CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Faith Good God Ya'll What is it Good For

In most D&D settings: Faerun, Dragonlance, Ebberon, and the one Pathfinder setting, Golarion, gods are a known factor. This leaves very little room for true atheism. It’s easy enough not to worship a god, or to deny them power in your life – or at least attempt to – but you can’t deny their existence. They grant power to beings, they have shaped parts of reality, and in some cases they have literally walked on the material plane. So how does one go about playing an atheist in a fantasy world where gods are undeniably real?

Being a true atheist is probably an impossibility. However, in the Golarion campaign setting you have the country of Rahadoum, where they consider themselves enlightened atheists and live by the Laws of Man. They understand that the gods exist but they choose not to let them hold sway over their hearts and souls. In some cases they don’t even believe that these beings are truly gods, just incredibly powerful beings who tend to act like petulant children.

Outside of a land where gods are forbidden, how does one decided against direct worship of any deity? Golarion has a huge pantheon of beings who can grant divine power, from true deities, to Elemental Lords. From the goodly Empyreal Lord, to the viciously evil Demon Lords. The common folk will pay homage to many of these beings in hopes of prosperity or warding off ills. People who put their lives on the line like adventurers almost always pick a patron, as their souls are probably sooner to head to their reward, or punishment.

For non-divine casters it is much easier to choose not to follow a deity. The most common path is that one feels jilted by one or multiple gods and thus chooses not to invest their time in worshiping any. You ask Desna in her aspect as goddess of aid to lend you luck in a trying time and it doesn’t come through so you decide the gods won’t aid you. Maybe you pray to Pharasma in her aspect of goddess of birth to make your wife’s labor easy but she dies. Feelings of betrayal are the easiest path to having a lack of faith.

In the cases of lack of faith you also get a phenomena where person goes completely against the deity whom they hold in contempt. In the example of the person jilted by Pharasma, maybe they would become a necromancer. Pharasma takes but she never gives. This person may believe all he wants to do is have his family. Making him a tragic figure, and a great sympathetic villain for your players to face. You can find this path with any god, really. A man who prayed to Abadar just for a small windfall to help his family now believes that money is the root of all evil and seeks to take bankers and money lenders out of the equation, for the common people.

It is much harder for any of the divine casting classes to be “atheist” but it is not impossible. The book Faiths & Philosophies has a whole section on atheism as a belief. Obviously the laws of man, as we’ve already discussed, are covered in the chapter, but there are other ways to be granted divine power. Druidism, which doesn’t rely on the will of the gods, is a common belief among those who don’t wish to pay homage to deities. Strict codes including codes of honor or something like the Prophecies of Kalistrade although rarely can produce divine casters as they draw from a central power of an idea and not a deity.

But what about paladins? As I’ve outlined before in my discussion on where paladins get power, paladins do not need to worship a deity. As a matter of fact the core paladin doesn’t get his power from a deity. There are two archetypes which outline that unlike most paladins, these ones draw their power from a single god. A paladin could draw his divine power from his own righteousness and goodness and actually denounce the gods. He could see it as man’s job to solve their own problems and better themselves.

There are many ways to leave the gods by the wayside for your character if you so choose, which happily opens play for players who are atheists and wish to bring that belief into the game with them. But it will never be in easy in-game choice when the lore of the world has the gods as very, very real.

Have you played a divine denier in a world where gods are a certainty? How did your character reconcile his disbelief? What made him turn away from the gods in the first place?

Just as those who turn away from the deities in-game choose to focus on man helping man, hopefully the CRB has helped you. If you’ve found this and the other content it provides helpful, please consider contributing to my Patreon. The CRB has also spread out onto social media and you can join our communities on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. My inbox is always open on all platforms for questions or comments.

1 comment:

  1. I had a deist character in a Dungeon World game recently. That is, he believed in an "invisible god" that created the universe, and then left. All other gods were not all-powerful, merely pretenders (big children as you outline in part of your article).

    Deism isn't atheism, but the belief in a deus absconditus who does not intervene in the world and does not concern itself with your conduct or save you or damn you is enough like atheism that it's been called that through most of history. Baruch Spinoza is just one example.

    Anyway, it happened that my PC got killed, and as it goes in that game, Death made him a deal: become a paladin of Death, be granted fancy powers, or just die. I argued that if Death were so powerful he would not need to make threats, and that while he owned my body, he could do nothing to my integrity (echoing various ancient philosophers, but the Stoics consciously).

    Well, he died. He sort of won an argument with Death, but the satisfaction was short-lived. :)