Thursday, November 24, 2016

Religion in a Space Fantasy RPG, Part 2

This post expands upon my previous one, developing some more ideas for developing a pantheon.


Many Gods, One Galaxy
The clash of cultures that occurs when clerics from different worlds begin exploring the solar system can make for many interesting situations; more importantly, this situation can make for numerous intriguing and dramatic plot implications, through which clerics can be more authentically woven into the background of a campaign setting. Here are some suggestions for a few of the possibilities.

Same Deities, Different Names
In this worldview, gods from different worlds with the same portfolio are actually just interpretations of the same power. For example, the Earth Mother Gaea on one world would be the same as the fertility deities on the other planets, based on how those worlds' inhabitants interpreted her. Essentially, all of them view the same divine truth, but interpret it differently due to their own skewed perception and local bias.

In a campaign, these differences could be resolved peacefully, or there could be conflict as one group tries to assert that its interpretation is the correct one. Either way, clerics who travel from world to world still have access to divine magic.

Influence Limited to One World
Contrasting the previous interpretation, this one holds that each deity's power is limited to its world of origin. This means that, on visiting a new planet, the cleric loses access to divine magic. While this interpretation can seem to make sense, the way it limits a character's special abilities makes it pretty unbalancing as far as game mechanics are concerned.

Competition and Conflict Between Faiths
A slight variation on the previous interpretation is one in which clerics can have access to divine magic on planets beyond their homeworld, provided they bring faith in their deity to those planets. This leads to competition between different faiths, since followers of a deity from one planet might try to convert away the faithful of a similar god on another world. This could lead at best to vitriolic preaching against other congregations, or at worst to all-out holy war between nations.

Other Deities and Domains
While the handful of interplanetary deities presented above present natural interpretations of the heavenly bodies in a space fantasy campaign, there are many more domains available in the Pathfinder RPG that would be embodied by other gods. Presented here, then, are suggestions for using those domains and gods in a space fantasy campaign.

Air, Earth, Fire and Water—These natural forces could be viewed as deities, especially in animistic cultures. What is more, some theorists believe that it is only in striking a balance between the four that life can exist on worlds; that is why the elemental obelisk incorporates all four in its pyramid-like capstone.

Charm—Love and lust are also forces of nature, existing among all cultures on every planet. As such, the deity who inspires these feelings is one who can easily move between worlds, and adherents of that faith are not likely to be divided by conflict.

Death—Those who believe that this process is necessary and solemn develop different traditions regarding how it should be conducted. Some practice the immolation of bodies, and scatter the remaining ashes among the stars, while others build elaborate tombs drifting in space for interring the dead. Whatever the case, these clerics find plenty of work performing their rituals on ships and in settlements, given the hazards of life in space.

Evil—Unfortunately for those who encounter them, followers of this god also move well between worlds. After all, their self-centered outlook means that new planets just represent more opportunity for them to achieve their wicked ends. When encountering the faithful of deities with similar outlooks, they might find fellow conspirators, or they could find enemies who ultimately betray them.

Liberation and Luck—These domains are natural ones for spacefarers, since traveling in an aethership represents tremendous freedom for those who are fortunate. Indeed, those intrepid souls who were first to venture into the void might, long after their passing, come to be venerated as the embodiment of these ideals.

Magic and Rune—Given that the process of acquiring magical power involves discovering lost lore and artifacts, the deities who represent this process also travel well between worlds. Here again there's a good likelihood for cooperation between congregations, since sharing this information is to the benefit of all.

War—The discovery and exploration of new worlds opens unlimited venues for the bloodthirsty followers of these deities. They are, of course, the most likely to lead crusades, not necessarily due to ideological differences, but because they feel driven to conquer.

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