Another issue I have with many settings is the way religious conflicts tend to be non-existent. In the real world, religion tends to be the basis of the bitterest conflicts, yet in most D&D worlds there are no such conflicts. Far too often it is just a case of crushing the evil temple. There are no pogroms, crusades, wars of religion, heresies, inquisitions, or internal strife. Another problem I have with most D&D religions is that a person’s alignment, reliability, expected actions etc. can be predicted simply by knowing which god they worship. So, with that in mind, I have setup the religions differently in Tòlanar.
What I wanted was a set up that allowed for political in-fighting within and between sects, and also one that would allow for major conflicts between the sects with the sort of depth of hatred that such schisms tend to generate in the real world. I also wanted there to be the opportunity for Cardinal Richelieu types who while privately evil are publicly seen to be respectable people.
This wasn’t too hard to set up, you just have the pantheon worshiped as a whole, rather than the individual deities, with priests being privately dedicated to one individual deity, which would dictate his ethical stances, domains, spell choices, etc. The problem is that I also wanted clerics of the same alignment, and even those dedicated to the same deity to see each other as enemies much as the Protestants and Catholics, or Christians and Muslims did. The issue is that if they are opposing each other, then how can they both get their spells from the same deity?
The solution turned out to be pretty easy, but I didn’t see it until I came across a post on Beardly’s Greenbeard Codex blog. They both get their spells because that comes from a higher entity than the deity they are dedicated to, namely the demiurge (Yazilìa). The deities that people pray to and to whom a priest will dedicate himself to are, to use Beardly’s term, “middle management”, they are not the source of the power, the demiurge is, and they are only the channels through which the demiurge’s divine power flows, just as clerics are the channels on the mortal plane.
So, with that in mind, here is the solution…
The Yazilic pantheon has 60-odd deities, each one with various, often overlapping, spheres of concern but no temples to those gods specifically; instead all the gods are worshiped together, with prayers directed to whichever deity or deities are most relevant to whatever is being prayed for, somewhat similar to the way prayers are directed to patron saints. Similar to patron saints, each temple has one of the deities as its patron, but this doesn’t affect the priesthood, though priests will tend to gravitate to temples with the same patron. This extends to priests as well, each clerical type character will have a particular deity that they have chosen as their patron, but this is not generally publicly displayed with symbols or specific garb. Rather than being priests of a given deity, they are priests of one of the theological denominations (outlined in this post). Thus there can be good and evil priests in any given temple.
The major sects are as follows.
- Ìasite: This sect considers Ìasu to be the first god created by Yazilìa and therefore the head of the pantheon.
- Irhilùrite: This sect considers the goddess Irhilùru to be the head of the pantheon
- Suùšite: These sects believe that Suùš was the first deity created by Yazilìa. It is divided into two major denominations which differ on purely political grounds. The Ecumenical Suùšite church claims that the Primate of Lausòem, who they call the Arch-Primate, is the supreme head of church, and the various Autocephalous Suùšite sects reject this claim and hold that each Primate is co-equal.
- Szasite: Both of these sects consider Szasu to be the head of the pantheon, but they differ in their reasoning. The The Ùsian church holds that Ùs is the senior of the Triad, and that the divine authority passes through her to her son Szasu, and thus on to his descendants. The Syasuan Szasite sect, like the Irhilùrite sect, believe that Sìas is the senior of the Triad, but they hold that it is Syasu, not Irhilùru, who is the senior of Sìas’ two daughters, and that the authority therefore passes to her son (Szasu) through her, rather than through her consort Suùš.
- Yazilite: Consider Yazilìa to be the only true deity and all the others to be lesser beings subservient to him.
Within each of these major sects, there exist sub-sects which differ doctrinally from the main sect on similarly obscure grounds, for example, within the Ìasite sect there are sub-sects based on which of the primary goddesses was the first born, or which of Ìasu’s children was born first, etc. These sub-sects are generally seen as heretical and are usually suppressed by the dominant sect.