm, that sounds like my views DO bleed into my games.

  4. Was raised in the church, at best I'm agnostic now. But that upbringing was a big influence on me. The Bible had miracles and demons and curses and language.

    It shaped a lot of things, but especially my idea of evil. No orcs in my world but a lot of saints slightly askew. People causing the most harm usually think they are doing good.

  5. I am also a hardcore atheist. I take an anthropological view of religion and I try to make religions as detailed and vividly real as possible when gaming.

    For example:
    In a recent game, the party was walking through a port town they just arrived in to see a boy running past them holding a squawking seagull by the feet flapping its wings furiously. They followed him to the local temple of the sea god. The boy brought the bird to a middle-aged woman, who was kneeling in a wide round copper basin. A priest was standing behind the woman and was handed a large pitcher of water by another young boy helper. He poured the water over the woman's head and she wrenched the neck of the gull as the water began to flow. When the pitcher was emptied, the woman was staring forward wide-eyed with a panicked look on her face. She rose silently, kissed the priest on the cheek, muttered something to him, and left quickly via a side door.

    When asked what just happened, the priest described how this ritual is called "The Veil of Secrets" and that if the sea god believes your sacrifice to be worthy, he will allow you to see visions through the waterfall flowing over your eyes. It has different results for different people and the priest offered to perform the ritual for anyone in the party if they were quick enough to catch a seagull. One of the party members did, and he performed the ritual as well. He saw a vision of teeth, fur, and claw in a wooded area. Later, this allowed him to detect a Gnoll ambush moments before it was sprung.

  6. I like the seagull idea, Greg. It's interesting that in pretty much all fantasy role-playing games, religion is genuine - that is, if you pay for a blessing or a vision, it really works. Does anybody know of any fantasy settings (from fiction or gaming) where there aren't any real gods, just priests peddling a con trick?

  7. brought up catholic, pragmatic agnosticist, (obviously) without confession, now. slight deist tendencies.

    impact on roleplaying... none. :)

  8. Brought up catholic, now atheist.

    I can see benefits to both theistic and atheistic POVs when playing. If you're religious you can understand and get into the compulsion, devotion to chosen deity and need for ritual of the religious types in the game, if you're not you can get an all-over view of religion and its functions without getting wrapped up in just one of them.

    I think it's good that in fantasy settings the Gods are actually powerful and sometimes not so powerful, but they do exert a force. It is fantasy after all.

  9. I guess you could say I love mythology (stories of gods, spirits, monsters, magic, legendary heroes and their adventures), but despise religion (as a human enterprise), as religion is what makes mythology seemingly worth oppressing and killing for.

  10. It is an interesting question and poll, however...it would be much clearer if we could define what we mean by the world "religion" here. From what I am reading it seems that the default definition seems to be that Religion=Abrahamic Religions. This seems to be the way that most modern/Western people define it, however it is incorrect. I checked "Religious Gamer" but only because, by the correct definition of the word Religious,I am. I am sure it impacts my gaming, but unsure as to the particulars. My religion impacts everything I do, so why wouldn't also impact my gaming?

  11. @Mr R - I hadn't intended that there be a default definition. If there is one on this thread, it's one that emerges from the consensus of comments but I intended the original post to be somewhat more all-encompassing. So, Wiccan/pagan, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, etc, they all count.

    I wouldn't want anyone to feel excluded from any part of this blog - "Semper Omnibus Facultas" as they say.

    My curiosity was towards how people's views on religion colour the way in which religion in their games is portrayed.

  12. I'm an atheist, and I suspect that my discomfort with religion colours my gaming. My games tend to either treat religion as a belief system that has no game-world basis (i.e. people believe in and pray to gods, but the gods are silent) or, as is the case in my current game, the gods are actually just a race of powerful immortals who seek out worshippers to serve their own vanity.

  13. I just go with whatever the main assumption of the game world is. If it's the World of Greyhawk, gods are real and this is known to all because they make it known overtly. It's the game is set in the real world, even a futuristic version of it like Traveler or what have you, some believe, but there's no proof.

    If there's any ambiguity about it built into the setting with regard to this, I would fall back on the latter model as a default.

  14. I'm another Catholic-turned-atheist.

    I have no problems with games where deities and divinity are objectively true; I've even run In Nomine and Victorian monster hunter games where Christianity is just plain fact. If I can run a game with wizards, I can run a game with gods, and I believe in neither.

    That being said, large churches in my game tend to turn out corrupt or secretly controlled by heretics, even if I don't initially envision them that way... but that might be more aptly blamed on how much time I spent playing the original Final Fantasy Tactics during my formative years...

  15. @Daddy Grognard
    I did not think that you included any kind of pre-conceived notion of the word "religion" at all. Such is not contained in your question. You are quite correct, and I should have been clearer in my response, that society carries with it, this pre-conception. I think that this is because Christianity/Judaism/Islam are what they know.
    Now that I have a clearer understanding of your post, I would have to say that it colours my game play because I am very comfortable with religion as a concept, even if there are some religions that I detest. I suppose that my study of the topic has shown me that there are good religions and bad religions and some in between.