Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gods, Demigods and Atheists

Often in my gaming history have I came across players not caring about religion and gods of the setting, easily asserting their characters are atheist. I always found that disturbing, since it seemed to me that such players couldn't alienate from their own beliefs , or didn't care much about the setting/game/character.

In fact, when we look at the evolution of religions and human beliefs, the idea of atheism appeared relatively late and even then it was present only in philosophy. I think that we can safely assume that the popularization of the view that no god exist took place on the break of the 19th and 20th century.

Knowing that, I am very reluctant to allow people to claim their characters are atheist. I simply find it impossible that a down to earth fighting man or a thief would deny the existence of gods, especially since they are surrounded by clerics casting spells and other supernatural phenomena.

However I can imagine a philosopher or a high level wizard, who had contact with demons and other supernatural beings, claim that the gods have merely the same status as demons, or that they don't exist (or really being convinced of anything else). I can (and probably will at some point) make my players encounter a demon claiming that he is a god and making them believe that in serving him, they are filling the will of a deity.

But even then I will make sure they won't easily share their views with other people, especially clerics, since openly sharing claims of the non existence of gods will meet at best with being called "mad" and in the worst case with imprisonment or court punishment (in a theocratic state for example).

Don't get me wrong, but I just feel that if someone wants to play an atheist character, he should have a good, interesting idea instead of being lazy.

Talking about ideas...

... vaguely connected with the previous topic, I wanted to say that in my efforts to create an interesting pantheon of gods, that would fit my idea of gaming world, I have tried to seek inspiration in Deities & Demigods handbook (3e). Let me say: THIS BOOK IS THE WORST RPG HANDBOOK EVEEEEEEER!!!

Seriously! I found no useful information about creating an interesting pantheon or about historical pantheons that have actually existed. It seems that the people who wrote that book were completely devoid of imagination or any creativity.

Moreover, what I did find is a table telling me how many spells per level (!WHAT THE FUCK!) a god can cast!

I'm sharing my outrage, because that handbook is an embodiment of everything that is bad in the gaming industry...

It seems to me that it has been written purely to steal money from people who are new to the hobby without giving them anything, literally ANYTHING (apart, maybe, from a 1 kilogram heavy, bound pack of paper) in return.

Death To WotC!

Long live OD&D Revival!


  1. Someone wants to play an athiest? Great! I deal with it by telling them since they don't believe in "spells from the God", they will refuse clerical healing....or if they accept clerical healing, the cleric will refuse to treat someone not open to the idea that his or her god exists. Put it this way, would a local Catholic priest allow someone to be baptized that loudly proclaimed "I don't believe in God!" before the ceremony? Probably poor cousin almost didn't get her kids baptized because the priest was upset she wasn't married "in the church". Imagine a campaign world priest being told "I don't believe in your God, your entire belief system, but lay some of that healing on me!". It wouldn't fly in my campaign world!!!

  2. You are certainly correct when you ascribe the pretension to atheism in PCs by certain players as a form of laziness, not wanting to get involved with the theology of the campaign world but nevertheless happy to avail themselves of the benefits thereof (i.e. spells). I have played very few clerics in my time, but if the DM had gone to the trouble of creating a pantheon (or even just said 'I'm using such and such a mythos from 1e D&DG'), I would consider it only good manners to involve myself therein, learn about the duties and beliefs of the cleric and participate.

    For me, it would be a role-playing challenge to immerse myself in the mindset of a religious person, but isn't that what role-playing games are all about - 'becoming' if only for a little while, someone else? If nothing else, it could certainly give a valuable insight into another perspective, just as playing a character of the opposite sex might - provided that the DM isn't THAT GUY and decides to humiliate all female characters by treating them as bimbos.

    The only other option is to abolish the cleric class and have all spell-users as arcane magic rather than divine.

    I suppose that it all depends on whether the DM sets up the world with gods in it, or decides that, as I've mentioned above, there are no gods, merely magic and extra-planar creatures who might, if they attract enough worshippers/servitors/victims, use said worshippers as spiritual foodstuff to grow more powerful.

    And if there are gods, are they deities who exist in their own right, or do they require worshippers in increasing numbers to either improve or maintain their status in the pantheon? If the latter, then there is a prima facie motivation for any cleric - go out and convert for only in that way can [insert your deity's name here] become greater.

    I wholly agree with your opinion of WotC, by the way, from their perversion of D&D subsequent to 1e/2e to their wholly unfair attitude to the Paizo pdf download issue in April. Nevertheless, their illustration galleries are nice and they do some neat minis.

  3. I agree with you both! Thanks for commenting!

    Daddy Grognard, I specifically don't want to clear the status of my gods on the meta game level, that was also part of my motivation behind unifying magic. I don't want to give my players any ideas about gods apart from what they can learn in the game world.