Monotheism or Polytheism, that is the question

So, you know me, always thinking and all. As I write this I am currently stuck in Kuwait, waiting for a flight back the States, my cheap ass refuses to pay for Internet and the phones have long lines, thus being a bit detached from the world at large (read: no Internet!!!). I have watched a few movies and am currently reading an excellent book called “Medieval Lives” by Terry Jones…yes, that Terry Jones. (I plan on reviewing this book at a later time, well worth the read.)

One of the movies I watched tonight was Season of the Witch with Nick Cage, all in all, not a terrible movie, but one that focuses on religion in the middle ages, around 1350 or something like that. Smack dab in the middle of the times this book is focusing on. Book. Religion. Movie. Religion. See where I am going with this?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

This all led me to my current state. I have been thinking about Sylnae often lately. I have been wanting to rework it, mainly as a tool to explore and write about the places, people, and history. In creating worlds, I have always thought the religion of any made up world is very important. After all, think about how important religion is in our world, how it has shaped the very world we live in. Heck half the wars have been fought for religion. (I have a saying that all men fight for either women or religion…true, it can be said men fight for power, but they only want power so they win a woman or to honor their god.) So, naturally I turn to religion when taking my first steps into a new world.

So the base question is: One god or many?

In my original Sylnae, the main kingdom had a single human god, Aesir and I wrote an elaborate background that was very very christian like. In my story the one god came down to his people at a time of great need and sacrificed himself to save them. He later rose again and ascended to the heavens. At first I was reluctant to take this path, concerned that the players might reject as being ‘too close to home’ but what I discovered is that my players, most of them, actually seemed to prefer this. One player who’s character was a cleric of the single deity jumped at this chance and always had an underlying plan of converting, or saving, the masses. It was odd to see him dutifully tithe his money and treasure to the church, this coming from a player who was not in actuality very religious. Truly masterful role-playing I guess.

I also had many other gods as well the northern humans have norse like gods, the elves had their own, as did the Kiskovians. The Kiskovian people, a very tribal sort of minotuar people also had but one god. Sai, sometimes called The Sitting God was a more ‘islamic’ stylized deity that required ultimate devotion for his followers. There were four pillars that defined the faith: Prayer, Faith, Karma, and The Will. These guided the believers in the path of their life and taught them how to live in their god’s image.

It all went smashingly well.

I do not recall many games that have but one god, I always assumed this was sort of taboo, hitting too close to our own world for many gamers. However, the forays mentioned above have proven to me that it can be done, and that some players will actually enjoy this more than the more common polytheist views seen in many games see days. So I pose this question, is one god taboo in games?

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5 thoughts on “Monotheism or Polytheism, that is the question

  1. I am really digging my OSH game, I am thinking and I think it will stick with it’s system. As for the religion, not sure the direction to go yet, but I really liked the mono-gods when I used it before. Probably will do it again.

  2. And so it is that the Greek and Roman pantheon look very similar but for different names…An example of such mixed origins is the goddess Diana to whom the Roman king Servius Tullius built the temple on the Aventine Hill. From such obscure beginnings Diana was moved to Rome where she then gradually became identified with the Greek goddess Artemis…..It could even occur that a deity was worshipped for reasons no-one really could remember. ……The Religion of the State….The Roman state religion was in a way much the same in essence as that of the individual home only on a much larger and more magnificent scale.

  3. I have been running an explicitly pseudo-Christian game for a couple of years…the longest and most successful campaign I have ever run. It is a tremendous amount of fun and I think a lot of that stems from the fact that the assumed culture is a lot easier to plug into — my players have really made a lot out of their religious expression and practice.

    1. I have mixed feeling on it, especially in a group that do not know each other well enough. It might be easy to get some heated discussions at the table. Two things I know more than anything else that cause heated discussions: religion and politics.

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