Let's add some fantasy to it

smascrns

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#1
You present a nice summ up of the relationship between society and religion in the real world. Yet, that's the weakness of the column, it lakes the plus that we add with fantasy. In fantasy religions often turn around gods with real power and a real intervention in mundane world affairs. How does that change the picture?
 

simon_hibbs

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#2
While I enjoyed the article, I have to agree with Sergio. If the gods do provide effective magic, and really do objectively exist (at least to some extent), then surely the religion is basically correct?

In the article the Chaosians world has disrupted seasonal patterns due to a past event, yet their religion tells them that this is due to an ongoing war between the gods. Which is correct? If the Chaosians are wrong, how come their magic works? Wouldn't it be a lot more straightforward and sensible to assume that they're basically right?

One niggle. Why would the Chaosians use gambling to resolve disputes? if they believe that the gods resolve their disputes by conflict, then surely they'd be more likely to use conflict to resolve disputes between themselves? After all, you're saying that they do not believe that seasonal changes are actually random. You know that it's random as GM because you know (or have decided) that the Chaosians are wrong, but they don't know that.

Best regards,

Simon Hibbs
 
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smascrns

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#3
One niggle. Why would the Chaosians use gambling to resolve disputes? if they believe that the gods resolve their disputes by conflict, then surely they'd be more likely to use conflict to resolve disputes between themselves?
I also didn't much agree with the argument about gambling but for a different reason: randomness is the explanation for the existance of a world alternate to the devine. It's the old argument between "God does not play with dice" vs. "the world came out on its own by accident". Gods provide order, even violent and unpredictable ones. Pure chance does not require them.
 

Mirkady

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#4
I was a little puzzled by this column too.

Assuming that the world of the Chaosians is actually inhabitable if it is quite as disordered as is suggested, how are their gods actually chaotic? Clearly the result of the heavenly war is a very fractured and chaotic set of seasons but the gods themselves don't seem to be. Each has a clearly defined set of characteristics that they set out to impose on reality come what may for as long as they can - which sounds more lawful than chaotic. The Chaosians's world appears to be more a conflict between opposed lawful powers than a belief in chaotic gods.

Surely the Chaosians would then seek to impose order by strengthening the right gods at the right time of year to ensure proper seasons?

I agree with Sergio about gods providing a degree of order in a disordered world. The Babylonian pantheon might appear more chaotic than the Egyptian one, by comparison, but they still had a similar role - Marduk's battle with Tiamat was as important to them as Horus's victory over Set.

Overall though, another engaging and - clearly- thought provoking piece.
 

Tom_K

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#5
Thank you everyone for your feedback. I always enjoy the comments, because they help me clarify my own thoughts in regard to the column. I have a couple points to address in response to the general feedback about this particular column.

1: As to the whole reality of the gods question, I designed the Chaosians to be a society with mythical gods. I try to make sure everything I write is in some way useful for general gaming, not just D and D. I wanted to give world building suggestions usable in any setting- modern, Sci-Fi, or non-divine magic fantasy. Of course, anyone could adapt anything I said for a D and D-like “self evident gods” fantasy setting. I would say just focus on the “culture as a mirror of religion” aspect of this process. The social order especially could be an extremely rigid parallel of the divine social order. For worlds with self-evident hierarchical pantheon, betrayal of the social system could be considered an objectively immoral act.

2: I was also bit fuzzy with some of my thoughts/descriptions about the Chaosians. What I trying to express was that they believe the world is shaped by the forces of divine conflict, and they try to allow those forces to also guide their social world through ritualized randomness- “divination” would have been a better word choice then “gambling.” I should also have better explained that each tribe feels totemic connection to a specific god or pantheon, whose cause they promote. Their whole way of life would be best suited to one specific season. When their god is in victory, they prosper over the others and when their god is in defeat they are in decline. They don’t want to keep the gods in balance, but make their god supreme.

Although “keeping them in balance” would be a totally coherent religious system for a different culture living in this situation. You could take it to the other extreme and make an ordered religion from a chaotic world- a social world that is an opposite of the religious world. I hope that I was clear that nothing I was suggestion was rigid or universal (all cultures/religions work this way!) I was simply offering some shorthand world-building suggestions. And I hope somebody finds those suggestions useful.
 

simon_hibbs

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#6
Although “keeping them in balance” would be a totally coherent religious system for a different culture living in this situation. You could take it to the other extreme and make an ordered religion from a chaotic world- a social world that is an opposite of the religious world.
That's an interesting thought. In fact any culture in such a chaotic world would be very hard pressed to survive, and so a very highly centralized society with the authority to enforce strict resource conservation, distribution and renewal strategies might even be a necessity for even medium term survival, especially for an urban society.

I was simply offering some shorthand world-building suggestions. And I hope somebody finds those suggestions useful.
Hoh yes, and very thought provoking it was too. I'm looking forward to the next article.
 

smascrns

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#7
That's an interesting thought. In fact any culture in such a chaotic world would be very hard pressed to survive, and so a very highly centralized society with the authority to enforce strict resource conservation, distribution and renewal strategies might even be a necessity for even medium term survival, especially for an urban society.
It reminds me of the debate on Law and evil that took place at the time of the Enlightenment. What was at stake was to decide if there was a relationship between morality centered on the concept of good and Law, or if - to the contrary - there could be Law even without morality and from an evil perspective. A German, philosopher, Fichte, came out with a convincing positive response.
 
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