If you’re running a fantasy game, chances are you’ve got a pantheon and a polytheistic society, as is tradition. But something I’ve noticed over the years is a tendency towards clannishness. You’ll see “Temples of [Insert God Here]” and “paladins of [Specific Deity]” all over the place. This isn’t necessarily bad or wrong, but when combined with evangelizing, it can indicate a monotheistic mindset.

As a counterpoint, let me quote from the Strange Aeons AP that I’ve been running lately. The description of a chapel within Briarstone Asylum (the primary location for the first book of the adventure) struck me as interesting.

The Briarstone chapel is consecrated to Pharasma, as suggested by a prominent statue of the goddess standing before the sanctuary’s westernmost wall and depicted on the spiral stained glass windows. However, there are smaller, candlelit shrines to other deities, including Abadar, Desna, Erastil, Gozreh, Iomedae, Irori, Sarenrae, Shelyn, and even a modest donation box beneath the symbols of Asmodeus and Zon-Kuthon. Several lesser deities—including almost any deity a PC might worship—also have ledges with symbols and candles here. Each serves as a place where the distressed can come and pray for guidance or mercy for their afflicted loved ones.

Now it’s important to point out that, in the fiction of the AP, this asylum is a major institution. It’s meant to serve the public at large, and so it makes sense for a non-denominational place of worship to exist inside. Many real world hospitals have similar setups with “meditation rooms” or a “prayer room” rather than a specific religion’s church. But notice the specifics here. Evil deities like the archdevil Asmodeus and the Hellraiser-esque Zon-Kuthon have a place at the table. The full gamut of major divinities are acknowledged, and the implication from the author is that PCs with unconventional religions should feel at home as well. In other words, these are not jealous gods, and that can demand a shift in mindset for contemporary players.

If you’re going to evangelize as a cleric, smite the non-believers as a paladin, or otherwise follow a single religious dogma, it’s important to remember that your character likely still acknowledges the other gods in the pantheon. You might think your way is the best or that your god is the strongest, but unless you’re one of those weird atheist types, you’ve got to admit that there are other divine fish in the celestial sea. For non-clerical types—all those fighters and rogues and wizards without a designated patron—you’re just as likely to whisper a quick prayer to a death god as to a protector of travelers.

So what does any of this have to do with today’s comic? Simply this: If you’re in a run-of-the-mill city or town, your religion is one of many. There might be common regional divinities and favored cults in a given country, but most civilized settlements will accommodate your faith in a live-and-let-live sort of way. The moment you start demanding special privileges though— insisting that your way is the way, and that your god demands XYZ from the locals—you’ve set yourself against the rest of the pantheon. And as Drow Priestess is discovering in today’s comic, that’s no way to win friends and influence people.

All of this leads us to our question of the day! When it comes to representing a polytheistic society, do you tend to favor state religions and devoted theocracies? Or does your game world adopt more of a laissez-faire attitude as in the Briarstone Chapel example? Let’s hear about your rabid priests and overzealous clerics down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.