Thursday, May 20, 2010

Musing About Religion Without Clerics

In my Planet Algol campaign there are no clerics. There are Hierophants, Priests, High Priests, Priest-Kings, Shamans, and the like. But no "Divine" casters....I haven't been down with The Cleric archetype in Swords & Sorcery for a while (Too much of a Moses crossed with a medieval Templar thing going on). And having no "Divine" magic helps keeps the nature of Algol's universe and metaphysics mysterious, ambiguous, weird.

However, while thinking about the cults and religious organizations of The Lords of Light and The Lords of Change of Algol, I started musing about the advantages of belonging to such an organization.

And a solution struck me...oldschool (1st ed?) Runequest. Initiates, Lay Members, "Rune Priests," "Rune Lords," Cult Magic, POW (experience point?) sacrifices. (Coincidentally, for a while now I've been musing about how Runequest presents an opportunity for a plug-in skill system for OD&D...)

Hm, from what I've read of the Fomalhaut campaign reports, it's possible that Gabor Lux may have incorporated similar mechanics in his campaign? I'm certainly inspired by his “Wow, these guys are a bunch of assholes.'” approach to deities.

More on this later, I've got some Runequest to read and some cult write-ups to mash out.


  1. Another option would be to take a page from Flashing Blades, and make religious organization membership a method of social climbing. Letting the players know that there may be (but there are no guarantees) secret benefits to attending sacrifices, services, etc. can also help out a lot. One-use bonuses like +1 blessings on the next "to hit" roll, free save successes (without letting the players know that they needed to save), and the like might even be those benefits.

    Which makes me start thinking about how my "house system" (currently based loosely on RQ) will handle religion. I've already been combing medieval/Renaissance grimoires and books of folklore for the magic system.

  2. Your on the right track. Runequest + Empire of the Petal Throne + OD&D is a trifecta of gaming goodness.

    Gods can be a pain, but usually that's more because the DM/GM can't wrap their brain around whatever they are. They don't need to be a-holes, but that approach is fairly common/popular.

    I'm wrapping-up some cultic stuff for Riskail tht I think you might get a laugh or two out of maybe.

  3. It's no coincidence that the word magus is drawn from the Old Persian maguš - a follower of Zoroaster known to read the stars and omens. The difference between an obscure sect of priests and an obscure sect of wizards will mostly be down to trappings to the uninitiated.

    RQ has some pretty fine examples of cults - in particular Cults of Prax, Cults of Terror and Trollpak are all sources of inspiration for some of my games. I can also suggest Call of Cthulhu's Dreamlands for some of the more eclectic stuff.