"Realistic" things that no-one actually wants to deal with in fantasy games

DarkStarling

Brilliantly Crazed
Validated User
One realistic thing that people seem to gloss over in gaming is religion. Yes, there are clerics and paladins and whatever, but the religious beliefs of PCs, particularly in culturally pre-modern settings, gets short shrift. Religion is extremely important to history, and was generally very important to individual people until very recently. We live in a mostly secular era and I think we have a hard time modeling how powerful something like the threat of excommunication could be.
Definitely agree people skim over it. Even the clerics, it's just another casting class. Which is frankly a shame because it's got so much potential.

Probably because they think of interactions with real deities as transactional rather than spiritual? Or they just aren't spiritual to begin with? Not sure.
 

Dagor

Registered User
Validated User
Well, with religion you get the issue that "realistically", religion in a world where such things as gods demonstrably existed, regularly intervened on the part of their worshippers, possibly granted powers to a subset of the latter and just maybe could be flat-out encountered on the road...would probably work rather differently from religion as we know it in real life where none of these things ever seem to actually happen. (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind; mortals in all sorts of myths and legends still interact with gods that really exist in those stories just fine even if they don't delve deeply into esoteric theological speculation courtesy of having their gods pretty much right there.)

I mean, the alternative would probably be to keep religion familiar and instead leave the existence of the gods ambiguous, but then we'd likewise be back to "clerics are just casters" because then who could say for certain where their magic really came from...
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
Religion is extremely important to history
OTOH, not always equally important. It's easy for Euro-Americans to take Christianity as normal -- and if you were really trying to emulate a medieval game, a la Ars Magica or Pendragon, that'd be relevant. But animists and polytheists basically don't have religious wars. Greek religion was important to tying the city-states somewhat together, and you could get prosecuted for "atheism", but there's no analogue to the Crusades or the wars of Reformation.

For a lot of history, religion was just what you did, it wasn't something to fight over or proselytize. You had your gods, they had their gods, no big deal. The exceptional monotheist religions -- Christianity, Islam -- got a lot of people *because* they proselytized and fought, but across religions they're very exceptional. Buddhism also has a missionary impulse, but gets along better with other religions. ("We're not denying your gods, we're just saying they need enlightenment too.")

Probably because they think of interactions with real deities as transactional rather than spiritual
A position informed by reading Greek myth and epic, which seems far more transactional than numinous. "Thank you Poseidon for not murdering me on the ocean, I will now sacrifice this bull."
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Quadruped Transhuman
Validated User
Also I think there's a certain amount of freedom in modern Western societies that lets people deal better with the idea that they might make their group and its leader unhappy. There are a great many of us in this day and age who can say pretty much whatever horrible things we want about the person in charge of us and that's allowed (perhaps even enshrined as quasi-religious), whereas in the past (and still much of the present) if you don't kowtow to the guy in charge all your support gets cut off and/or someone beats your @$$. Which they mentally extended all the way up to the beings "in charge" of the cosmos.
 

FoolishOwl

Registered User
Validated User
One realistic thing that people seem to gloss over in gaming is religion.
Because it's a difficult, uncomfortable, and potentially tendentious topic for a playing group to deal with.

Personally, as a non-believer, I've wondered how to portray religious belief in a fictional setting, but respectfully -- I'm not a New Atheist, but I don't want to be patronizing either.
 

R-90-2

Can it be SNEK TIEM?
Validated User
A position informed by reading Greek myth and epic, which seems far more transactional than numinous. "Thank you Poseidon for not murdering me on the ocean, I will now sacrifice this bull."
And then there were the Romans, who had things like the evocatio, a rite where their priests would try to convince the gods of a besieged enemy to abandon their current accommodations in exchange for the superior amenities of Rome.
 

Reynard

Registered User
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Well, with religion you get the issue that "realistically", religion in a world where such things as gods demonstrably existed, regularly intervened on the part of their worshippers, possibly granted powers to a subset of the latter and just maybe could be flat-out encountered on the road...would probably work rather differently from religion as we know it in real life where none of these things ever seem to actually happen.
But to believers, these things DO happen, every day. I am an atheist (I do try not to be a dick about it) and am fairly regularly astounded by the amount of magical thinking and attribution to supernatural powers I see in today's day and age. I am not sure that to less secular societies the powers of clerics and druids or whatever aren't an every day "reality" for those people. I mean, people still go about stoning witches to death for magically stealing penises in the modern world.
 

Dalillama

Registered User
Validated User
I am an atheist (I do try not to be a dick about it) and am fairly regularly astounded by the amount of magical thinking and attribution to supernatural powers I see in today's day and age. I am not sure that to less secular societies the powers of clerics and druids or whatever aren't an every day "reality" for those people
There's a difference between that and a cleric who can demonstrably call down a bolt of lightning to strike someone who pissed them off, or close a gaping wound purely by praying over it. People will attribute recoveries from illness to divine intervention, but nobody looks at someone who's bleeding out from a massive cut and says 'prayer will solve this!'
 

Reynard

Registered User
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There's a difference between that and a cleric who can demonstrably call down a bolt of lightning to strike someone who pissed them off, or close a gaping wound purely by praying over it. People will attribute recoveries from illness to divine intervention, but nobody looks at someone who's bleeding out from a massive cut and says 'prayer will solve this!'
But in a world that also has fireball casting wizards that part wouldn't be especially important relative to belief, would it? The power of the god wouldn't be in the magic, because lots of people could do magic, but in the spiritual aspects. Those would still be true for people.
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
One realistic thing that people seem to gloss over in gaming is religion. Yes, there are clerics and paladins and whatever, but the religious beliefs of PCs, particularly in culturally pre-modern settings, gets short shrift. Religion is extremely important to history, and was generally very important to individual people until very recently. We live in a mostly secular era and I think we have a hard time modeling how powerful something like the threat of excommunication could be.
I mean, I don't care what the player characters degree of religiosity is, because individuals have always had a pretty wide variety of levels of religious belief--even in pre-modern times you have plenty of individuals who just aren't that into religion, and player characters are exceptional individuals anyway. But I always put lots and lots of religion, religious organizations, churches, religious factions, cults, etc. into my RPG settings, because religion is interesting.
 
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