No one is an atheist in the dungeon…

Greetings, Pilgrims, please come in and have a seat. Perhaps its time we had a talk about the Spiritual. We have concerned ourselves too long with the mundane,and the banal, focusing on material wealth, or worse, the waging of war. Perhaps we should give some thought to what comes after.

Normally, after a game I want waffles, but that’s not what I mean today.

But man, don’t waffles sound good?

Sorry, I digress.

When that party first began to make their characters, I asked if anyone worshiped any particular god, and mostly, I got shrugs. Jianjun’s player knew he wanted to be a cleric of the war god, and went hunting to find one that looked good, finding Erlang Shen. Frau’s player simply asked if there was a god of beer, and I went looking, and found Hanseath. From there, the question went unanswered, for the rest of the players, and I let it go. But I never really forgot about it..

When I started paying D&D, it was just a rule, that everyone worshiped a god, and its what you did. I asked, when I made my first character, why no one was an agnostic, or atheist, and it was explained that unlike in the real world, where religion is a matter of faith, D&D wasn’t. Gods interfere in folk’s lives, they come to earth, and they give TONS of people the ability to work legit miracles. Its not a question of “Do they Exist” it’s a question of “Which one do I hitch my wagon to?”. I liked that. It made it easier that everyone has a good option, thieves have a thieving god. Sailors have a sea goddess. Orcs have an Orc god. It’s great. When I asked Zen’s player again later, she still wanted to be an atheist, because Zen doesn’t deny that there are gods, she just doesn’t care. Zen doesn’t need any all knowing spirit watching out, telling her she’s naughty or nice. She needs a sharp knife, and a full thermos. I liked that answer and left it alone. But I didn’t extend that logic to the rest of the party, and I went back to asking folks who it was, that they tipped their hat to, when they thought about the chances of not making it out of the dungeon.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has some distinct advantages, not being heavy with fluff. We have rules for the hard stuff, what wizards get, as opposed to clerics, or what a fighter does in relation to a barbarian. But what it doesn’t give us, is the flavor. As written, Clerics worship “Good” deities, demons worship “Evil” ones. That’s all well and good, and there’s always the tasty morsel that is GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics, to fill in some of that, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t really use this book myself. Not to say I don;t enjoy it, because I do, and in The Old Game, I played a cleric myself and wanted to use it, but I use GCA, and coding it is hard..

When it comes time to add the flavor, I say the sky’s the limit! But what do we use? A pantheon of gods is great, but do we use Greyhawk? Faerûn? Dragonlance? Perhaps the Pharaohic or Norse gods?

Why not both

Sure, let’s use it all! Now, I know that seems to crowd heaven up a bit. But we’ve dealt with this before. My cleric back when, worshiped Anubis. Our holly warrior revered Saturn. We didn’t have any trouble, it was just understood by me that his people gave a strange name to Min, and he thought the same of my relationship with Hades. Gods are already aspected in most RPG’s, so it’s easy enough to make the various pantheons work together. You can even throw something new into the mix, I believe my Bard-Wizard worshiped The Godfather of Souls…
When asked during the last game, Grognak’s player seemed pleased enough to worship Crom, No, not Kromm. The Red Lady made no such firm decision, but I’m willing to bet that despite being human, she would be more likely to worship an elven deity, given her penchant for all things pointed ears. (Knowing that Everynne’s Power Item is known as “The Ember of Sashelas”, it’s very possible that she would say her prayers to the elven god of magic, Deep Sashelas herself.) The remainder of our current party, however, makes it a bit more tricky, as both of our holy-rollers worship variations on the god of war.. Perhaps we should delve deeper into the 1-2 combo that is Jianjun and Frau Blucher..

Clerics and Holy Warriors are only one step away, on the wheel of character classes, and DF, there is a wider divide than in some of those other games. In modern D&D, a cleric is a heavily armored warrior of god, calling down holy fire and raising wounded allies from the brink and sometimes past the brink, of death. Paladins are basically fighters that can lay on hands, and smite evil. It’s perhaps a little more in depth than that, but no one can deny those descriptions. In GURPS, a Cleric is basically a holy wizard, not meant to be up front in a fight, despite my poor handling of both cleric and wizard, doing just that, preferring to stand back, and call their miracles from the rear. Holy warriors walk the middle line. Given a wide range of powers, some similar to the cleric, in spiritual warfare, some more meant to bolster their own fighting prowess. They neither excel as well as the fighter in battle, nor the cleric in magic, but work their own brand of perfection in their role, hunting down and destroying Undead, Demons, or both. (Note: I find the Holy Warrior of DF, to remind me more of the ranger, from D&D.. a favored enemy, range of arms available, animal companions, just matches on many points.)
I was thrilled to have both a cleric, and a holy warrior in the party, knowing that they could work side by side, and not step on each others toes, if given enough room. And then, they both chose war gods.. I began to sweat. Hanseath was far different from Erlang Shen, and I hoped that would be enough, but it turned out the players had far different ideas for their roles, and saved me any prodding to preserve shtick protection. Jianjun chose a stoic, reserved god, and his cleric followed suit. While his cleric could march with the army, he was the standard bearer, sending out his blessings, his personal mission was to root out and destroy the true enemy of His Lord, the Demon. (In game, this is reflected by Jianjun’s disadvantages, hatred: Evil religions, and an obsession with slaying Demons, in addition to his stubbornness, and sensibilities of a solider) Frau blusher, on the other had, worships a god of battle and revelry, sent forth oh her quest to spread his name, and help all those in need, be they enemies of her god, or any other within The Church. (Frau has her vows skewed more to enjoying battle, rather than hating her enemy, and a sense of duty to all good gods, calling her to travel the land, helping all those who need it.) A surprising diversion with the two similar builds, that has only deepened as play goes on.
If you looked at the two of them, based on D&D alignments, I would consider Jianjun Lawful Neutral. He understands that battle is a force for change, and that it should remain a mortal endeavor. Frau, is as Lawful Good as ever I’ve seen. She prefers to find joy in all things, if she can, but is never afraid to finish her drink and call forth the fury of her god, if injustice is present. Frau is the more likely to call out her companions for shady dealing, which could become a problem as we move forward, especially with the task they have just undertaken..

So, worship is fun, and for most, is little more than flavor text on the character sheet. If anyone decides later to play an Unholy Warrior, or excommunicated Demonologist, that could change, when it comes time to dole out healing. I’m curious to see if these feelings change moving forward. I’ve heard rumors that Frau is looking to take on an acolyte, but it remains to be seen what form that will take, and if more divine influence will change the parties outlook. Who knows, Zen took on an illusionist, maybe Frau will enlist a priest of Tyr, and add a third flavor of war god to the mix. Let’s hope not.

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