Religion in Fantasy Worlds
This post was inspired by a post at the KORE rpg blog about the topic.…
With a Divine spellcaster, the magical energy used to achieve an effect is channeled through the caster’s faith in a supernatural force. This force can be as straightforward as believing in a deity or more open-ended or philosophical such as the belief in a cosmic consciousness, the spirits of nature, or the ghosts of ancestors past. And though the end result of casting may be the same as a wizard, many Divine casters use personal rituals.
When we were working on Moebius Adventures we always loved the concepts behind ritual magic. These are the bigger spells that could only be done with larger amounts of casters, magical energy, components, or skill to gain bigger effects. For instance, a one-person Teleport spell could be transformed into a much larger Gateway to move additional people or equipment.
Rituals are broadly defined in WR&M as a way for participants to “pool their mana” to meet the DL requirements for higher circle spells that might be otherwise out of reach. Partcipants are still beholden to the mana cost for the spell and any spell enhancements, but the difficulty level is reduced by 1 if it’s done in the minimum time (1 minute for 1st circle, 5 minutes for 2nd circle, etc.).
Ultimately my question is this… Though this application of ritual magic is good – shouldn’t it be able to do more than that? Or am I looking at this the wrong way? Should it work more like there’s a 4th Circle spell – Mass Last Rites – with bigger bang that should only be performed by mighty powerful priests or a group of priests on the same mission?
For Divine magic, I’m thinking about rituals like:
It gets more interesting when you look at how the effects are applied and how they stack if they’re done with friends.
For instance, let’s say a priest is delivering Last Rites to a dead or dying person. Perhaps this ritual helps their soul get to the afterlife. Perhaps it blocks them from rising as the walking dead. Perhaps it is nothing more than a way to make their family and friends left behind feel better.
If you take Last Rites into the wild where it’s simply a priest and the deceased, that’s one context. If you have a priest performing the ritual in a temple, church, or other holy place, that’s a different context that perhaps lends more weight or strength to the ritual. And if you add in more priests all performing the ritual at the same time, that’s yet a different context that lends additional strength to the ritual.
Let’s look at it from a different angle. What happens if Last Rites is a way to settle the restless dead – your textbook zombie? It may take a minute for a priest to do the ritual on a zombie – and it may require touching the zombie on the forehead with holy oil. Not necessarily a great position to be in obviously.
Perhaps if you and your priest friend both are doing the ritual, you can knock off the requirement to touch the body and affect a zombie at a distance. Add another priest and maybe you can affect a group of zombies. Add more priests and maybe you can affect a much larger group of zombies… Can you imagine a group of priests all performing a ritual while wandering through a town infested with zombies – and watching zombies fall around them like driftwood?
So maybe in the Last Rites example, there would be three spells – Last Rites (1st or 2nd circle), Last Rites in a Holy Place (2nd or 3rd circle), and Mass Last Rites (4th circle). And it would be up to the priest (or priests) to decide when to go it solo vs. with a group.
As you can see, I’m still trying to figure out how to best integrate some of these ideas with WR&M and am getting there slowly.
What do you think?