Friday, 8 April 2011

G is for Gods

This entry in Blogging A to Z has been stewing for awhile, as it's a topic that can be approached in many ways, with varying detail or topical content.

My initial outline went outside the game of WFRP proper to visit how the perceived topic of RPG pantheons gave rise to Patricia Pulling's Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD) campaign in the 80s and its lingering result of "gamer shame."

I went from Gamer Shame, to Grimnir, the dwarf "ancestor god" of warriors, to the broader topic of gods in the WFRP pantheon proper, with a touch of evolution from 1e to 2e. I settled on the last.

The Warhammer Fantasy Role Play pantheon is richly detailed, arguably one of the richest in RPG games today. WFRP owes this to history and, in part, to fans. In 2e, Green Ronin and Black Industries merged reimagining and WFB evolution to create a human pantheon replete with mythology and cults in exquisite detail on the pages of the Tome of Salvation (ToS). The team followed that essential work with a literal tome of knowledge surrounding the Chaos pantheon in Tome of Corruption (ToC)--I made the mistake of not purchasing the ToC when I saw it on the shelf at my FLGS. I did purchase the ToC as PDF though when it became available. There is no question in this blogger's mind that both titles are important for richly detailed WFRP campaigns.

However, in 1e the attention to pantheons was not equal. The grim, perilous, and sexy stuff--some may argue too grim and too sexy, though not me--was in material about Chaos. Two titles were published for the 1e Chaos pantheons: Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness and RoC:The Lost and The Damned. I cannot speak very much about these volumes or their influence on the ToC as Games Workshop wrapped up WFRP 1e in 1989 and Flame Publishing did not revisit the topics, nor did Hogshead. The ToS, as far as I can tell, is the first detailed look at the human pantheon in all editions of WFRP, save anything in WFB army books.

The pantheon of 1e held many of the names we recognize: Urlic, Sigmar, Taal, but also devoted information to the "lesser" gods, of which Rhya was categorized, and spends a bit on gods of Law (Alluminas, Arianka, and Solkan) and Chaos. It's interesting to note that Sigmar Heldenhammer, Patron Deity of the Empire, gets one paragraph in the 1e core rulebook. Only in the Enemy Within campaign are the deities looked at some more. The pantheon for the most part remained a collection of stats, boons, and banes, until 2e and the release of the ToS/ToC volumes (and to some extent Sigmar's Heirs where the Empire's prescribed cults and lesser subcults get some attention).

In ToS, we get the religion: the churches, the templars, the laity and the miracles (Divine Magic). In all, ToS gives players the world view of humans from the pew, pulpit and calendar. And yet, ToS and ToC are the reminders, for me, of things left incomplete by the benchmark set forth in both volumes.

Such are the pantheons of elves, dwarfs, and halflings. This is not to say that information does not exist, ToS provides four pages and a reference table for the demi-human religions. But as a gamemaster or player, especially of those playing elves, dwarfs, and halflings of any depth, be ready to perform some research. Much of the information is available on the web. Those with disposable income, and not already playing WFB, may want to pick up the Army Books (save halflings, which I'm not aware of any halfling army list).

For Elves, I was going to recommend Critical Hit. Alas it is gone, but not from memory. The Wayback Machine has all the CH information on Elven Gods I have.

For Dwarfs, I don't think you could get a better resource than Alfred Nunez's, a.k.a Mad Alfred, Dwarfs: Stone and Steel published for 1e by Hogshead in 2002. The scanned PDF exists on various web repositories (try Scribd) and your acquisition is a judgment call you alone make, in as far as it may or may not be piracy. :) Mad Alfred republished his work on Dwarf religion at his website and on Strike to Stun.

For Halflings, I cannot offer the moment. Maybe when we get to 'P' I'll revisit.

In all, one researching WFRP religion, human or otherwise, cannot go wrong with using several sources, Mad Alfred and Strike to Stun archives and forums being current top sources. Mad Alfred revisits 1e Druids, Elementalism, and many cults of both Law and Chaos from 1e.

In gameplay, PCs of a religious bent should play it up, especially those permitted to work miracles. The gods are fickle in WFRP, heretics or theologians not yet branded heretics, may argue that the lawful and prescribed cults of all race's pantheons are but aspects of the Chaos pantheon. Heresy is a great driver for corruption and paranoia in the Old World. Failed miracles are tempting to re-roll...and re-roll...and re-roll. However, in the game fiction, how often should the priest beseech the deity's blessing before invoking the deity's wrath (even if never mechanically invoking the Wrath of the Gods)? Players should see failure as an opportunity for character depth. Doubt may set in. And doubt in the Old World may be seen in some circles as heresy. And gamemaster's should reward restraint in mechanics and rich character depth accordingly!

Lest we forget, WFRP fiction is a great resource for PCs. For an idea of the Sigmarite priesthood, and a peek at the paranoia of Witch Hunters, read Darius Hink's Warrior Priest. Darius weaves a great tale and presents some deep character interactions, especially how the priestess of Shallya abhors the violence of the warrior priest.

What are some of your favorite sources 1e and 2e? Share in the comments!

Posted by caffeinated at 7:00 AM in d10


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