Part of the Unified Setting for /tg/
Few things define a people as strongly as their shared religion. This holds true for the Unified Setting as well.
- 1 On Deities
- 2 On Faith
- 2.1 Major Religions
- 2.2 Minor Religions
It is universally acknowledged that gods exist. Even those races that pay little attention to faith would be perplexed by an atheist. Bodiless intelligences of great power are rare but regularly encountered, talked to and bargained with. What exactly a god is and what should be included in that definition on the other hand is a matter of great and impassioned debate for those into that sort of thing.
Gods are generally defined along a spectrum, ranging from Higher to Lesser (though dogmatic theists prefer the categories of True and False).
The Higher Gods are deities which preceded the world, of which there are currently five. Theistic religions recognize only these as divine. Each is represented in many if not most of the theistic faiths present in the world. Their names, appearances and even roles may change between religions, but they are essentially different interpretations of the same fundamental concepts. They are here named after the "domain" they are associated with:
- The Sun
- The Moon
- The Sky
- The Earth
- The Darkness
Gods in the Unified Setting do not stride the world. Their influence is known only via hunches, dreams and the power exhibited by their most devout acolytes.
The Lesser Gods are beings which may or may not be recognized as gods by all faiths, but came into existence after the creation of the world. They can be immortal beings, ascended, or any of a multitude of "resident spirits" that inhabit various parts of the world, such as major geographic landmarks like rivers and mountains, seas, lakes, plains, and so on. Unlike true gods, these will often take interest in their worshipers.
- Aspects of nature – godlike spirits present in natural objects and places such as rivers, forests, mountains and trees. May or may not manifest themselves physically as some form of creature, mythical or mundane, or in mortal form. Typically possess great power over whatever aspect of the natural world with which they are associated. For example, a river god may have powers over running water and so forth.
- Ascended creatures – mortal beings that have, through one means or another, transcended their own mortality and inherited godlike abilities. Also includes heroic figures who are, for whatever reason, deified after death, even if they did not actually achieve godhood. An example of the latter would be Reis, mother of the Faestir race, who is worshiped as a goddess centuries after her death.
- Weird shit - Anything that doesn't fit into the other categories is this. Bongo Bongo, a god forged from the corpses of dead Gentry by the necromantic powers of the Goblin Lich Kings is an example of this.
Religions in the Unified Setting can be roughly categorized into two types: theistic and animistic. Theistic religions (found mostly amongst the humanoids) worship some or all of the gods and believe nature spirits and ascended creatures lack divinity. Animistic religions (found amongst the beastmen and Furnshakt humans) draw no such distinctions. Animistic faiths usually include some or all of the Higher Gods in their worship practice, but are not above appeasing and bargaining with other, lesser beings.
Religion in the Unified Setting breaks down along racial lines, with a few noted exceptions. These are the so-called major religions and while conversions are rare it is not impossible for a human to follow the drow faith or vice-versa.
The Faestir religion is unique in the world. Unlike all other races they don't require a creation myth. They know exactly where they came from and why they are here. Reis, the first Faestir , was created via the lifewarping of a desert rat by the draconian Bahamut. No one is quite sure why he did this, but he created more to use as his elite troops in a civil war that split the Scaled Court.
As creations of the Draconian race, most of the Faestir faith is descended from that of their precursors. However, in modern times, most of the traditional beliefs are all but forgotten. Contemporary faiths worship Bahamut, who is seen as a creator in the most literal sense, and Reis as the origin of the entire species has become a "mother goddess" figure in Faestir culture. Very few still worship Leviathan.
The corgyn follow a simplified theistic religion. It is based on a primary pantheon of two gods with several lesser demi-deities. As it goes, the sun deity, Danann (Quiet Joy, Loving Mother, Creator of the World) runs across the sky, trying to escape the darkness while the moon deity, Dagda (Loud Sorrow, Steadfast Father) chases her into eternity. Being enveloped by darkness, he is often unable to catch her. Instead of being totally in darkness, Dagda is continuously inspired by reflecting Danann's radiant beauty upon the world. As such, full moons tend to be good omens while new moons speak of dark omens. Every solar eclipse marks a festival of marriage and family, as it signifies Dagda finally catching Danann.
While beautiful, the corgyn faith is also incomplete. Unlike the other races, the corgyn religion contains no creation myth. They claim no descent from Danaan or Dagda and refuse to speak of their origins. This is chalked up to corgyn superstition.
The corgyn are a superstitious people with a dizzying variety of rules they insist outsiders follow. These include: never wearing certain color combinations, never be outdoors near midnight, never developing certain patches of land and most maddening of all, NEVER explaining the origin or reason for these superstitions. The few naturalists who have studied the corgyn describe them as an amiable and loyal race who grow incredibly nervous and tense when these superstitions are questioned.
In a letter delivered posthumously by his sorrowful corgyn hosts, the noted Professor Fransless announced his intention to deliberately violate these taboos in hopes of getting an explanation. Sadly his body was never recovered after he vanished during one of his late night strolls.
No one is quite sure what religion the doobies follow. Efforts by naturalists to understand their spiritual beliefs have universally ended in madness, suicide, death by liver failure or drug overdose and abandonment of the project in frustration and confusion.
The only information consistently recognized as true is that Doobies don't actually like gods that much; after all, how on earth could a so-called "god" be more perfect than a Doobie?
For ruthless, cutthroat raiders turned ruthless, cutthroat merchants the Wila are a surprisingly pious race. Wila take their religion very seriously, but consider it a private and personal matter.
The Wila faith is a theistic religion, but it is unclear which or how many gods they actually worship. This is because their pantheon is known as the Masquerade, and the gods are represented by different masks. During ceremonies, the actors/clerics playing the roles of gods frequently swap masks to show the interchangeability of roles in society, and the need to be adaptable.
Paramount amongst their gods is Zantos, The Faceless God (believed to be the moon by some, darkness by others and all or none by others still). Zantos is always portrayed as weaker than his foes, but intelligent. He almost always triumphs though, through trickery, cunning or preparation. While the other gods of the Masquerade have ornate masks, Zantos is plain and featureless.
Because of the importance of masks in Wila ceremony, worshippers don such masks as well. Older Wila are known to wear masks during daily life, but most don them only at church, on special religious occasions or during private worship. Worship for the Wila, either at church or in private consists of experiencing tales from their holy book, which consists of the collected tales of their gods. One notable tale is Zantos versus the Faceless God, which sets Zantos against an enigmatic figure wearing his own trademark mask.
Outside historians studying the Wila religion have questioned the origin of these stories and suggest many are confessional in nature. Due to the Wila penchant for scheming it would be unwise for a trickster to reveal his triumph. Instead, say some scholars, they tell the tale in terms of archetypes, which remove any incriminating details.
The Wila admit this is possible, as they have no centralized church. The stories of the gods are ongoing and new plays and sermons are produced weekly across Zirnitraog. The extremely popular ones are incorporated into their holy book, while tired tales are sent to the archives. Since they see their tales as providing illumination and education instead of a historical record they welcome new works that can show them the path to success and communion with their peculiar gods.
Question: "Riddle me this, if humans worship the sun god and gnolls worship the moon god, what god do the dwarves worship?"
Answer: "The beer god! (Or money god, iron god, work god or beard god.)" - A Collection of Humourous Anecdotes Suitable For All Occasions And Audiences, Baetica Publishing.
Despite common belief, the dwarves have a theistic religion which recognizes all of the Higher Gods. The dwarves just don't bother with it much. The consensus view is since the gods stay out of our business it is common courtesy to do the same and not pester them with prayer.
The dwarven faith, like most theistic religions, holds that they were created by the sun-god who is the most powerful of the gods. Unlike the other races though they refer to Wotan (as they call him) as the Sun Within. Instead of life-giving rays from the sky, they praise him for providing engine-driving magma from beneath the earth.
Dwarven clerics are uncommon, but not as much as other races believe. The dwarven obsession with history and records overlaps with their faith and clerics are frequently mistaken for historians, archivists or masters of trivia.
One quirk of the dwarven faith is that all holy symbols and religious paraphernalia must be made out of iron.
Little is known of the grey elven faith, except that is theistic. Due to their ties with the Federated Kingdoms it is believed they hold the sun-god in high regard, which is compatible with their extensive use of lifewarping.
Gnolls are commonly believed to be too lazy and bestial to develop something as abstract as a religion. Like most commonly held beliefs this is utterly wrong. Not only do gnolls have an animistic faith, their shamans hold power and status equal to the tribal chief (also known as warleader).
This is even more surprising when you consider gnoll society. Unlike other races the females are larger and stronger than the males, creating a matriarchy. Males can never become warleaders or rise to any position of power in a tribe, unless they are shamans. Males who demonstrate their power can be readily promoted to the position of shaman and can contradict and command females without fear of retribution. While studies of the gnoll people are understandably limited, it is estimated that as many as 25 percent of shamans are male.
An additional surprise is the primary god in the gnoll pantheon. Like most animistic religions they recognize the Higher Gods even if they don't worship them exclusively. Unlike most other religions though they attribute their creator not to the sun-god, but to the moon-god who they believe is greater in power than the traditional choice. The gnoll creation myth is quite complicated, but involves the weak, male sun-god creating the other races while the female moon-god was occupied. Upon returning to the world she created the gnolls to harry and prey upon the lesser races as an amusing punishment for his dabbling. The gnolls believe the moon is supreme as it can be seen during the day, while the sun is never visible during the night.
The few naturalists who study gnolls (a hardy bunch to be sure) don't find this surprising at all. Gnolls live in a hostile environment and can't afford to waste shamanic talent because of gender. Gnolls are also nocturnal and more likely to identify with a moon god. This is the sort of talk that makes the Aurelian Commission for the Prevention of Moral Decay wonder if naturalists are lacking in piety.
If the goblins had a religion before their civilization was destroyed, it is lost along with their sunken homeland.
Goblins can be roughly divided into three types; ghetto, wild and remnant. Ghetto and wild goblins are descended from refugees who found homes in the cities and wilds of other continents after the great disaster. Tolerated if never welcomed, they do their best to blend in and make themselves useful. This often involves adopting whatever is the dominant religion. A ghetto goblin living in Londerfell will adopt the Wila religion, while a wild goblin in Furnshakt will adopt the barbarian faith.
Remnant goblins are those who remain in the few remaining outposts of their civilization (notably the Sundered Isles and the Orzfandrecht freeport in Everoc). During their desperate struggle for survival these goblins lost whatever religious trappings they had and were left with a handful of theistic clerics stripped of all but devotion to the Higher Gods.
In an effort to survive and keep their refugee peoples unified, the remnant goblins maintain a worldwide merchant fleet, touching on every continent and uniting the goblin communities in a web of trade and information. While this has done little for their religion it has made goblin sailors unmatched in the variety and eloquence of blasphemy and curses they can utter.
If the goblins can be said to have a religion, it is a secular faith in their race. Despite their wretched condition the goblins uniformly believe that they once rivaled the draconians, sacrificed their homeland to save the world, and will be restored to glory when the Goblin King Jareth returns. Since most of their kind ekes out a miserable existence as expendable labor few take these legends seriously.
The humans of the Federated Kingdoms follow a theistic religion with a twist. Instead of worshipping the Higher Gods they insist there is only one god, the sun-god, and that all other gods are only a part of him.
This belief comes from a cleric known as Aurel who lived several centuries ago. The Revelation of Aurel, is a history of his life and teachings which forms the cornerstone of the human Aurelian faith. Other races see the so-called Revelation as a mere semantic distinction as humans continue to worship the other gods in the traditional ways and merely add an addendum praising them as aspects of the sun-god.
The center of the Aurelian faith is the Kingdom of Aurelia (formerly Prelarn) where Aurel lived and taught. The capital and spiritual center is a beautiful realm of white marble, gold rooftops and green parklands (representing the colors of their deity).
While their wide avenues are seemingly undefended, the Aurelian capital and all pilgrims approaching it, are guarded by an elite force of powerful paladins. The Knights Solar evolved from the royal guard of the ruling noble family (which quickly adapted when religious fervor swept over the former Prelarn) They were originally lead by followers of Aurel. While the order of knight-paladins have grown in power to eclipse that of the king himself, their rule over Aurelia is challenged.
Aurelia is holy ground, where Aurel himself received his Revelation. Numerous pilgrims over the years have claimed the same power of vision and uttered their own revelations. These prophets whip themselves (often literally) into public displays of piety and faith to win over the crowds. These visions often stir the blood of onlookers by calling for war upon perceived enemies of the faith. Popular targets are the barbarians of Furnshakt and the Knights Solar themselves, who are accused of corruption by protecting those whose faith is deemed unworthy. The paladins deny such accusations, explaining that they have a long tradition of defending all pilgrims, but the zealots eat it up.
Aurelia is a pressure cooker. One day some self-proclaimed prophet will win over not only the fanatics, but the faithful as well.
While the Federated Kingdoms have more than their usual of dogmatics, the majority are relatively tolerant. Adamant believers are a small but influential minority.
The barbarians of Furnshakt reject the Aurelian faith and instead have an animistic religion. The local nature-spirits are notoriously demanding in terms of pain, endurance and blood.
The Illith are unusual in that they do not worship gods. On some level, it could be said that what they worship is themselves, thus turning each of them into an extremely weak god. Few surface dwellers are even aware of their existence. The Illith plan to dispel that ignorance soon, in a manner most unpleasant to the hated surface dwellers.
The kobolds follow an animistic religion, though they take a very open view of what is and isn't worthy of appeasement. In addition to worshipping whichever of the Higher Gods they have heard of and anything resembling a Lesser God near their camp, kobolds are willing to pray to anything if it helps them survive. As one kobold shaman explained it:
"We worship the one-eyed dire camel because he's mean and big. We worship the big red rock because it is useful for hiding behind when you see the dire camel coming. If they listen it is good. If they don't listen it is not bad. How is this different from what the other races do?"
Toltecatl society revolves around their religion, whose main god and goal both translate into PROGRESS! Toltecatl believe they must learn all that can be learned and use that information to advance their race. It is common for young Toltecatl to go on pilgrimages across the world, amassing whatever information they can. When they feel they have learned enough they return to their homeland to present their findings to the archivists.
That seems pretty simple, but nobody is sure what the Toltecatl actually worship. Toltecatl speech is notoriously difficult for outsiders to interpret. PROGRESS! (both the god and the goal) both derive from the same root, are uttered as verbs in a notoriously verb-heavy language and both have imperfective aspect, active voice, imperative mood, are present-active infinitive, future perfect tense. The god form is third-person singular and neuter. The goal form is first-person plural. Because the god-form is a verb, debate rages whether the lizardfolk have an actual god, are animistic or instead follow a philosophy.
The sergals once followed an animistic religion. Like much of sergal culture, 30 years of Governor-General Rains bloody rule and 70 subsequent years of military government have erased much of what they once believed, replacing it with devotion to a military state. It is commonly said that the only god a sergal worships is their former drill instructor.
Sergal shamans still exist in the Silvoran Empire, but they must walk carefully, lest their theology conflict with military decrees. The Silvoran Empire draws no distinction between willworkers who draw their power from magical or divine sources and use both equally in their war machine.
Adherents to the old religion still exist, both amongst the southern rebels and in underground northern meetings. Most sergals however place their faith in their fellow soldiers, supplemented by ancestor worship which never presented a challenge to Rains domination and thus survived. A few sergals have turned to worship of Rain herself, forming the Cult of the Eternal Empress.
These are faiths (often disparagingly called cults) that are not widely held. They can be persecuted by the major religions, but most governments prefer to keep a watchful eye on them.
While there is a Higher God of the earth, there are those who whisper of powers below even his realm that must be appeased. This faith is frequently found amongst the normally unflappable dwarves of Everoc, causing great consternation to the Lordships who rule the dwarven fortresses.
Adherents say that those who dig too deep risk unleashing monsters who were entombed at the beginning of time. They also say that in the depths of the earth, in the still darkness that can only be found far deeper than most dwarves go, one can hear the heartbeat of a chained and angry god. A steady pulse, almost a drumbeat which some have dared to name Bongo Bongo.
The Cthonic Cultists Dance the Dance of Ruin, an ancient dance to the drums of Bongo Bongo. This is the giant necromantic effect that spawns the necrostorms whenever someone else casts necromancy, and which imprisons the Goblin Lich Kings at the bottom of the Ocean. By extension, this also holds most of the Ilith there as well.
If the Dance ever stops, the world will know silence. For a time.
Cult of the Eternal Empress
Governor-General Rain, who forged the Silvoran Empire, terrorized the world and delighted in slaughter is dead. After thirty years of empire and blood she inexplicably vanished. That was seventy years ago. She is dead.
That's what most sergals believe, sort of. Rain mastered potent magics in her later years and there is always the chance she might return. To be on the safe side her chambers remain untouched, except for annual cleaning and maintenance.
Then there are those who are certain that she not only lives, but will return to lead the Silvoran Empire to new heights of glory. These cultists have declared her Eternal Empress and long for that day. To pave the way they do all in their power to influence the Silvoran Empire towards conflict. Guided by her hidden influence it can only end in victory, giving her greater power when she returns.
At the height of their power, draconians were worshipped by the lesser races as gods. The draconians are now extinct, but the faith in them has endured.
There are those who believe the draconians are not extinct, but are instead hiding or hibernating. True believers know that the draconians will return, and reward their followers with unmeasurable wealth and power. They are often found in the lawless human cities of Lindwurm, seeking out draconian ruins for signs of their slumbering masters.
It is worth noting that this is not a minor religion among the Faestir, most of whom worship Bahamut, their creator, and some of whom worship Leviathan, who helped their race long ago.
Necromancy is a dangerous pursuit. Scholars agree it lead to the downfall of the draconians and the destruction of the goblin homeland. Commoners lament the destruction created by the necro-storms that spiral out of the Sea of Ghosts and are eager to take up torch and pitchfork against anyone suspected of the foul practice.
But the power it offers is too much for many too resist. Some seek life immortal, others a chance to reunite with dearly departed if only for a moment. Regardless of motives, necromancy and necromantic cults have proven impossible to stamp out. For every ressurectionist and reanimator made an example of, a dozen more meet in secret, practicing the darkest and most blasphemous of arts.