Friday, January 13, 2023

Lost Galmagia: Religion

I want to take B/X Clerics on their own terms, which means not fiddling around as much with a thousand different gods with tweaks to every cleric’s powers. The game is less granular than that.

1) Snakes are Sacred Animals

The spells Snake Charm and Sticks to Snakes, along with the clerics only magic item Snake Staff, is an awful large percentage of cleric magic with an ophidian leaning. Obviously, these are all around several events in the Old Testament that would have been familiar to the folks at TSR. Taken independently it is clear that snakes play an important part in B/X Religion; that they matter to whatever gods there are. Leaning into that with the Human Cleric being able to circumvent the usual collection of rumors through Ophiomancy, the Caduceus and Aesculapius being holy symbols, and working in any other snake imagery I can over the campaign. Snakes are, or at least can be, agents of the gods.

2) There aren’t holy wars over the gods

Because, well, the Gods of Humanity are real, and they humans worship the same pantheon. This doesn’t mean there aren’t individual conflicts over interpretation of scripture, when large armies gather to fight over religion the Gods just stop giving everyone spells until they cut that crap out. No one wants to fight a war without the Gods, so they don’t happen. This doesn’t mean people don’t make war on other people… they do that all the time. Just don’t do it saying the Gods told you to. They’re trusting us to sort it all out; don’t drag them into it.

There’s a continual disagreement between the religion of the Tarmalanian Empire, who assert that the Sun is a god over the gods, too powerful for humans to worship directly so we worship the sun through the stars. The religion of Abaman Emirate doesn’t hold with that, thinking that the gods have nothing over them. The Tarmalanians know the Sun is infinitely merciful to their southern family; the Abamans find it a charming eccentricity in their northern kin. Many a wine bottle has been dispatched over the particulars.

3) The Matriarchy of the Moon

As discussed in general housekeeping, the moons are the places where the gods/stars gather to converse, argue, and make plans. The Matriarchy is the dominant Tarmalanian, with the Caduceus as a symbol, and they are a communal religion. While their top three offices (the Matriarch to be, the Matriarch that is, and the Matriarch that was; in an Apprentice/Mistress/Advisor structure and definitely not Maiden/Mother/Crone… OK, yeah that) are limited to women the rest of the hierarchy easily accommodates men. For narrative purposes the Matriarchy is almost all the good stuff of organized religion: tithes to them are redistributed back to the needy at a 90/10 ratio; if there is ever a time when a craftsman or artisan is out of work the Matriarchy will commission great works from them to keep them engaged and their skills sharp. Anyone seeking work can find it with them, assisting those in desperate need.

The Matriarchy is overwhelmed now, as the Giant’s Shadow has left so many in such desperate need and with so much of their resources lost to them, but they are still a potent force that, in AD&D terms, would be Neutral Good. Any PC aligned with them can expect to receive care and succor from any other follower

4) The Brotherhood of the Stars

In the Giant’s Shadow a hundred minor cults have started, all on the same path of claiming personal connection with an individual god, touting the power of that connection, and sharing it with their followers, some of whom also start leveling up and gaining spells, and how their individual nature puts them above the need to work with any community save the Brotherhood – if you are not with them you’re beneath them, and anyone beneath them is a target to be fleeced. How this translates into the Brotherhoods viciously enforced hierarchy somehow never occurs to them. At their smallest the Brotherhoods are marginal cults; at their strongest they are powerful prosperity gospel grifters.

The Brotherhood uses the Aesculapius as a holy symbol, its single snake indicating a freedom from the constraints of society. PCs allied with them can expect considerable funding for any ventures, with the understanding that a large chunk of what they recover goes to the Brotherhood, and failure means you’d better have died out there. In AD&D terms they would be Neutral Evil.

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