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  • Priests: What do they do?

    I figured this would make a great spin-off topic. The discussion so far:

    Originally posted by Aquillion
    I think the takeaway from all this prayer discussion is that the books need to spend more time talking about what priests actually do. Before, they sort of threw the basic mechanics for a prayer roll at you and left you to figure out a lot of it on your own.

    A few religion-related charms of some sort for Zeniths would be excellent; I think it's fine to say that prayer (and, maybe more importantly, preaching and interacting with your flock) is fundamentally communication, but most of the other castes have charms that are immediately and obviously relevant to their main definition, while the Zenith charms have generally been more "well, these could be useful to a priest, in addition to a ton of other people." The only really specifically priestly charm they have in 2e is the Smite Evil stuff in Presence. I'm not saying they need a bunch of priest charms (Zeniths are not just priests, and besides, the abilities are used by other castes to an extent and need to stand on their own rather than just as a caste's powers), but at least a few would be good.

    But I think there also needs to be more discussion of how being a priest works in Exalted even without charms.
    In other settings priests are the line of communication between mortals and the divine. In Exalted, this role isn't really necessary since mortals and gods interact on a regular basis and, when they do require Exalted intercession, this role is best filled by the Eclipse Caste Solars whose whole purpose is to handle these kinds of interactions.

    Historically priests were educators among other things. In Exalted, this role is handled by the Twilight Caste with their Lore Charms that deal specifically with education.

    In some societies priests also held political power ... something which, again, is probably more in the Eclipse territory with their emphasis on relationships, socializing, interactions, et cetera.

    So, really, what is the point of having a priest in a setting in which even your average street rat can probably have a chat with a god?



  • #2
    I believe it has been stated that the corebook will have a section written by Grabowski detailing religion, which I imagine will answer the question quite definitively.

    Ah, here's the quote, from the "What we Know" wiki:

    Q: What is the formal role of Grabowski on the team? (MissMaddy)
    A: He is offering advice, looking over drafts, and doing some writing. I had him write up the money and religion sections of the core. I also had him do some fiction. I am now wrangling him into naming all the new Solar Charms. (John Mørke)
    So, that's definitely a thing.


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    • #3
      Okay, so, in 2E we had a Sidereal Hearthstone that gave the one attuned to its manse a divine aura such that gods would generally regard its holder as a divine being. Mechanically this meant a +1 to Socialize rolls when interacting with god.

      Taking this idea: What if a Zenith Caste had an ability or Charmset that allowed them to temporarily shift into godhood itself? Their natural state is one of being dematerialized, their form becomes a little more abstract, et cetera. Mechanically this could mean a bonus to interacting with gods, could also mean the chance to use/handle Quintessence, could mean having a formal place in the Celestial Bureaucracy. Although this could mean stepping on the toes of Sidereals.


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      • #4
        As John put it, the function of a priest is to manage the temple bureaucracy, the needs of which will vary wildly from one god to another.


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        • #5
          It's going to depend on what kind of priest they are, of which god.

          An itinerant monk is different from a temple hierarch is different from an Immaculate exorcist is different from a Zenith Caste Solar.

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          • #6
            I usually think of priests in animistic settings as shamans, those who delve into the alien psychology of spirits and gods and act as mediators and translators for their communities. Even if gods and spirits are accessible to everybody doesn't mean they're necessarily understandable. That's where you you have a niche for a specialist in spirit psychology.

            Of course this sits oddly with the Solar Castes, which makes it feel like it fits oddly with everything because it sometimes feels like the Solar Castes are supposed to be the template for all of human activity. I'm pretty sure that's not the case, but it still feels like that, since Solars are the main protagonists of the setting.

            What I mean is that the expert in spirit psychology are probably the Eclipse Castes, but it very clearly says that the Zeniths are the Priests of the Solars. If you look at the Zenith Caste Abilities, it doesn't make them seem like translators of any kind, but more like national level social powerhouses. Their place doesn't seem like a mediator, but rather someone that withstands such paltry considerations like negotiation and inspire followers into foaming zealots.

            Sooo ... maybe priests in this setting are slightly different from Solar priests, or maybe priests in Exalted are meant to deal with people and the evocation of prayer instead of negotiations with spirits?

            Edit: Oooor ... the role of a priest is wider than a single Caste and both the Zeniths and the Eclipses are good priests?
            Last edited by Ophidimancer; 01-21-2014, 07:09 PM.


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            • #7
              The role of a "priest" in an animist setting (or pseudo-animist, as a know) is like that of the shinto shrine maiden; they're the keepers of the keys, the ones who make sure the ceremonies are performed in the right way at the right time to keep the gods happy.

              This isn't really Zenith territory, though. In Creation the above is shared between Eclipses (intercession between humans and gods is fundamentally a political endeavor), Twilights (who learn the secret ways of all things), the Sidereals (all of them), and all of the individuals for whom "priest" is their career choice, mortal and Exalted alike.

              In terms of relationship with the divine, Zeniths project an image closer to the Chinese, Japanese, or Roman emperors (or heck, Catholic popes). Appointees (or literal children) of the highest gods, they intercede between humanity as a whole (or their country as an entity, if they acknowledge a distinction) and divinity as a whole. The form (maintaining ritual platitudes and such) is similar, but the responsibility is very different. They set policy rather than managing individual negotiations.

              In Zeniths who aren't also kings of men, this manifests more as "prophet" than "priest".
              Last edited by Blackwell; 01-21-2014, 07:15 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Blackwell View Post
                The role of a "priest" in an animist setting (or pseudo-animist, as a know) is like that of the shinto shrine maiden; they're the keepers of the keys, the ones who make sure the ceremonies are performed in the right way at the right time to keep the gods happy.

                This isn't really Zenith territory, though. In Creation the above is shared between Eclipses (intercession between humans and gods is fundamentally a political endeavor), Twilights (who learn the secret ways of all things), the Sidereals (all of them), and all of the individuals for whom "priest" is their career choice, mortal and Exalted alike.

                In terms of relationship with the divine, Zeniths project an image closer to the Chinese, Japanese, or Roman emperors (or heck, Catholic popes). Appointees (or literal children) of the highest gods, they intercede between humanity as a whole (or their country as an entity, if they acknowledge a distinction) and divinity as a whole. The form (maintaining ritual platitudes and such) is similar, but the responsibility is very different. They set policy rather than managing individual negotiations.

                In Zeniths who aren't also kings of men, this manifests more as "prophet" than "priest".
                So you're saying that Zeniths do not fulfill the role that most priests in Exalted fill, but instead are theocrats? Huh, that makes sense.


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                • #9
                  Well, your average street rat can't have a chat with a god.

                  Because, y'see, the god doesn't give even the slightest fuck about your average street rat, or your average adult human, and even your average priest or king. Gods are generally incredibly ancient beings who view humans as these useful little creatures. We're like crops or livestock or at best pets to them. Sure, we can earn their affections by reminding them of themselves (Ahlat is pleased by humans who engage in his preferred forms of warfare in the same way I'm pleased when a dog does a neat trick or a cat plays on my keyboard-aw, it thinks it's people!), but it's not like they're super invested in us as individuals. They care for us in large numbers and in the abstract, unless they pick one of us out as a favored pet, and even then...well, we're not gonna live that long and while they'll mourn us when we go they're not going to sacrifice too much to help even an individual human they like: I'm not gonna shell out five thousand dollars for Fido's medical bills just so he can live another two or three years, and your god isn't going to rain fire down on the bandits who are going to kill you because raining down fire involves a similar amount of effort for most gods, and it probably involves pissing off at least a couple "real people"-other gods-over your favored pet.

                  Now, I'm playing the "we're like animals to them" card pretty heavily, but you can just as easily think of it as classism or racism. Gods are the types of beings who might smite said street-urchin for daring to speak to them, for speaking unasked to one's betters is an insult. But I like thinking of gods as farmers and humans as sheep.

                  Humans produce prayer, just as sheep produce wool and milk that can be made into delicious cheese. They're both useful resources, and you can build a living off them. You generally try to keep your sheep healthy and prosperous and numerous, that's just good practice, but their happiness...well, that's a bit less of a concern. In this analogy, your priests are your sheepdogs or your shepherds. They make managing your flock easier: they keep your humans on your property, providing resources to you, and they generally increase prosperity and health amongst your flock where they can. You probably invest some energy in empowering them and training them: after all, if your priests manage the humans for you, you never have to actually deal with them yourself, which leaves you free to socialize with other deities-people who actually matter. Like sheepdogs, your priests love you: you're big and smart and old and you give them a warm place by your fire to sleep, and the scraps from your table, and occasionally you send 'em cheap little visions to scratch 'em behind the ears, and really most priests and sheepdogs really do LOVE lording it over the sheep.

                  Of course, this is from the divine side of things. As far as priests are concerned, they are the chosen agents of their deity. They have real faith and honor and respect (hell, maybe even love) for their gods, and they see it as a sacred duty to pass on the practices and beliefs of their faith. Priests want power, most of them, and the way to get this power is twofold: they can gain power among their fellow mortals, and they can gain power by increasing the prestige of their god and thus empowering their patron. Sometimes they do this by being compassionate: caring for the poor or the sick, offering kindness and charity, etc: there are a lot more poor people than rich people, and their prayers are just as good, so gods are often kind and compassionate. Other deities do the protection-racket thing, and their priests are like a big bludgeoning instrument reminding the populace to pray lest their lack of devotion offend an angry deity. A mix of carrot and stick is appropriate. If they can get away with it, most priests would like to BE the entrenched power structure, and make their religious teachings law: deities love mandated worship, and priests love being able to charge taxes instead of asking for donations, and they really like to be able to command armies to assault the priests of competing ideologies.

                  So priests in Exalted are the faces of an entrenched power structure, just like any other mortals. A local priest is a community leader who decries or supports the PCs, or a mercenary out for bigger donations to improve his temple, or a zealot, or a rabblerouser. All the things priests and holy men have been in real life. Most of them don't get miracles out of their patrons, most of 'em don't NEED miracles out of their patrons to do their jobs. But every now and then a god'll smite someone who robs a priest, or grant a showy but minor special effect during a speech or something to remind the populace that there's real power here, so most priests get treated with honor and respect because it's safest to treat every snake as poisonous and every holy man as a potential Ten Plagues waiting to happen to you.

                  A zenith is really, really good at this job. Dawns are designed to conquer, Twilights to learn and teach, Eclipses to negotiate, Nights to regulate...but a Zenith is designed to rule in the name of Heaven. A Zenith manages the flock that is humanity, telling them what to do and believe and who to pray to, and people listen. A god who associates himself with a Zenith is guaranteed a large and prosperous cult which produces lots and lots of prayer...but a Zenith is a useful enough resource that he can afford to be picky, and lend his support only to gods he deems worthy. Therefore, gods are likely to make at least a little effort to get on a Zenith's good side.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by wulf View Post
                    So, really, what is the point of having a priest in a setting in which even your average street rat can probably have a chat with a god?
                    What is the point of having a courtier in a setting in which even your average street rat can probably have a chat with a ruler?


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
                      What is the point of having a courtier in a setting in which even your average street rat can probably have a chat with a ruler?
                      Valid point about priest being a specialized skillset.

                      Slightly different question, but are Zeniths as a Caste a model for what priests across Creation supposed to be? I'm guessing not.
                      Last edited by Ophidimancer; 01-21-2014, 08:19 PM.


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wulf View Post
                        In other settings priests are the line of communication between mortals and the divine. In Exalted, this role isn't really necessary since mortals and gods interact on a regular basis and, when they do require Exalted intercession, this role is best filled by the Eclipse Caste Solars whose whole purpose is to handle these kinds of interactions.

                        Historically priests were educators among other things. In Exalted, this role is handled by the Twilight Caste with their Lore Charms that deal specifically with education.

                        In some societies priests also held political power ... something which, again, is probably more in the Eclipse territory with their emphasis on relationships, socializing, interactions, et cetera.

                        So, really, what is the point of having a priest in a setting in which even your average street rat can probably have a chat with a god?
                        You've kind of got two things going on here, insofar as your question is "why should Creation have priests?" but the way you've actually framed it is "why would a priest PC be Zenith Caste?" Which is, like, a really different question. Then the topic is a third question. So I'm going to try to tackle these separately.

                        Everything you've mentioned -- priests as educators, intercessors between the human and divine, and local strongmen -- are all common, standard roles of priests in Creation. Those are, in fact, all Things Priests Do.

                        The other side of your question demands a longer answer, because it's a bit incoherent and there's a lot to unpack. First, please note that just because Lore is a Twilight Ability does not mean that other castes' purviews can't or shoudln't involve Lore-related activities. This is the old "why don't Eclipses get Presence?" argument, and it's not really relevant to what you seem to want to know. If you really can't get past the ability spread, though, Presence, Performance, and Integrity are all important to the activities you've described.

                        There are many, many Solar priests you can design that are not Zenith Caste, but priests are iconically Zenith because Zenith is associated with holiness and with moral and spiritual authority. However, the average Zenith priest is nothing like the average priest in Creation, just like the average Twilight scholar is nothing like the average scholar in Creation and the average Dawn warrior is nothing like the average warrior in Creation, and so on and so forth. Archetypal Zeniths are going to skew more toward "prophet" than "priest" insofar as the latter implies a more rank-and-file temporal position.
                        Last edited by Gayo; 01-21-2014, 09:04 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Zeniths are priests in the sense that when the gods want to talk to the guy in charge they talk to the Zenith because they know the Zenith is "in charge". Most interactions between the mortal and divine aren't best handled by the Eclipse because that implies that this is a transaction is between equals.

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                          • #14
                            I think John Mørke's distinction between priest and prophet was a good clarification of the Zenith religious role. They are prophets of UCS or any other good they may chosen. But hte default god is the Lord of Heaven himself. They can create religion or they can carry out ceremonies or attend festivals.

                            Festivals. I would to know more about Exalted's festivals... since they are there to honor gods high and small. The Order even have a calendar for that they have used as leverage with spirits that are bit to powerful for smashing or siddi-smashing.

                            EDIT: The difference between a mortal priest and Zenith is like between that of a soldier and a Dawn.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ophidimancer View Post
                              Slightly different question, but are Zeniths as a Caste a model for what priests across Creation supposed to be? I'm guessing not.
                              The difference between a Zenith Caste and a mortal priest is a bit like the difference between the Christian Jesus and a Catholic priest.


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