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A theological question of gaming


Calax

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I just have one question about games in general and fantasy games in particular:

 

Why is there always a single mega church who's gods and demons are perfectly real and always throwing around divine inspiration? Even when it's left up in the air there's always something that pushes things more towards "exists" than not.

 

I mean, it's not like you have to have a god or pantheon to have supernatural elements. It just seems... odd. Particularly given it's always one single church with one single theology that manages to hold the whole world in it's grip. I suppose it'd be a hold over from dark ages europe (aka the default setting for fantasy settings basis) where the catholic church was in charge, but even then they had theological competition with Muslims.

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The Catholic Church didn't just have competition from the Muslims in medieval times. In fact, I would say that Islam wasn't particularly potent of an adversary in Catholic lands in the first place. There was plenty of resistance to and within Roman Catholicism in Europe during the so-called middle ages. You don't think Lutherans sprang up from a vacuum did you? :lol:

 

As for games, I think a lot of them try to be diversified in how they treat religion. In Morrowind, for example, Bethsoft makes a real attempt to show the conflict in not only different religions, but different origins of religion, which is an entirely different matter. After all, Christianity and Islam have a lot of shared heritage, despite the conflict over the past thousand years.

 

I can think of some other games that try to take a broader view of religion also, such as Arcanum and even Dragon Age. I don't think it's always as monolithic as you claim, Calax, you ol' dog.

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I just have one question about games in general and fantasy games in particular:

 

Why is there always a single mega church who's gods and demons are perfectly real and always throwing around divine inspiration? Even when it's left up in the air there's always something that pushes things more towards "exists" than not.

Because gaming audience demands some level of familiarity with the setting.

What gamers are familiar with (in terms of religion) is modern Christianity and ancient paganism.

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I can think of some other games that try to take a broader view of religion also, such as Arcanum and even Dragon Age. I don't think it's always as monolithic as you claim, Calax, you ol' dog.

I don't remember Planescape Torment having a single monotlithic church either :lol:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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Then surely that was one of the things which made Planescape surprising and fresh, Gorth?

 

I agree with Cant. Competition, heresy, is a feature of all major religions. If drunk (I'm not yet) I might go further and suggest that all systems, whether physical or metaphysical must have boundaries. There must be a point where they are, and where they are not. Alternative religions that are despised are a function of being a religion at all.

 

I am totally guessing here, but surely the reason most games have a religion is to provide a MacGuffin for lazy lazy writers. "You're on a mission from God."

 

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Then surely that was one of the things which made Planescape surprising and fresh, Gorth?

To honest, I'm not sure. My experience with "Fantasy" games before PS:T was either polytheistic/pantheon type settings (most of the stuff in the old TSR settings) or a complete absence of religious observances, save possibly the odd "blessed" item with no elaboration of who or what had blessed it. Maybe the odd temple of some nameless deity to be robbed too, but you were more likely to get killed by traps and guardians than a lightning bolt from the sky.

 

BY contrast PS:T was all about belief, one of the major themes of the setting (belief shapes reality). In DA:O the Chantry and their monotonous droning on and on about evil mages and mankinds sins and the just as repetitive endless whinging from mages about being oppressed by the Chantry and "we waz robbed!" was for me a major detractor from the game. It was simply too close to real world religions and persecutions, right down to mans disobedience and expulsion from the supreme beings presence.

 

I am totally guessing here, but surely the reason most games have a religion is to provide a MacGuffin for lazy lazy writers. "You're on a mission from God."

Sometimes a substitution for "magic", Sometimes as a source of moral values. You follow a nice god, you are supposed to do nice things, you follow an evil god, you are supposed to do evil things. Easier to justify letting the player do moustache twirling, evil cackle kind of things if you do it in the name of faith.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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My point wasn't really "why is there christians!?" (although for FFXIII I'm wondering why the pope was in game) it was more "why is there only one particular faith that is able to control an entire people? And why is there a Church in all of these settings in the first place? Why must there be a religious aspect with a higher being yutzing around with people?"

 

And given that there's usually one brand of theology within the game world, why aren't there smaller sects of that theology that are arguing about points of worship? Like Lutherans vs Methodists would for christianity. Just feels... off.

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I think the fantastic element in religion in fantasy games isn't so much that one religion is particularly dominant. It's that the faith(s) is backed up by provable, repeatable miracles. Sure, it's part of the whole "magic is real" fantasy, but it also cuts out the existential uncertainty that underlies so much of the actual human condition. You can have magic without so fundamentally altering the way in which people see the world.

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And given that there's usually one brand of theology within the game world, why aren't there smaller sects of that theology that are arguing about points of worship? Like Lutherans vs Methodists would for christianity. Just feels... off.

Religious schisms in human history have regularly resulted in wars, massacres and persecutions.

Even if you can set political correctness aside that's still one ugly side of religion that people wouldn't like to revisit.

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For one thing, it's economical - if you're not going to put a lot of emphasis on it writing/gameplay wise, it helps to have just one powerful religion that can be placed in all of your locations, providing plot hooks, etc and also helping immersion through continuity. If you wanted multiple theologies or religions competing with each other you'd want to give it a more central role, or your setting would be more of a 'roam the big world we have and meet all the wacky cultures" (e.g. some Final Fantasies).

 

But as Enoch says, one of the problems (and the reasons for this) is that religion is treated as part of the power structure, along with magic, etc. Just as you don't see a lot of games where magic is treated problematically or in depth, but just assumed as a nonproblematic part of the world that just 'does cool things', so you have religion as just another power institution with some specific capacities of its own.

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Religious schisms in human history have regularly resulted in wars, massacres and persecutions.

Even if you can set political correctness aside that's still one ugly side of religion that people wouldn't like to revisit.

I think DA:O pretty much fixated on this idea to some extent.

 

At any rate, it's often difficult to separate multiple causalities in these sorts of struggles. They're very rarely purely religious and instead become a mixed bag of cultural, political, class, and economic warfare with faith mixed into the bunch. Don't get me wrong, I know folks are willing and sometimes eager to kill for religion, but it's rare that true massacres occur for purely religious reasons.

 

I have long said that both religion and alignment in games gets short shrift. The problem, as it seems to me, is that one of the primary functions of religion, namely as the basis for explaining things that cannot otherwise be explained, is thrown out the window. It

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I think that's kind one of the issues overall. half the time in games, we're fighting a against a guy who's got enough magical power that he declares himself a god... well when the gods are real aren't we just working for another guy who's doing the exact same thing as the power-drunk megalomaniac?

 

Basically if there is a religion with a god that unequivocally exists, then it's no longer a faith, it's just a really badly managed kingdom.

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D&D, in general, doesn't have a singular church. Regions may have something they favor. Though that didn't seem to be the case for the Baldur's Gate games. And some settings have multiple pantheons, such as Forgotten Realms. You just don't deal with the relevant scales in any CRPGs of it.

 

Since that's kind of my go-to-fantasy, I'm having trouble resolving the idea that there's always a single pervasive church.

 

 

As for it always having the god necessarily present, I point to Points-Of-Light the new 4E default, and Dragon Age. One is a pantheon that is distant and does nothing. Even Dragon Age has a few religious systems. None of which have the god as active, so the question exists.

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D&D, in general, doesn't have a singular church. Regions may have something they favor. Though that didn't seem to be the case for the Baldur's Gate games. And some settings have multiple pantheons, such as Forgotten Realms. You just don't deal with the relevant scales in any CRPGs of it.

 

Since that's kind of my go-to-fantasy, I'm having trouble resolving the idea that there's always a single pervasive church.

 

 

As for it always having the god necessarily present, I point to Points-Of-Light the new 4E default, and Dragon Age. One is a pantheon that is distant and does nothing. Even Dragon Age has a few religious systems. None of which have the god as active, so the question exists.

To a degree, the D&D stuff can still be considered as all being in the same pantheon. After all, one of the pervasive things about Forgotten Realms and such is that the gods do exist and throw about miracles to their priests and paladins.

 

Dragon Age I can't really dig into, I've played it but not ever gotten to far (usually because I get stuck due to the game deciding it hates my computer). It still seems to have the monolithic megachurch that runs the entire land.

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D&D often has one pantheon. But that doesn't mean one church. Forgotten Realms most definitely does not have a single pantheon. It has Faerunian, Kara-Turan, Maztican, Mulhorandi, and Zakharan. And other settings, such as points-of-light do not have the gods going about doing stuff. Even the divine power of priests and paladins doesn't come from gods.

 

Dragon Age has one church for much of the land. The elves have their own worship system. As do the dwarves. The qunari who are, as far as I've been made aware, functionally atheist. And no gods actually active and involved.

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"Then surely that was one of the things which made Planescape surprising and fresh, Gorth?"

 

How so? It's part of D&D, and D&D religion is anything but singulairty diety focus. Worshippers usually have more than one god. Heck, even priests of a specific diety often pay homage to other dieties. And, cosndieirng D&D is one of the most well known fantasy scenes, it's funny you claim the opposite is the 'norm'.

 

 

 

"To a degree, the D&D stuff can still be considered as all being in the same pantheon."

 

No, no it can't. It has MULTIPLE pantheons. Pretty much every race has their own. They even have their own creator god. The dwarves have Moradin who leads 10+ dieties himself. the elves have Corellon. Even the humans of DnD have different pantheons. hell, even humans of the same DnD world (Abeir Toril) has more than one pantheon. Please don't be ignorant.

 

 

 

"After all, one of the pervasive things about Forgotten Realms and such is that the gods do exist and throw about miracles to their priests and paladins."

 

The fact that the FR have gods thata re known to exiost has nothing to do with single monothetic religion vs pantheon.

 

 

P.S. I'm a DnD in this post despite not having played pnp version in years. R00fles!

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I suppose you could break it down to

 

Many religions with some form of existing god for each

 

Or

 

One religion that is monolithic in structure and mirrors the Catholic church.

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Then surely that was one of the things which made Planescape surprising and fresh, Gorth?

To honest, I'm not sure. My experience with "Fantasy" games before PS:T was either polytheistic/pantheon type settings (most of the stuff in the old TSR settings) or a complete absence of religious observances, save possibly the odd "blessed" item with no elaboration of who or what had blessed it. Maybe the odd temple of some nameless deity to be robbed too, but you were more likely to get killed by traps and guardians than a lightning bolt from the sky.

 

BY contrast PS:T was all about belief, one of the major themes of the setting (belief shapes reality). In DA:O the Chantry and their monotonous droning on and on about evil mages and mankinds sins and the just as repetitive endless whinging from mages about being oppressed by the Chantry and "we waz robbed!" was for me a major detractor from the game. It was simply too close to real world religions and persecutions, right down to mans disobedience and expulsion from the supreme beings presence.

 

I am totally guessing here, but surely the reason most games have a religion is to provide a MacGuffin for lazy lazy writers. "You're on a mission from God."

Sometimes a substitution for "magic", Sometimes as a source of moral values. You follow a nice god, you are supposed to do nice things, you follow an evil god, you are supposed to do evil things. Easier to justify letting the player do moustache twirling, evil cackle kind of things if you do it in the name of faith.

 

However most polytheistic religions in D&D actually is one religion overall...they believe in the same pantheon normally. Hence, the Greek or Roman religion types. Sure there are multiple deities, but they are all part of the same pantheon...ergo...same religion.

 

I mean, even the Clerics from different Deities of different alignments and who may be trying to kill each other in the heavens/hells can heal everyone else...ergo...still same religion.

 

Typically priests from other religions can't service people from other religions unless it is to convert them.

 

I think if there were different religions in D&D games it would be more like...NO...Helm doesn't exist..and here's why. In fact, none of those deities in that pantheon exist, they are all false...the ones that really exist are these...or this one...and here's why.

Edited by greylord
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"However most polytheistic religions in D&D actually is one religion overall...they believe in the same pantheon normally. Hence, the Greek or Roman religion types. Sure there are multiple deities, but they are all part of the same pantheon...ergo...same religion."

 

Are you wacked out? Did you read anything anyone said in this thread? Do you know anything about D&D religion? Do you know the difference between RELIGION, GOD, and PANETHON?

 

D&D has more than one god. It has more than one religion. It has more than one pantheon. These are UNDISPUTABLE facts.

 

 

"even the Clerics from different Deities of different alignments and who may be trying to kill each other in the heavens/hells can heal everyone else...ergo...still same religion."

 

This doesn't make sense at all.

 

 

"Typically priests from other religions can't service people from other religions unless it is to convert them."

 

Total nonsense.

 

 

 

"I think if there were different religions in D&D games it would be more like...NO...Helm doesn't exist..and here's why. In fact, none of those deities in that pantheon exist, they are all false...the ones that really exist are these...or this one...and here's why."

 

Ahh.. here's the crux of your issues. You are viewing D&D religion through the lense of the monothestic religions in the real world. That's silly. D&D religion is NOT akin to real world religion.

 

Nobody 100% for sure can state that The Christian God or the Islam God or x God exists or ehck if they are the same one just worshipped differently.

 

Unlike D&D where you can be a devout worshipper of Corellon yet know full that Lloth exists. Youa re now claiming that by praying to Corellion you are praying to Llotyh which is the silliest notion that even notioned.

 

Also, a Corelleon priest can heal a Lloth worshipper and vice versa. And, it doesn't even have to be for converting.

 

ie. A Lloth priest kidnaps a Corellon follower and si torturing them and uses their healing spells to keep them alive while said torture goes on.

 

Come on, man, think a bit before pretending to be a geek. It's (more) embarassing otherwise.

 

R00fles!

 

 

P.S. Dwarves follow the dwarven pantheon and dno not worship the elven pantheon but they know the Elven pantheon exists. Noty the same religion even go by your silly logic.

Edited by Volourn

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"I think if there were different religions in D&D games it would be more like...NO...Helm doesn't exist..and here's why. In fact, none of those deities in that pantheon exist, they are all false...the ones that really exist are these...or this one...and here's why."

 

Ahh.. here's the crux of your issues. You are viewing D&D religion through the lense of the monothestic religions in the real world. That's silly. D&D religion is NOT akin to real world religion.

By definition "pantheon" covers all deities that are thought to exist (whether worshiped or not) and yes that's a real world definition.

P.S. Dwarves follow the dwarven pantheon and dno not worship the elven pantheon but they know the Elven pantheon exists. Noty the same religion even go by your silly logic.

Actually it would be the same religion just a different sect.

Just because your worship focuses on different set of deities (or different aspects of existing ones) doesn't mean you follow a different religion.

You need to deny some crucial tenant of religion in question to be a part of a different belief.

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Maybe we should agree on what religion is first? :)

 

From Oxford Dictionary:

 

Pronunciation:/r??l?d?(?)n/noun

[mass noun] the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power , especially a personal God or gods:

ideas about the relationship between science and religion

[count noun] a particular system of faith and worship:

the world

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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Thing is, can you really divide something like the D&D deities, when those gods are actually all in existence and arguing like children with one another.

Victor of the 5 year fan fic competition!

 

Kevin Butler will awesome your face off.

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Being a conspicuous Catholic, I don't have a big stake in DnD pantheons or gods or the like, but I kind of thought that Calax was talking about specific computer games rather than larger campaign settings. ...But, to Gorth's point:

 

My take is that pmp and grey have a point in that people of a same religion follow that religion, but religion itself can be pretty broad. For example, dwarves and elves seem to belong to the same religion because both accept the existence of both dwarvish and elvish gods. They merely worship different pantheons of gods within that larger framework. Since the Elvish God Correlon (or whatever his name is) is putatively responsible for blinding one of the orc dude's eyes, they cannot, logically speaking, not believe the orc god doesn't exist. Even within the elvish pantheon, the other elves don't deny the other elvish gods, even if they primarily or even exclusively worship other gods. Some one off examples might exist, but more or less elves believe in the other elvish gods.

 

In that respect, if I take what grey said earlier right, DnD does in fact have one large religion in that they all believe in all the gods even if they only worship one particular set of them. In fact, that would pretty much mean that is only one pantheon. Pan theon is, quite literally, 'every god.' To the denizens, believing their favored, ancestral, or race specific gods battle other gods of other like grouped people, every god would be all inclusive of everyone who does not deny the existence of other gods.

 

Keep in mind I'm talkin' semantics here, vol. I don't want you to go gonzo. I'm just saying that grey and pmp have a point. ...At least if I understand correctly, which is in no way established.

 

EDIT: Calax beat me to the point, but made the point I was making in one sentence, proving that I worship the god of pointless rambling.

Edited by Cantousent

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Thing is, can you really divide something like the D&D deities, when those gods are actually all in existence and arguing like children with one another.

In Forgotten Realms, each pantheon has its own astral sea. Apart from the Fa

The ending of the words is ALMSIVI.

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For one thing, it's economical - if you're not going to put a lot of emphasis on it writing/gameplay wise, it helps to have just one powerful religion that can be placed in all of your locations, providing plot hooks, etc and also helping immersion through continuity. If you wanted multiple theologies or religions competing with each other you'd want to give it a more central role, or your setting would be more of a 'roam the big world we have and meet all the wacky cultures" (e.g. some Final Fantasies).

 

This is the correct answer to the original question. If you're going to add the necessary complexity of real life to your fictional universe you're going to get bogged down in the details. Creating something with half as much authenticity as history is a monumental task; it will be a complete waste of time if it isn't going to be absolutely central to your game.

 

The Catholic Church didn't just have competition from the Muslims in medieval times. In fact, I would say that Islam wasn't particularly potent of an adversary in Catholic lands in the first place. There was plenty of resistance to and within Roman Catholicism in Europe during the so-called middle ages. You don't think Lutherans sprang up from a vacuum did you? :)

 

Not true. Spain and Portugal during that time are absolutely fascinating. The Reconquista is just an amazing period in history spanning some 800 years of conflict. But the history is very messy. Unless you want that to be the absolute central theme of your game (which could be really awesome in the right hands) you're essentially wasting time if you plan on focusing about internal struggles, or a rival king trying to take over the empire, or whatever else.

 

Thing is, can you really divide something like the D&D deities, when those gods are actually all in existence and arguing like children with one another.

 

Probably. A polytheistic religion (or even a monotheistic religion in a polytheistic world) doesn't necessarily preclude the existence of other gods. I can believe that my gods created me, my land my people, and my nation while believing that you have your own set of creators who did the same for you. This is probably similar to what most people believed in the Near East in ancient times.

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