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Fleshed out religion

religion gods god morality temples

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#1
Naesh

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In BG the purpose of temples was to provide the player with a means to heal, resurrect and identify.

This function seemed a little bit redundant to me, provided that there were easier ways to do this.

Reload the game instead of resurrect a party member and rest instead of going to a temple to heal yourself.

I was thinking on how to make this aspect of the game / world a little bit better and i came up with the following ideas.

 

Let's make a religion system, which is not characterized by the act of *worship*, i.e. the undermining of your own self-respect in order to gain the favor of some "higher" force or entity.

 

In this system priests represent domains more than they are agents of their gods. A little psychology could be used here.

 

Say, for example, that a loved one of the pc is lost. Feeling unable to protect this person the pc (or a companion of the pc), would probably be subject to some nasty rage and guilt - pretty intense, destructive emotions.

 

In this situation a priest (of a god whose domain is rage) could provide means for coping with these intense emotions.

The priest could explain to the character that it is natural to feel this way and perhaps could provide him / her with means to get these feelings out of their system more easily. By helping to perform rituals, for example.

 

In essence, what i'm proposing is a pantheon of gods, who represent different perspectives of the human nature. The priests could be avatars (some kind of primitive specialist psychologists) of the corresponding domains instead of agents of malevolent (or ignorant) higher forces. Or, perhaps both. So, only those could be priests who understand (or try to understand) the inner workings of the human nature, specializing to a corresponding domain.

 

You see, the main difference between the usual approach and mine is the message. Usually, religion tells to people that they are subject to the whims of higher forces, but they can gain the favors of these forces by appropriate ways of worship. Either donating large amounts of coin to the temple or carrying out the will of the corresponding higher force does it. The message is that you are worthless therefore you better obey (or else). 

 

While my kind of religion (where actually man created the gods and not vice versa) helps people cope with an insanely cruel world around them. So, my kind of priests do not rob people of their self-value, of their illusion of control, but try to restore and protect it.

 

I believe that a perfect mixture of these two approaches naturally yields some nasty power struggles, quest-hooks, and of course, they provide a degree of immersion into a fantasy world, where the feelings of the characters are (almost) real, and their beliefs are quite similar to the beliefs of the denizens of ancient primitive cultures. Where folks sacrificed cows to let the winter pass quickly, or to let the hunt be succesful, you know what i mean.

 

So, i propose that when the party enters a temple and talks to a priest, then - in addition to the usual options of healing and resurrection - they would have the option to talk to the priest (who might join them later perhaps) about what they encountered on their journey and whatnot. The priest then could tell a tale with some moral content or lesson, perhaps could give them a quest or perform a ritual.

This could easily lead to very comical or depressing situations. Opinions?


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#2
Yonjuro

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In BG the purpose of temples was to provide the player with a means to heal, resurrect and identify.

This function seemed a little bit redundant to me, provided that there were easier ways to do this.

Reload the game instead of resurrect a party member and rest instead of going to a temple to heal yourself.

I was thinking on how to make this aspect of the game / world a little bit better and i came up with the following ideas.

 

Let's make a religion system, which is not characterized by the act of *worship*, i.e. the undermining of your own self-respect in order to gain the favor of some "higher" force or entity.

 

.......

 

 

  This could be an interesting idea. What you describe sounds a lot like the role of the Shamaan in primary cultures (for those not up on their anthropological lingo, 'primary' is what used to be described as 'primitive' even though the cultures were anything but primitive).

 

 In BG, when the PC got special abilities in dreams, it was a little odd that they would wake up knowing exactly what the powers were and how they worked. In a primary culture, if you had a vivid disturbing dream, you went to the shamaan who helped you turn it into a useful revelation/power. That could have been a use of the mechanic you are proposing.


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#3
Thundercat710

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On most any other game, my response to this would be that since it's a video game, I suppose I expect faith-based issues to be handled as they (for the most part) have been so many times before.  That is to say...lazily.  The Honest Hearts expansion pack for New Vegas leads me to think that they'll throw in at least a few modestly fair depictions of humbled, faithful people, without resorting to the overplayed "superstitious/we-just-poor-dumb-peasants" angle.  Of course there have to be evil cults and all that, they definitely need smiting.  

 

But this whole realm of questioning is more exciting when put into the new Torment game...it's basically an interactive philosophy course with critical hits.  Can't wait!


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#4
Failion

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What they ought to do is simply step up from what was from baldurs gate. Even spelunky has consequences if you desecrate a gods temple. If you massacre temples in temple district I expect more then guards set to punish you. If you worship a god and find a opposing gods temple could desecrate it to be especially hated be "x" god and gifted by your own by a magical artifact or whatever.


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#5
Lephys

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I wouldn't say boot out whatever religious system they've already got going on in PoE, necessarily, but I like your idea, simply as an idea for a game's/lore's religious system. :)

#6
Lioness

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So... do the gods in POE actually exist? Not meant as theological question;  in the Discworld or Forgotten Realm universes, they hang around.



#7
Labadal

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They will most likely manifest in the mortal world: http://www.kickstart...ty/posts/395376



#8
Naesh

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  This could be an interesting idea. What you describe sounds a lot like the role of the Shamaan in primary cultures (for those not up on their anthropological lingo, 'primary' is what used to be described as 'primitive' even though the cultures were anything but primitive).

Yes, thank you. Primary, not primitive.



#9
Nonek

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There's no known methods of healing or ressurection in Poe I believe Mr Naesh, and from what one has read the deity's are quite petty and bickering. Recently a Saint Waidwen was slain by bomb near Godhammer Citadel, forged with the help of followers of an enemy god, Maeghran I think was the name. There might be something similar to what you suggest among the Glenfathan, but we haven't any information yet. By the sounds of it most Dyrwood faiths will be political institutions just like in say Medieval Europe.


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#10
Naesh

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There's no known methods of healing or ressurection in Poe I believe Mr Naesh, and from what one has read the deity's are quite petty and bickering. Recently a Saint Waidwen was slain by bomb near Godhammer Citadel, forged with the help of followers of an enemy god, Maeghran I think was the name. There might be something similar to what you suggest among the Glenfathan, but we haven't any information yet. By the sounds of it most Dyrwood faiths will be political institutions just like in say Medieval Europe.

That's good to hear. But perhaps there still might be some room for improvement in presenting the different cultural values.

 

For example, take the forgotten realms setting. The drow cultural standard is to look out only for your own advancement and gain. You would expect that each drow feels that he / she is the most valuable thing in the universe. Yet, they worship Lolth.

I suppose they gain favors from her in exchange, but then it's not really a worship, more like a business. Is the theatrics really necessary?

 

What i'm really trying to say here is that in real life it would be very hard to place two entirely different cultures on a two dimensional spectrum. But that's whats happening with the drow here: they are evil, so they only look out for their own gain. But everybody has to worhip some god, so let make them worship an evil god.

 

Different cultures are different. One could argue that based on their achievements some are more superior than the others, but to a simple traveler the cultural differences show themselves in unorthodox forms of wisdom found in the societal rules. Both cultures have to be working (to some extent) or they would have already been assimilated by a superior one ages ago.

 

Anyway, it's just a game. But i'm eagerly waiting for it's release. Once i have my hands on it, i'm probably going to spend the first week planning my ingame character. Heheheh.



#11
Nonek

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I'd rather not use the Forgotten Realms and the Drow, both are painfully overused and shallow in my experience, but based on determined limited contact here goes...Considering Lolth's priestesses are the dominant ruling force in Drow society then one suspects that Lolth is in that position of worship exactly because of the gifts she gives, they're an edge in the self advancement that Drow society espouses, though the notion of a strong Elf is laughable. Assuming that the little chaps are using her for their own advancement, in their own eyes, and she is gaining strength from their worship then this is a symbiotic relationship that would work...in theory. She's been around for a long time, she's survived, thrived and so has her religion becoming in the process a very real power in and of itself.

 

Personally I think the Drow are an insultingly simplified race, that no nation will ever consider itself evil and that Gods are not needed at all, but I think the culture that we are shown of them generally works. However we're not really shown enough of a cultural side to the Drow beyond them serving as overpowered cliche PC's and stereotypical high level enemies. I suppose the theatrics are needed because they're Elves, and they're a theatrical race.

 

Edit: The chaotic evil gods are sometimes simplified down to being the biggest bullies on top of the pile, this makes sense for Lolth.


Edited by Nonek, 23 January 2014 - 10:10 AM.

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#12
nikolokolus

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The way faith, the gods and divine magic are handled in D&D and its derivatives has always been one of its weakest aspects; that there's basically no room for disbelief or even faith when it comes to the gods. Through a few mechanics and a lot of lore, it's made explicit that the gods are real, with no ifs ands or buts - and proof denies faith. I'm pleased to note that PoE's gods are no longer the supernatural, Pez dispensers that handed out resurrection and healing candies that you got with the immensely puerile Forgotten Realms cosmology.

 

I'm not 100% certain how Obsidian plans to handle divine spell-casting, but I'd love to see them make divine sorcery just a series of revealed, Kabbalic mysteries one is initiated into, instead of having power explicitly granted through prayer and devotion. Decoupling granted powers from beliefs injects an essential condition of uncertainty, which allows the question to be asked: Are the gods even real? It also opens up intriguing story related hooks. For instance, who's to say that "good Bishop" Wellorand is all that "good?" Maybe he's a corrupt deviant who's been skimming the coffers for years to pay for that country villa, where he has despoiled the virtue of scores of Vestal virgins, but he's still powerful and in full command of all the sorcerous knowledge he's accumulated.


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#13
Naesh

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Decoupling granted powers from beliefs injects an essential condition of uncertainty, which allows the question to be asked: Are the gods even real?

Is the all-powerful creature that we obey actually the manifestation of a god or not? Is it a manifestation of some other god then?

Problem is, a separate game could be based on these questions and i guess the developers already have a concept in mind.

Anyway, i like your way of handling divine sorcery. Part of such an initiation ritual could be, for example, drinking a very-very slowly killing poison, that significantly and permanently alters the conciousness of the priest. And as time passes more things change in the body and the divine powers become enhanced.

 

My favourite question is of course this: are souls real? Or are they just the result of an inner defensive mechanism, trying to deny the animal nature of men and the insanely cruel reality, that only the flesh exists and nothing is beyond that? Is the concept of soul just the result of trying to maintain self-value, the illusion of control?


Edited by Naesh, 24 January 2014 - 06:24 AM.


#14
Night Stalker

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My favourite question is of course this: are souls real? Or are they just the result of an inner defensive mechanism, trying to deny the animal nature of men and the insanely cruel reality, that only the flesh exists and nothing is beyond that? Is the concept of soul just the result of trying to maintain self-value, the illusion of control?

 

 

In the context of PoE souls exist, and there is in fact a field of study called Animancy dedicated to studing it, also see here for more information about it.



#15
Naesh

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My favourite question is of course this: are souls real? Or are they just the result of an inner defensive mechanism, trying to deny the animal nature of men and the insanely cruel reality, that only the flesh exists and nothing is beyond that? Is the concept of soul just the result of trying to maintain self-value, the illusion of control?

 

 

In the context of PoE souls exist, and there is in fact a field of study called Animancy dedicated to studing it, also see here for more information about it.

 

Thanks. Then my question becomes: exacly what is a soul? What do you leave behind? Is it really the essence of your being or something different?

Do people only wish it was their consciousness that remains behind? Perhaps consciousness is exactly what dies when you perish and what you leave behind is not your essence at all, but something else, something like...



#16
nikolokolus

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My favourite question is of course this: are souls real? Or are they just the result of an inner defensive mechanism, trying to deny the animal nature of men and the insanely cruel reality, that only the flesh exists and nothing is beyond that? Is the concept of soul just the result of trying to maintain self-value, the illusion of control?

 

 

In the context of PoE souls exist, and there is in fact a field of study called Animancy dedicated to studing it, also see here for more information about it.

 

Thanks. Then my question becomes: exacly what is a soul? What do you leave behind? Is it really the essence of your being or something different?

Do people only wish it was their consciousness that remains behind? Perhaps consciousness is exactly what dies when you perish and what you leave behind is not your essence at all, but something else, something like...

 

 

In my opinion, the worst thing an author of fantasy can do is to ever explain any mystery fully. Once you provide a strict mechanic for the fantastic, it ceases to be fantastic and becomes science.


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#17
Brujoloco

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I believe religion in traditional RPGs has been handed lazily as another poster explained too many times in the same way. It would be ideal here for devs to expand upon it in new innovative ways. There should be perhaps full fledged quest arc paths per faith and even add variables for instance, like gender,race, even time of the day.

They could extrapolate items of faith to work differently for certain worshippers, even add a small bit of personal detail to sprites if you will, but there REALLY needs to be something innovative thrown in to make this game stand apart.

I remember in BG2 there were several community patches that tried to alter religion to play a bigger role, some ideas like those could be used here

#18
JFSOCC

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In my opinion, the worst thing an author of fantasy can do is to ever explain any mystery fully. Once you provide a strict mechanic for the fantastic, it ceases to be fantastic and becomes science.

 

Midichlorians. It was as if a million moviegoers cried out in agony, and were suddenly silenced.


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#19
Naesh

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In my opinion, the worst thing an author of fantasy can do is to ever explain any mystery fully. Once you provide a strict mechanic for the fantastic, it ceases to be fantastic and becomes science.

 

Perhaps. Suppose that technology has already advanced far enough for teleporters to become a commodity.

Everybody uses it, everybody is comfortable with it. But one question was never answered fully. Is that really you that comes out on the other end of the tube?

Every single time you go through the teleporter there is a foreboding feeling  that perhaps you are killing yourself in the process. But since everybody uses it, eventually, you will come to terms with such doubts.

 

Then one day someone discovers for certain, that (even though quantum cloning is not possible) the teleporter makes copies, disintegrating the original in the process.

Now use 'teleportation spell' instead of teleporter. Or 'reincarnation of souls'.

There is a lot of places where they could go with this approach.

 

Your observation on this

The way faith, the gods and divine magic are handled in D&D and its derivatives has always been one of its weakest aspects; that there's basically no room for disbelief or even faith when it comes to the gods. Through a few mechanics and a lot of lore, it's made explicit that the gods are real, with no ifs ands or buts - and proof denies faith.

is excellent.

 

Faith has always been presented as a virtue, when it is doubt that leads to certainty.


Edited by Naesh, 30 January 2014 - 03:09 PM.

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#20
KaeseEs

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I doubt religion can ever be handled particularly well in a crpg.  Fallout 2 used it for comic relief, most D&D settings (and nethack, and other games from that era) portray it as a vending machine, Arcanum vaccilated between portraying the pagan religion/cults as vending machines and the not-the-Church church as a cruel joke according to the Gnostic fashion of the time, etc.  (To be fair, Arcanum's pair of forays into philosophy are both pretty sophomoric as well, although those may at least be intentional reflections on the setting's Dwarves and on Kerghan rather than accidental reflections on Troika).

 

The problem, as vividly displayed here (especially in the OP), is twofold: pretty much nobody in the modern era, or at least very few rpg grognards, have ever done a serious study of any particular religion, let alone practiced one as an adult (and those which are practiced today in Europe and the Americas are more or less affirmational therapeutic Deism rather than a real faith, with some small-but-loud pockets of morally-assertive but mindless Deism mixed in).  Thus both observational knowledge and experiential knowledge are absent.  When people use theological language, they don't even know what the words mean, freely substituting folk pseudoknowledge and making logical leaps from foundations of sand.  It's cringe-inducing, similar to listening to someone speaking of physics when they clearly don't know what the terms "force" and "power" (much less "uncertainty" or "spin") mean, then going on to assert various absurd feats of mechanical engineering are real based on their faulty major premise.

 

Even in modern prose fantasy (I hesitate to call it literature), the supposedly mature and nuanced portrayals of religion can only be considered so by people who are utterly and brutally ignorant of religion.  I refer, of course, to George Martin's never-to-be-finished series :devil:  Here too we find the author telling us more about himself than about his world or ours, and the attempt at sophistication by taking a purely anthropological approach and asserting little about the reality of the world is both shallow and unsatisfying.  (In a similar vein, the author's portrayals of women and (ab)uses thereof in the plot are mostly pretty shallow and I have no idea how they are so widely praised.  Maybe because the fanbase enjoys luridity and Shyamalan-esque shenanigans to care?  The series' "moral grey areas" are often inexplicably complimented too despite the cardboard cutout portrayal of most characters and actions.  It's like Social Text after the Sokal affair: a complete lack of self-awareness exhibited by people in a bubble who nonetheless make sweeping assertions and ignore anything contrary to their preconceived conclusions).

 

There has been one real attempt to portray religion in an RPG in a less crappy way as mentioned earlier here: the Honest Hearts DLC for FONV.  It's shallow to be sure, but at least not condescending (nor is it celebratory, of course).  It's at least clear that Sawyer tried to get some observational knowledge of his topic before using it in a game (as is his wont, to his credit - I think he even recorded a video explaining his philosophy in that regard, it was pretty neat).  There just isn't much there.  I suspect the reason for that is the very short timeframe in which the FONV DLCs were made, and their relatively short play-time.  Really the more interesting portrayal of religion in HH than the overt portrayal we get from the Mormon characters we interact with is found in the writings of the Survivalist, though - I don't know if it was intentional, but I got from that some insight into the failings of the uniquely American approach to religion characteristic of the 1950s when the **** really hits the fan.  It was a deep portrayal of both man's psyche and religion and the interaction between them, while remaining critical enough that it won't disturb your average grognard.

 

I will conclude my post with two thoughts: first, that the style of portrayal of religion found in the LotR books is probably the best way to handle the subject in an RPG (not the later Tolkein stuff, which is more overt and also peels away too many layers a la George Lucas.  Frankly that sort of background stuff should remain with the author), and second that I am sorry if I took too much of your time with a long-winded post; I am at heart a gasbag :V







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