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Religion in Exalted: Lifeless and Pale

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  • #16
    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
    You only really get that stuff a lot if you read classical works of fantasy/drama.

    I have sometimes seen somewhat decent consideration of religion in sci-fi, but that's a bit different.

    (Of course, there's CS Lewis, who was an actual professional theologian. But I guess by now he's not quite modern. I suspect Tolkien also could have written a, by the historical knowledge of the day, very literate story of Anglo-Saxon paganism or for that matter Anglo-Saxon Christianity, though he preferred not to.
    Also, I think if CS Lewis wrote those books today, many people would criticise his works as fringe propaganda brainwashing kids, or something. I mean, partly I think that mainstream fantasy readers are not, generally, very interested in reading books that really make you consider religious ideas, and editors know this. Fantasy can, sadly, be a somewhat unimaginative genre, unlike, say, sci-fi, which I think is really a pity.)


    Considering all of this, perhaps we should give Exalted some slack. It does put more thought into religion than a lot of gaming systems (here's a god for every alignment! These are the cool spells they give you!), and a lot of settings.
    Tolkien wrote myths, but never got deep into...well, faith. Tales from the Flat Earth deals with religion, but in a very critical way. I'd argue that Lord of Light is fantasy in form, and has thoughts on religion (and...arguably religous characters). Game of THrones(the first one anyway) has religion as a marker of culture at the least. Any telling of King Arthur has strong undertones of Christian thinking.
    I might say it's because fantasy often is pseudo-medieval, and hence assumed some variant of Christian, that religion isn't depectied as often(that and a cultural disdain for ritual and non-utility religion it seems). Although I might be wrong. I'm a bit behind on modern fantasy. As an anthro of religion student, this makes me sad.


    I did a lot of homebrew over here. PEACH.

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    • #17
      The Curse of Chalion is a series I would be hard-pressed to describe in any way other than theological fantasy.

      I love religious themes and most of my Exalted character concepts have had feelings, but it's all been stuff I've invented since, as someone pointed out upthread, Creation is large and religions are highly localized around the cults of particular gods.


      Glorious Solar Kitten

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Hark View Post
        The old devs didn't exactly see religion as a big deal. I know I got a lot of hate for suggesting that there should be charms that make use of prayer mechanics.
        No. I remember this.
        John's issue was that a lot of the prayer charms people were suggesting were better facilitated a divine shakedown rather than actual reverence. A Solar who prays to the local river god and genuinely expects them to drop everything they're doing and answer them because they're a Solar has adopted religious trappings but isn't really doing anything religious.



        Assorted homebrew goes here.
        Please help the Ex3 wiki grow. Even if it's just posting existing homebrew there so there's less chance of losing it.

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        • #19
          For those interested in fantasy fiction that deals somewhat heavily in religion, I would recommend James Blish's Black Easter and The Day After Judgement.

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          • #20
            The Terry Pratchett quote comes to mind: Wizards don't really *believe* in gods. Sure, they see them and they are real, but believing in them just inflates their ego. Also, "You don't here common people running all about say 'Oh Table, for which we are grateful, thank you for Holding Up our Food, without which we would have to eat on the floor' every time they have meal".

            So I can see how an Exalt might view the gods and their worship as a business transaction and not a divine experience. That said, there are probably a 1000 or more unique cultures in Creation. An Teng struck me as South East Asian, in my game its like Fantasy Indonesia+Khmer, and they have the temples and drums and spice offerings to their gods. On the Blessed Isle there are more of the modern Asian household shrines. It's as important to the story as you want it to be, but since you are by default a Heavenly God-King with Judge, Jury, and Execution powers, the local rain god isn't a metaphysical transcendent super presence so much as it is a large lizard that works at your town hall. Well, to me anyway.


            ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

            Message me for Japanese translations.

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            • #21
              Probably tough to keep treating a god with the same amount of reverence when you just leapfrogged them on the metaphysical totem pole.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Sorcerous Overlord View Post
                The Terry Pratchett quote comes to mind: Wizards don't really *believe* in gods. Sure, they see them and they are real, but believing in them just inflates their ego. Also, "You don't here common people running all about say 'Oh Table, for which we are grateful, thank you for Holding Up our Food, without which we would have to eat on the floor' every time they have meal".

                So I can see how an Exalt might view the gods and their worship as a business transaction and not a divine experience. That said, there are probably a 1000 or more unique cultures in Creation. An Teng struck me as South East Asian, in my game its like Fantasy Indonesia+Khmer, and they have the temples and drums and spice offerings to their gods. On the Blessed Isle there are more of the modern Asian household shrines. It's as important to the story as you want it to be, but since you are by default a Heavenly God-King with Judge, Jury, and Execution powers, the local rain god isn't a metaphysical transcendent super presence so much as it is a large lizard that works at your town hall. Well, to me anyway.
                This. The phrase 'Transactional Religion' is something my old mucker and I always tote out when talking religion in Exalted.

                Even beyond the Immaculates and the Cohtei, religion in Creation is generally written in a very martialistic way. After all, the gods exist, and most of them have little to do with the afterlife. Your village might be outpowered by the god, forced to give into them and honour them and perform festivals in their name... but that's not faith. That's just a tyrant, with a different power source.

                I feel the setting misses a trick here. I'd really like to see new faiths, beyond just people honouring the god of X because they're a god and X is a really really cool thing. Stuff like fleshing out the Bishop's Shining Path, or something like the Philosophy of Man, or an order of monks who claim to be trying to transcend Lethe. God and Exalt cults are fine, but they're one flavour of religion and not one I really find much of interest.

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                • #23
                  There is, ironically, a powerful disincentive in the setting for large populist religious movements about things other than transactional relationships with local gods -- local gods, who don't want local people distracted from their transactional worship.

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                  • #24
                    If you view religion as an economy, then interestingly, the Immaculate Order becomes technically oligo-fascist. The gods are worshipped directly, so they can be said to "own the business," but there are oligarchs - the Immaculate Order - regulating the "business" and what can be earned.

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                    • #25
                      I think it would be helpful if we got more of a sense of local mythologies that elevate their local gods. Like the Linnowans see Jorst as a god of all life/death/rebirth cycles, and see Caltia as having broken the world by defying the cycle; while Haltans believe in immortality as represented by Caltia having existed before Jorst’s indolence let death into the world.

                      Both legends of course are influenced by Exalted history as the Linnowan story reflects distant memory of Shogunate anti-Anathema propaganda, and the Haltan story reflects Lunar influenced anti-Usurpation propaganda.


                      Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
                        It's too far off to make predictions, but we're hoping to fit it into the schedule just before or just after Exigents.

                        I know you're pulling for an in depth supplement, but would this be touched on in Exigents regardless, similar to the DB book having some framing information about the Blessed Isle, but still being functional without also buying The Realm?

                        As mentioned earlier, Janest is pretty compelling because of her relationship with her god both before and after becoming an Exigent.


                        To contribute to the thread itself instead of just using it as an ancillary Ask The Devs-
                        I think there is more to the successful instances of spiritual relations that do already exist in the setting than what has already been discussed, and that is the god having personality and espousing certain ideals or behaviors. Ahlat is a prime example of this. The implied and explicit philosophy is what I want out of these religions, but maybe that's just me. Especially in a polytheistic situation you need a reason to go "this god is my god, because he kicks ass". Not everyone just worshipped Zeus because he was the biggest and baddest. They worshipped Athena because they thought being a smartypants was a good way to live etc.

                        I think there are two factors working against this, one which can generate stories, and one that kinda cuts them off. The IO stamps out worship similar to Ahlat's setup. This is then just a good old fashioned religious conflict. The second one, is that the heavenly bureau says that religions are against the rules. While clandestine worship sounds like it could be cool, it should be for certain taboo cult practices, not just a blanket "no". Otherwise, every religion is clandestine.


                        Raksha are my fae-vorite.

                        Reincarnation of magnificentmomo.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by MoroseMorgan View Post


                          I know you're pulling for an in depth supplement, but would this be touched on in Exigents regardless, similar to the DB book having some framing information about the Blessed Isle, but still being functional without also buying The Realm?

                          As mentioned earlier, Janest is pretty compelling because of her relationship with her god both before and after becoming an Exigent.


                          To contribute to the thread itself instead of just using it as an ancillary Ask The Devs-
                          I think there is more to the successful instances of spiritual relations that do already exist in the setting than what has already been discussed, and that is the god having personality and espousing certain ideals or behaviors. Ahlat is a prime example of this. The implied and explicit philosophy is what I want out of these religions, but maybe that's just me. Especially in a polytheistic situation you need a reason to go "this god is my god, because he kicks ass". Not everyone just worshipped Zeus because he was the biggest and baddest. They worshipped Athena because they thought being a smartypants was a good way to live etc.

                          I think there are two factors working against this, one which can generate stories, and one that kinda cuts them off. The IO stamps out worship similar to Ahlat's setup. This is then just a good old fashioned religious conflict. The second one, is that the heavenly bureau says that religions are against the rules. While clandestine worship sounds like it could be cool, it should be for certain taboo cult practices, not just a blanket "no". Otherwise, every religion is clandestine.

                          I think the idea of how the gods think their worshipers should live, their aesthetic beliefs on beauty or the like, and what is good in life all point towards away that more complex theologies could exist. The War Gods kinda all have this, with their personal notions of war shaping the culture of war in the region. More of that, definetly.

                          Sidenote, I'd like any such book to at least touch on how worship effects a god. I vaugely recall a few schemes in 2e mentioning gods trying to manipulate other gods by manipulating their cults, which seems...odd to me.


                          I did a lot of homebrew over here. PEACH.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Epee102 View Post


                            I think the idea of how the gods think their worshipers should live, their aesthetic beliefs on beauty or the like, and what is good in life all point towards away that more complex theologies could exist. The War Gods kinda all have this, with their personal notions of war shaping the culture of war in the region. More of that, definetly.

                            Sidenote, I'd like any such book to at least touch on how worship effects a god. I vaugely recall a few schemes in 2e mentioning gods trying to manipulate other gods by manipulating their cults, which seems...odd to me.

                            Or to continue harping on everyone's favorite war god, Ahlat, and how he moved from Walrus Mating to Cattle Raiding to MFIN DIRECTIONAL WARGOD.

                            pivoting back to the god's effects on it's society, its almost like corporate culture being shaped by a CEO's ideals and aesthetics. I know it is an imperfect analogy but bare with me. Differences in CEOs result in different office environments, with classic control and command types creating drab cubicle farms with particular dress codes. Then you have your Startup types where the office has beanbag chairs and foosball tables and beer on tap etc. Then you have Willy Wonka.


                            Raksha are my fae-vorite.

                            Reincarnation of magnificentmomo.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post

                              Something about this doesn't seem quite right. Just because you can see lightning doesn't make it less amazing. That your god can appear from thin air, pronounce divine judgement upon you, and make good upon his curses and blessings doesn't seem to reduce the fervor of religion, but to stoke it. You can point and say, "Look! See how amazing the god I worship is? That is why you should do as he says!".
                              The issue here is that in Creation, gods don't exist in isolation. On Earth, it was often pretty easy to attribute a lot of acts to deities, especially since it's not like there's a lot really save hearsay or authority that a deity did or did not do an act. In Creation, there are myths of things like wind bears, dragons, and all that. Worship of a god in this sense looks more like worship of any strong, potent indivdual with eclectic demands and interests. Lightning and showing up is powerful. It's also something that powerful beings in general do, and by itself doesn't grant really any authority to do or worship save coercion. Which well, there's an entire religion in the setting that works against this.

                              Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
                              Most people are unaware that there is an Undersecretary of Decaying Logs. The extremely learned, Sidereals, and rare individuals might know, but most of the world don't know that the gods are supposed to be filing paperwork with Heaven before doing anything. The corruption in the workings of Heaven can't even cross their minds.
                              I think folks do over-estimate how much folks think on the heavenly bureaucracy. But the question is why worship the river god over say, the god of the local forest, beyond the fact the river god threatens to destroy your farm if you don't. This can, mind, evolve to more elaborate and respectful transactions. Janest is brought-up there. Lots of cultures on Earth had....strained interactions with their gods. (The Aztecs gave blood to their sun god because otherwise the stars and moon wood eat the world and shit, the Akhadians gave worship to their god because they though tit did help them keep winning, the Japanese put Amaterasu at the forefront and as important by giving her grandson's lineage the eternal Imperial Reign, etc). But I think that it should be remembered that there is going to be some element of transacitonal behavior or response to that behavior (in the case of groups like the Order).

                              Or alternatively, religions might just not really care much about beings being worshipped. The Immaculate Philosophy has this Taoist element for instance where it's more about your own refining of Essence. The Cult of the Illuminated has not-gods that it worships. Medo's religion is about doing shit to be a cool ancestor ghost.

                              I woudl argue also that this view that religion that's transactionary isn't "real" religion probably is a result of the way the Abrahamic/Mediterrainean World Traditon of god and such affects things, as those religions often deal a lot with trying to give a lot of wonde,r power, and obligation to that wonder and power I think, plus a layer that the wonder and power by itself justifies worship (while at the same time I think often obscuring the still transacitonal nature of sin and such depending on how you answer things like the Euthyphro in context of these fates). The Romans were as I gather very much fine with doing stuff with a view with it as transactional. China same thing, depending on where your interstes lay and such. So it might also be a bit where Exalted, as a whole, just doesn't assume aspects of particular kinds of religion that are often the "Default" for many of its audience.


                              And stuff.
                              My DeviantArt Page // My tumblr // Exalted 3e Houserules

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                              • #30
                                Is religion even a term that is used in game. Do people say something like, " I follow the religion of the cloud fathers" . I ask this because I thought 'religion' was like ' King' and 'wizard' which are terms you just don't use in Exalted.

                                But to answer your statement. I would say that by a strict definition of religion, Exalted doesn't have any. Even the Immaculate Philosphy, as its name implies, is not a religion in this sense.

                                But by a broad definition, including elements such as veneration, self-cultivation, personal relationships, and divine progeny, there are religions everywhere in Creation.

                                I personally prefer it this way, mostly because its close to how I live in real life. But I understand that this is very different from what most of the audience have personal understanding of so a book about cults and schools of thought would actually be quite welcome.


                                How can I know if what I claim I know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I might not know? How can I know if what I claim I don't know to be true is rejecting the idea that there is something I do know?
                                -Zhuangzi

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