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 What We Know So Far - Religion

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Camillius

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PostSubject: What We Know So Far - Religion   Sat May 05, 2012 10:11 pm

Not much known here.. other than that Gods do NOT take an active role in the running of the world. There is apparently only the one monotheistic religion.. some information gathered from the Empire Facebook page..

"Religion: The mainstream Imperial Religion has been drafted. “The Way of Virtue” has been described by one reviewer as “Fascist Buddhism”. Details of The Way are to follow."
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:02 pm

Designing Religion for Empire
For Empire, the design brief was to develop Religion with a Capital R. That is to say that the Religion is the most important element. Not gods nor angels, demons or any other divine intervention. Alongside this was the principle that any clerical-type magic would have no direct mechanical benefits, so that the choice to be religious was made as a pure roleplay decision and not for stat- or mechanics-based gain

The reason for making Religion the focus is partly an attempt to do something different to PD’s other LRP settings, but also from the following belief:

Gods are bad for Religion in LRP.

At the very least, they are bad for Faith.

To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, it is hard to be an atheist or agnostic if the gods come round your house and smash your windows. Disbelief in the supernatural in the face of clerical magic, manifest blessings or the Babel Fish requires some torturous explanation. The situation is further strained if the supernatural / divine is also active in mortal affairs.

An interventionist supernatural power undermines the dynamics of Religion. Why dispute theology with a fellow priest when a divine being can overrule one of you by taking a side, or belittle your dispute by taking no interest at all? Why care about being religious if the gods take no interest in how you use clerical magic?

Additionally, problems arise at the point the mortal and divine interact for the simple reason that, in LRP, the divine is shaped and given life by fallible and temporal mortal crew. Fallibility in gods is not normally conducive to religion, and the problem can be amplified if the divine manifests in some form (either directly or through proxies). The expectations and standards are rightly high and a challenge to meet consistently. It works best when players buy-in and concede divine authority to the NPC presence, but not everyone wishes to do so in which case the divine becomes an intrusive, unwelcome and sometimes inescapable presence in a game.

LRP settings are, by their nature, products of Intelligent Design (for a given value of intelligence), and there have been various methods attempted to address all of the above with varying degrees of success. At Empire, we believe we are trying something a little different.

The design challenge for Empire is ensuring that Religion is powerful, relevant and engaging in a world where ‘proof’ of the divine lies in personal experience, priests do not turn swords into snakes, the windows of atheists remain intact, and a significant percentage of LRPers are not of a naturally religious mindset.

Our approach is threefold: Revelation, Moral Authority and Power.

Revelation informs an individual’s understanding of the world, the cosmos, and their place in it. Both science and religion draw on Revelation in building that understanding, whether that revelation comes from empirical experimentation or a personal spiritual experience. The religions of Empire will be based on the experiences of mortals – past and present – and their interpretations of those experiences. We actively want religious players to argue about the nature of this life, the afterlife and the cosmos. The importance of doctrine and threat of schism are signs of a vibrant and dynamic Religion. For players who wish to passionately argue conflicting opinions based on observed phenomena, Religion in Empire welcomes you.

Moral Authority is where Religion engages with the lives of players and NPCs and is at its most relevant. Too often in games, the Moral Authority stems from “because X says so” which is an end to debate and subtle interpretation. In Empire, we’re taking a leaf from Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma and looking at concepts and principles that have authority in their own right. A concept such as Justice has a clear moral drive, but it is easy to imagine a Priest disagreeing with their god on the practical application of the principle. Such principles are relevant to layman, priests and Empresses alike, regardless of whether or not they are religiously inclined.

Players who went to the Empire Tent at the last Maelstrom saw the draft imperial currency, each of which has a Virtue on it:

Ambition
Courage
Loyalty
Pride
Prosperity
Vigilance
Wisdom
These are the current drafted Imperial Virtues. Some may be self-evident, whereas others may require some additional explanation, and there will be another blog entry about the Virtues and the thinking behind them in due course. However, instead of Priests saying, “Do this because god says you must” they will instead be able to say “Do this because it is the Courageous thing to do. You are not a Coward, are you? Cowardice is a sin and bad things happen to sinners.” And so it is from concepts such as these that Religion will derive its moral authority, relevance and license to meddle in Imperial Affairs.

Finally, Religion is Power. Religion shapes beliefs and worldviews, which in turn influence culture and action. History offers few examples of Empires without a religious element and many more with it present. Karl Marx did not describe it as “the opium of the people” idly. Therefore Religion will be entwined with the Empire and her political structures, wielding powers under Imperial Law and influential to the average citizen. Of course, it is rare that such Power exists without tension between those who wish to use it virtuously and those who wish to use it for their own ends. In Empire, Religion will include a battle for the soul of the Empire itself and welcomes the Borgias and Cardinal Richleu as eagerly as it does Friar Tuck, Joan of Arc, and Torquemada.

To sum-up, I’ll end with a quote from some test reviewers who were given a draft of the mainstream Imperial Religions and asked if they understood our design intentions. They said:

“We believe the religion game in Empire is: political, theoretical, scientific, argumentative, dynamic.”

“Religion in Empire isn’t a matter of having ‘special priest powers’; it’s all about getting into metaphysical debates with other people, promoting your view of the way that a virtuous life should be lived. It’s meant to encourage people to stand on a soap-box and preach, to create rivalry more than conflict. Priests should be arguing vigourously and passionately, trying to discover the Empire equivalent of ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’. They are not casting healing spells and being a priest of the god of luuuurve.”

And that is how we are trying to shape a Religion without ‘proof’ of the divine.

Daniel Williams
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:28 pm

Wisdom - says that the Religion game is a waste of time for us, however looks like we might not have a choice...
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:57 pm

The Way of Virtue (the Imperial Religion)

Ambition, Courage, Loyalty, Pride, Prosperity, Vigilance and Wisdom

The Way of Virtue – often simply known as The Way – is the dominant and pre-eminent religion of the Empire. It found its birth amongst the Highborn and was adopted across the Empire at the Founding, though its roots go back to the very Dawn of Time, and it is one of the forces that binds the Empire together.

At its core, The Way of Virtue teaches:
Human flesh is perishable but human spirits are immortal. After death, the spirit must traverse the Labyrinth of Ages before being reborn through reincarnation.
The journey from death to rebirth is not instantaneous, and passage through the Labyrinth of Ages is influenced by how virtuous a soul is.
The Way of Virtue comprises the Seven Paths of Virtue each of which prospers the individual in life, enhances the purity of their spirit, and speeds their reincarnation through the Labyrinth of Ages.
Other virtuous qualities may be laudable, but they do not aid you in the Labyrinth of Ages. Some may actively hinder your passage.
Individuals who have attained sufficient purity of spirit, predominantly through perfection of a Virtue, pass through the Labyrinth of Ages unhindered to Enlightenment and are never again reborn. These individuals are called Paragons.
Individuals who embody, or illustrate, a particular Virtue, or Virtues, are called Exemplars and are considered to be strongly on the path to becoming a Paragon, if indeed their spirit is not already ready.
There is no expectation that every Imperial Citizen be an Exemplar or Paragon, though that is the eventual goal of The Way. For the majority it is sufficient to be aware of the Seven Paths of Virtue and how they influence your life so you can pass through the Labyrinth of Ages.
There are some Priestly Ceremonies that benefit from dedication to a single Virtue. As a result, dedication is only normally practiced by some Priests and individuals who aspire to be Exemplars of that Virtue.
Only human spirits reincarnate. As a consequence of this, humans – especially the Citizens of the Empire who follow The Way of Virtue – are the greatest agents in Creation and are inherently superior to non-humans.

The Way of Virtue is promoted and protected by The Imperial Synod, comprising Priests of all Nations, and is shaped by the Imperial Theology.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:08 pm

Seems that there won't be gods in Empire, just a non-specific religion.
A pity as I wanted to play someone who's religious beliefs required be an annoying/evil sod who viewed it as his god-given mission to cause trouble.

Overall I think lip-service is called for. "Of course I follow the Virtues. Now leave me alone."
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:24 pm

Asherven wrote:
...Overall I think lip-service is called for. "Of course I follow the Virtues. Now leave me alone."

100% agree, I was slightly tempted with Religion in Maelstrom due to in game bonuses, but now it's got no effect I don't want to waste my time with it.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:16 pm

Nonsense.

As students of the greatest mysteries, how could we neglect the virtue of Wisdom?
And if we want to dick people over for our own benefit, what better excuse do we need than pride or ambition?
We must be vigilant of our borders and our superiority, loyal to our cause and share the bounty of our prosperity with those who please us.
And of course, who has more courage than those who step within the hall of worlds to meet the great and terrible Eternals (the likes of whom would make the average sword-swinger faint with dread)?

We need not be priests to judge others fools and scorn them for it... Tell the right truth and allies will flock to us over our less virtuous rivals.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:22 pm

Maninblue wrote:
Nonsense.

As students of the greatest mysteries, how could we neglect the virtue of Wisdom?
And if we want to dick people over for our own benefit, what better excuse do we need than pride or ambition?
We must be vigilant of our borders and our superiority, loyal to our cause and share the bounty of our prosperity with those who please us.
And of course, who has more courage than those who step within the hall of worlds to meet the great and terrible Eternals (the likes of whom would make the average sword-swinger faint with dread)?

We need not be priests to judge others fools and scorn them for it... Tell the right truth and allies will flock to us over our less virtuous rivals.

I also agree with that also, but that's still paying the virtues lip-service, using the virtues as justification - political assassination over murder, in Empire reputation is going to be the true currency. But I don't want to have to spend loads of time in ceremonies.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:35 am

Unless the whole thing about the Labyrinth of Ages and reincarnation is used to somehow justify/influence the turnover between characters that are all similar due to having the same player phys-rep (which the note about the transition not being instantaneous suggests not), then I have to confess the religion side of Empire doesn't interest me at all.

I think in character, my approach will be to consider all the virtues as perhaps being well and good unto themselves, but the idea that all this was decided by a deity of any kind... I'll be asking those Highguard fanatics for proof.

After all, we have the Eternals for proof of the Arcane.. for proof of the Divine, there is none. Surely the educated mind (or with our tibetan influences.. perhaps that should be enlightened...) would choose to believe in that which can be seen and heard rather than something that cannot be experienced in any real form.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:37 am

Also.. Hall of Worlds? Have you heard anything further on that one Dave?
Are we thinking it's going to work along the lines of the Chamber of Gods at Odyssey?

So we go to visit the Hall rather than the Eternals coming to us?
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:29 am

PD's Blog wrote:
...In Empire, mages can control powerful forces that help or harm the Empire, and they bargain with Eternals, turning dangerous foes into important allies...

So Eternals might be part of the Mages ritual game and less to do with religion.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:22 am

Eternals have everything to do with the Magic game and nothing with Religion, other than the implications that one causes for the other.

One thing I've asked about and had confirmed is that there is a God at the heart of Empire's religion. There seems to be considerable doubt on this one amongst players.
It's true that 'God' takes no active part in the world of Empire. There is no physical manifestation of God, no direct or indirect interactivity. But God is part of the religion.

One extra thing I've heard on the Religion side is that not every spirit that escapes from the Labyrinth of Ages is supposed to do so.. or is entirely sane when it does.
So there is an issue of mad/evil spirits for us to deal with in addition to the more usual barbarian hordes.

Here's where a new type of character skills comes in...

Yep.. in Empire, you can play an Exorcist!

This is likely to be a more religion-focused character than magic.. but I'm sure we'll need one or two at least in all nations.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:13 am

I can confirm that there is no link between Religion and the Eternals... only humans are involved in the way of virtue. While there is a theory that there may be some kind of "God" who made everything, there is no proof and no inclination to worship it. There is proof of reincarnation and past lives, as well as a the differences in how long it takes to reincarnate after.

After death, a soul traverses the Labyruinth of Ages and then gets reincarnated. No dead PC will be contactable, but the implication is that spirits in the Labyrinth could be summoned in Priestly rituals.
Someone who utterly embodies a Virtue may escape the cycle, becoming a Paragon. A Virtue is almost defined by the fact that it is a way by which a Paragon transcended the cycle. Someone's passage through the Labyrinth could be eased (speeded) by priestly rites... or slowed. In fact, it has been suggested that a priest could damn a soul to wander the Labyrinth for ever, never finding reincarnation or enlightenment.

What that would do to a soul or what kid of twisted priest would summon such a soul to the world are pure speculation. There is also the posibility of "natural" spirits out there or ignorant beings working with powers they don't understand.
Of course, it's nothing compared to the true power of real magics.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:39 am

You could even surmise that it's possible.. or even likely that traversing through the Labyrinth actually takes a NEGATIVE 20-30 years! So you're actually reincarnated roughly 20-30 years (depending on player age) before you died!

Thus explaining how a completely different person with similar appearance appears a day or so after someone dies! And why the spirit isn't contactable.. it's already gone back in time from the point it died.. and doesn't exist after death..


Although part of me is now thinking that this whole Paragon thing is a con. Embody the virtues and you'll die and never return. Be bad, and you'll be reincarnated.. but not too bad or you'll have to join the long waiting list. Just be a little bad, and you'll be back before you know it..

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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:58 pm

Religion Design Principles

- Revelation -


Crudely speaking, there are three types of Revelation that underpin religions and religious belief systems. They are:

Observable phenomena, such as the change of seasons and natural laws
Personal experiences, such as dreams, visions and spiritual sensations
Received wisdom, such as scripture and the words of prophets and teachers
The last one, Received Wisdom, is usually a description, explanation and/or interpretation of the former two, such as writings about the sun’s metaphysical role in the heavens, or a prophet telling others of hearing the words of their god.

LRPers are reliably unpredictable when it comes to Received Wisdom. Sometimes authoritative IC texts or figures are regarded dismissively or with suspicion, scepticism or even hostility. Other times, what is intended as an IC perspective has been embraced whole-heartedly and taken as unshakeable fact, even Out-Of-Character. The reasons for this are varied and would likely fill a speculative blog post in their own right.

There will be Received Wisdom in Empire; passed down from the wise, the holy and the learned. It is, and will remain, IC knowledge based on the understanding of those historical figures who will have had access to much the same resources as Player Characters.

This brings us to Observable Phenomena and Personal Experience. Whilst we are considering a number of different forms of these, for the purposes of this blog, I am focussing on the primary one, which can crudely be summed up as:

Drugs and Archaeology

Before the Empire was formed, one of the pre-Imperial nations will have uncovered a substance which – when prepared properly – produces visions of another time and place. Subsequent research by religious scholars has found forensic, historical and archaeological evidence that supports the fact that these visions are of genuine events that have taken place.

Those are, broadly speaking, the facts of the matter; a repeatable phenomenon that can be documented and evidenced, much like the change of the seasons.

Within the lifetime of the Empire, this phenomenon has fuelled a reincarnation theology. Essentially, that the visions received by the visionary are held to be of their past lives and that each person is born, lives, dies and is reborn.

Furthermore, additional research and experimentation has led to the conclusion that how one lives one’s current life affects how swiftly, and how well, a person reincarnates. From this comes the belief in living virtuously – specifically living by the Seven Imperial Virtues – as important to the state of one’s immortal spirit.

It is worth stating that, at the start of the game, this is the Orthodox view of the Imperial Religion. It is supported by documented visions, recovered relics, and Received Wisdom. However, even within the Empire there are some fifteen-plus alternate Un-Orthodox schools of thought, and that is just at the current drafting, and before including the Barbarians and Foreigners who still follow “gods” and “spirits”. Debating theology and even changing the official doctrines and creeds of the faith are all within the scope of the game.

It is, perhaps, an indication of the design process and our intention that we ensured there were credible and compelling, yet conflicting, interpretations and IC debates around the phenomenon before discussing actual underlying metaphysics.

Saying that, early on in Empire’s development, it was suggested that reincarnation – and related phenomena – may prove fertile ground for a religion game. It has been exploited for its plot potential in novels, such as those by Katherine Kerr, and in RPGs like Exalted. Outside of religion development, the ability to have visions from the past also represents a built-in way to flesh out and develop the history of the gameworld, and throw out plot hooks from the past, without needing a “Type 40 Time Travel Capsule” and a loose approach to paradoxes.

We envisage opportunities where, for example, a vision may reveal the location of a person’s lost tomb from a previous life which in turn could prompt adventurous archaeologists to go in search of their ancient treasures. I believe that Doctor Jones and Lady Croft can attest that such expeditions always go smoothly and well for those involved.

So to summarise:

Our Personal Experiences are those of visions that are received by individuals of another time and place
Our Observable Phenomenon is archaeological evidence that supports the reality of these visions
Our Received Wisdom are documenting, reporting and teaching around the above two
Is the means to access insight into other times and places a proof of the existence of a supreme supernatural being or beings?

That is a question for the In-Character theologians to discuss.

Nevertheless, part of the power and authority of the Imperial Religion is that it, specifically the Synod, possesses the means to help people access their past lives. Furthermore, the Imperial Religion also holds the key to facilitating, or hindering, each person’s individual journey through death and rebirth.

One of our test reviewers described the Imperial Religion as “Fascist Buddhism” and this is why:

Live according to the Imperial Virtues and you will reincarnate swiftly and well.

Live a wicked life and be trapped between lives for generations.

In this way, the Imperial Religion is a key player in the field of metaphysical – and IC historical – Revelation.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:03 pm

Religion Design Principles

- Power –

In terms of laying out the stall from the very beginning, this blog is not about detailing what the individual powers of priests or religious institutions are within the game. Those are still being developed and balanced against other game elements.

This blog is about design concepts and principles of Religious Power in a world where religion is not supported by the ability to summon a Holy Flamestrike either directly at a cleric’s call, or indirectly from a divine being.

In terms of underlying principles, one of the key ones has to be about the power of the individual and the group. Broadly in Fest LRP, a group of fighters (aka a mob) has proportionately more power than an individual with combat skills. Equally, a group of magic users (such as a ritual group) may be capable of performing more powerful effects than an individual mage.

So we aspire that this hold true for Religious Power also. An individual Priest needs to have meaningful interaction with others, but a group of Priests can be proportionately more powerful.

Another principle in LRP is that “power” must relate to something that Player Characters actually care about. The lowest common denominator tends to be Blood and Lammies. That is to say, most players can see the importance of character life and death, and the value of mechanical effects that aid them or hinder others.

Yet, in Empire, we are looking to capture additional elements that Player Characters care about. These include meaningful wealth, capital, prestige and also validation.

A common refrain when people hear that Imperial Religion has no interventionist gods, but that there are otherwordly NPCs called Eternals, is the claim that the Eternals will be worshipped as gods. It is actually irrelevant that the Eternals may not want worship, because the reality is that their approval, in whatever form, would constitute Validation of a character.

In both Maelstrom and Odyssey, the gods are capable of delivering blessings. However, the impact of these is not simply the mechanical effect of the blessing, but the validation that the gods have noticed and approve. This holds true even when the mechanical effect of the blessing may be negligible.

However, a critique of organiser-delivered divine validation is that it can be perceived as biased or ill-informed. In Empire, we aim to put the power of Validation in PC hands. It may still be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as biased or ill-informed but it will be so in an entirely In-Character and Uptime manner.

So, how can a non-interventionist religion compete with NPCs in terms of validation?

It does so by empowering Priests to reward the Virtuous and punish the Wicked.

The tools to do this will be skills for individual Priests and the powers of the Synod for assemblies of Priests.

Priest skills are important because they provide demarcation from other roles in the game, such as combat skills for warriors and magic skills for wizards. Although our stated intent is that they have no mechanical effect, this primarily relates to ‘buffing’ and combat resolution, and is not the same as ‘no effect at all’.

In a reincarnation-based theology, there are options around status effects and peoples’ individual passage from death to rebirth. A warrior may be able to kill a wicked person, but a priest may be able to ensure their spirit is never born again. Meanwhile, the priest will also have ways to recognise the qualities of virtuous heroes to assist in their attaining immortality.

As for the assemblies of Priests who compose the Synod, the Imperial Religion is a state-religion, which is not uncommon in empires. The Synod’s existence will be documented in the Imperial Constitution has powers under Imperial Law.

The crucial importance of Imperial Law to the game of Empire is a whole other topic/blog, but suffice it to say that interweaving Religion and Law means both have a vested interest in promoting and protecting one another. Consequently, we are not designing any religious legal powers that circumvent or undermine Imperial Law, but they will be able to affect and impact upon it.

However, as a guide to some of the powers of the Synod under discussion, there is:

Rewards for individuals of a virtuous nature; both spiritual and material
Punishments for individuals of a wicked nature; both spiritual and material
Intervention in the Empire’s law-making process including, but not limited to, veto of the Senate
Intercession in the judicial process
Identifying, and taking direct action against, internal threats to the Empire, spiritual or temporal
All of these powers will be supported by the Imperial Law to empower the Imperial Religion to act for the Empire’s good. It will be possible to attain high office in the Empire without the support of the Synod and the Imperial Religion; but it will be far, far, easier to do so – and hold onto it – with that support.
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PostSubject: Re: What We Know So Far - Religion   Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:17 am

Interesting interplay between mages, priests & warriors. I actually really like the focusing of religious "power" in the hands of collected priests rather than NPC gods, NPC high priests etc. not least because if I'm going to get screwed I'd rather get screwed directly by other players, rather than have that nagging doubt as to what metagaming agendas are happening behind the scenes. Paranoid perhaps, but if nothing else this will cut that all out.

Actually (please forgive my continuing parallels to LT, but they serve as a useful comparison), it strikes me that priests in empire "game mechanic" wise owe more to LT ritualists than LT incanters. i.e. ultimately buffing powers for others which get more buff on mass, although with the equivilant of ritual circle markers (thank goodness, one of my least favourite LT game mechanics because of the OOC intervention) cut out.

I think, answering the take of religion that Empire is aiming at though, orthodox in-character faith is actually inevitable in any fest system. Simply because groups of players tend to create universal "common wisdoms" all of their own, which soon become mantra. Unfortunately half of it sourcing from OOC material which inevitably seeps into the IC world wanted or not.
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