RP Guide - Divine Trivia (Cleric Alignments, Churches, Frictions)

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Copper Dragon
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RP Guide - Divine Trivia (Cleric Alignments, Churches, Frictions)

Postby Copper Dragon » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:48 pm

The RP Discussion Forum has been used previously to give plenty of information about the gods, to ask and answer questions about them directly and about some servants of them, specifically paladins. There is a comprehensive topic regarding Polytheism in Faerun, made by EdinSumar, which will hopefully soon be re-uploaded. Stay tuned.

A list of TER's deities & domains is here:

Below you will find no information on how Polytheism works in the Realms, nor how the Gods are or are not, nor how they are revered. You will read about "fun facts" regarding various aspects of worshiping the Gods; how clerical alignments are defined; how some faiths display schisms, small or large; and how evil deities and their churches have a place in the Forgotten Realms.

I'd like to share information that likely your characters won't know directly, but that might inspire you to make new characters or to add new details to your existing PCs' backgrounds, even to their opinions.

Note that I make no assumptions that TER's Team also enforce these lore snippets or if they have houseruled some of them, meaning that they altered or ignored some of the canon rules for their own setting. While FR resources are handy to have, no server or campaign is obliged to follow the established FR rules.

This post has the following primary topic:

Clerical Alignments
The One-Step-Rule
In this thread I'd like to start with clergy alignments allowed by the deities. There are a few that have interesting or contradictory rules on who receives spells and abilities.

Note that, while TER has adjusted the class name from cleric to priest, I will keep referring to clerics in this post. This is to differentiate them from those clergymembers who do not have access to spells. Priests and preachers can receive titles, but technically speaking a Tyrran priest could still be an evoker wizard, of which there is a concrete example in the Waterdhavian temple of that god.

As you know, deities' servants abide by the one-step-rule: only those aspiring clerics receive powers that are maximum one alignment-step away from their deity's. A LG deity can have LG, NG and LN clerics.

There are however specifications and even exceptions to this, especially in the human ie. Faerunian pantheon. The pantheons of the other humanoid races do not seem to show deviations from the one-step-rule.

Specifications: The NG and NE Deities
One would assume that NG and NE gods apply the one-step-rule just like any other deities, and as such have alignment prerequisites that allow four respective alignments, rather than but three which the one-step-rule otherwise always implies. Where a LG deity allows LG, NG and LN (3) servants, a NG deity should in theory allow NG, CG, LG and TN (4), and the same applies to NE.

This is however not the case for many NG and NE deities: apparently neither of the two, generally, allow for clerics of TN alignment. The clerics of a NG god can only be NG, CG and LG; idem for NE.

For example, Lathander, NG only gives spells to NG, CG and LG servants; Shar, NE only has NE, CE and LE clerics.

This seems intentional; perhaps FR's developers aimed to further enhance the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, by allowing less of a greyzone for NG and NE deity priesthoods. Perhaps they wished to differentiate clerics more from druids, or better separate the Good, Evil and Neutral deities. It might also simply have been made this way so that NG and NE deities still only have "claim" over three specific alignments instead of four.

There is more to be said about this topic however.

Exceptions on the NG and NE Ruling
Over all, the NG and NE deities seem consistent about only allowing good and only allowing evil clerics respectively.

The exceptions to this ruling are: Chauntea, who grants spells also to TN clerics; and Mystra, whom I'll discuss in the next point in detail. Chauntea's granting of power to TN clerics might stem from her role as a nature deity and a counterpart to Silvanus, or because she has an aspect called The Earthmother venerated on the Moonshae Isles where she is herself TN.

As for Mystra and a handful of other deities...

Exceptions on the One-Step-Rule
Several deities besides the NG and NE ones do not limit themselves to the one-step-rule. Again, this is mainly something that occurs in the Faerunian pantheon, as the gods of dwarves, elves and gnomes keep themselves more limited. No surprise; humans and their cultures and religions have always been more exposed to change and incredible diversity, compared to the other races.

The exceptions are as follows:
The aforementioned Mystra, who, in her newest incarnation after 1358DR, is of NG alignment but still allows the alignment range that her predecessor (the LN Mystra) permitted for her clerics: Mystra's clerics can be NG, CG, LG, LN and LE. The high priest of the House of Wonder in Waterdeep is LE and a necromancer. One might appreciate some irony in this.

Kossuth, god of fire, is an elemental higher power. Unlike the other elemental lords he is rather active in supporting and guiding his clergy, and despite his TN alignment allows for clerics of a bigger range: anything except CG and CE.

On the topic of TN deities, Oghma and Gond are peculiar as well. They are both TN and focused on pure, "blank" ideas - that of knowledge and invention respectively - and perhaps because of this feel no need to limit themselves to specific alignments. Both of them value ideas above alignments. As such both allow clerics to be of any alignment, whether that is LG or CE.

All other deities seem to follow the one-step-rule for their clerics. One exception still deserves mention: Sune, who allows for paladins but is herself a CG deity. While she does call on paladins she does not have LG clerics.

Next I would like to address friction within churches and, later on hopefully, the public image of some of the evil gods.
Artemis D'Assanthe, Dawnmaster
Udhana, the Kinless
Dhovainithil, Silver Elf
Jhasira of the Bai Kabor, Dawnbringer (deceased)

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Copper Dragon
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Factions Within Churches

Postby Copper Dragon » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:49 pm

Factions Within Churches
The FR setting offers an overwhelming amount of deities to worship, but it does not stop there. Indeed, while the gods are active and responsive, mortals still can and do make various interpretations about their deities, leading to friction within a church. Within several churches an interested scholar would find sub-factions, heresies and cults.

Split Churches
The Oghmanyte church is divided into the Orthodox Church and the new factions. Outsiders likely don't notice and don't care for the reason of friction, as all factions serve Oghma in much the same way and with the same everyday goals. The splintering of Oghma's church occured shortly after the Time of Troubles and is still on-going: the reason behind this is the disappearance of the Grand Patriarch, the leader of the Oghmanyte faith, during the Time of Troubles itself. The Orthodox Church claims that he will return and does not wish to appoint a new Patriarch; the new factions claim he is dead, or at Oghma's side, and believe a new leader should be nominated... no doubt from the new factions.

The Waukeenar church currently suffers from a lack of information from their Goddess of Coin, as she has gone missing ever since the Time of Troubles. Though sources do not mention outright fracturing within the church, the irresponsiveness of Waukeen may cause for many theories, which in turn may lead to friction.

The Chauntean faith is split into two groups: the druids and the clerics. One must mention that the groups are not hostile to each other, nor have they different goals in general; they simply view the other group as less-fitting to serve Chauntea than themselves. The druids have "always venerated Chauntea", and consider the more recent city disciples to be upstarts. The more civilized priests, in turn, feel that the druids' day is done, and while druids are still useful in wild lands, the rising nations need and organized, professional faith controlled by a more reasonable and rational clergy.

The Silvanite church of druids and priests is similarly divided.

One might not suspect the Ilmatari having cultists in their midst, but it is the case shortly after the Time of Troubles; the region in which the cultists are active is unknown or undefined (you might find that convenient!). The neutral cult of Ilmater believes in passing suffering around to others, especially nonbelievers. They are noted for self-flagellation, kidnappings, and inciting riots.

The Realms are home to many more cults, but most of them are not in such opposition to the ideas of the faith they claim to belong to. Some are focused on non-existing or dead deities.

Furthermore, cults can form around heresies. The topic is discussed below, though only a few named cults dedicated to these heresies are mentioned in the sourcebooks that I possess.

The majority of practitioners of a faith and the greatest part of clergymembers adhere to the established dogma and concepts of their church, but there are always those few who think differently, whether they proclaim it openly or promote their view subtly.

Chaotic churches are by their very nature focused more on small-scale congregations. As such one chaotic faith might have many interpretations of what constitutes as "appropriate" service of the chosen god. These interpretations do not count as heresies; the spirit and overall tenets of the faith remain the same.

Heresies are seen as false (and possibly as something dangerous) by the churches that they branched out from; below you'll find a few that your characters don't necessarily need to know about, but may be interesting to you as a player.

As always, DMs' and TER Team's discretion on these apply.

Selune & Shar: The Dark Moon Heresy
In this concept Selune and Shar, the supposedly original twin goddesses of light and dark and alleged creators of the world, are considered as one and the same entity. Moonlight and darkness belong together as different facets of the same, and are only separated in mortal comprehension.

Selune: Heresy of the New Moon
Technically no longer considered a heresy after Selune's direct order to one of her priestesses, the Pact of the New Moon was or is a group of lycanthropes in service of the Moonmaiden. They are given special abilities while in their animal and hybrid forms. The church considered this a heresy and anathema to the Moonmaiden's beliefs.

Tyr, Torm and Helm: The Heresy of the Three-Fold God
Although this is a heresy that the sourcebooks only mention from 1384DR on, it might be worth a mention. In this belief the three deities are considered to be aspects of one god. This heresy is spread and supported by a group dubbed the Eye of Justice, whose base of operations was in Westgate.

Lathander: The Risen Sun Heresy
The Morninglord's church tolerates a sect that believes that Lathander is the reborn aspect of the Netherese sun-god Amaunator.

Lathander: The Three-Faced Sun Heresy
Related to the heresy above but not being quite the same, the Three-Faced Sun Heresy claims that in once-flourishing Netheril, the sun was worshiped in three aspects: its highsun (noon) aspect; its dawn aspect; and dusk aspect. These three positions would be taken in by Amaunator, Lathander and Myrkul respectively. Each would have their appropriate time to reign and follow each other in a cycle.

After the Time of Troubles, with Myrkul's death, the heretics of this belief claimed that the time for Lathander's rise arrived, and that after him (or from within him) Amaunator would rise next.

Other Possible Heresies
The goddess of lies, Leira, was slain and consumed by Cyric during the Time of Troubles, but some of her worshipers claim that she is still alive and her death was but an elaborate lie.

The god of tyranny, Bane, was similarly slain during the Time of Troubles. Some might believe that he lives on through his fiendish son Iyachtu Xvim.

The goddess Angharradh is not considered by sun elves to be an actual deity; it is mainly moon elves who believe in and pray to her.

Some contemplate that Sune and Hanali Celanil are the same entity, though clergies of both faiths would go against this.
Artemis D'Assanthe, Dawnmaster
Udhana, the Kinless
Dhovainithil, Silver Elf
Jhasira of the Bai Kabor, Dawnbringer (deceased)

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Copper Dragon
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Evil Faiths and the Public Opinion

Postby Copper Dragon » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:50 pm

Evil Faiths and the Public Opinion
Gods are nothing without active worship - and the most effective road to active worship is to spread the word in public. Good and neutral gods are easy candidates for worship seeing as their dogmas are socially acceptable and appealing, revolving around helping each other or supporting one or another group to flourish. By their definition evil gods would have a much harder time promoting lipservice from the general public, since rare is the farmer who prefers murderous or treacherous neighbours.

Nevertheless, the evil gods exist as much as the good and neutral ones and most people pray to them from time to time - in order to stave them off. The farmer would pray to Talos not to bring his terrible storms on the crops; the sailor will pray to Umberlee before a voyage not to sink his ship; the intelligence agent might pray to Mask to hide him as he enters enemy territory. The evil gods aren't ignored - because they cannot be - although that does not make them loved, nor their clergy popular.

The churches of evil gods do not seem to avoid the public altogether however. They have temples and clergymembers in known locations, or even populated areas, where the everyday man can find them - and they aren't driven out. How do they manage that?

Might Makes Right
An evil cleric could walk around freely in a town if they are confident that they will not be stopped. Whether they've bribed the authorities to leave them to their business, terrified the locals enough to be feared or otherwise could prove their power, most people rather step aside than be stepped on by these obviously evil but unopposed clergymembers of a dark god. The average town dweller or villager tolerates such a presence begrudgingly, in part also not to draw the attention of the evil god by harassing their servant.

Paladins - the champions who oppose evil and corruption - are unfortunately fewer in number than evil clergymembers, and cannot represent their ranks in every town or hamlet. As such if the evil priest is careful or lucky they might bully a community for a long time before a notable opponent comes along. This is especially true in countries other than Impiltur or regions without a central authority.

Any cleric or clergymember of an evil faith could be of this sort given the chance and right place. However some gods have a more dangerous reputation than others and might seem to pose a more direct threat to one's health than others. Good examples of such would be the Umberlee (goddess of the seas) and her servants who must be tithed before one sets sail; the clerics of Talos (god of storms and destruction) who are often terribly intimidating and don't fear collateral damage; or the clergymembers of Beshaba (goddess of misfortune and mishaps) who are eager to threaten with "Black Bes's" revenge if they are harmed.

The second most obvious route to establishing an evil presence in populated areas is subterfuge and lies. In particular the clergy of the goddesses Shar (goddess of secrets, loss and darkness) and Loviatar (goddess of pain and sadism) employ manipulation to earn lipservice for their deities, attracting gullible members of decadent society to the flock. Attractive clergymembers are tasked with bringing in new people to the fold, preferably people of influence and wealth to hit two birds with one stone for the church - bring in new worship and more power. The manipulative evil deities' churches flourish especially in more corrupt or chaotic regions such as the Vilhon Reach and Sembia.

Among the other races' deities Abbathor, Great Master of Greed is a notable example of subtle evil, planning to undermine the whole dwarven way of life - without the knowledge of the dwarven pantheon even!

Public Service
The at first sight least likely - but a commonly known - method of evil churches for acceptance comes through some form of public service. This is often a contextual and region-specific service rather than a global policy on part of the evil faith: after all, evil's purposes are self-serving and destructive in the long run rather than meant to genuinely help anyone. In instances where the evil faith has made a deal with an authority they still uphold their evil practices - but they do it behind closed doors if they are smart, or their contract won't last long.

The country of Cormyr has made agreements with the church of Malar (god of the hunt, beasts and bloodthirst), allowing the faith a presence in the King's Wood and on the eastern borders of Cormyr as long as they hold themselves to the law of said land. The authorities use the Malarites as a means of border protection against potential Sembian attacks, who would come through these mountains and forest, and who would in this case first clash with the Malarites before they could attack Cormyr forces proper. The Malarites don't know or don't care about being used as a buffer against Sembia, and they also don't hold themselves to the law necessarily - they just make sure to commit their crimes in the silent vastness of the woods.

Armed Service
The Cormyrian city Marsember likewise has an agreement with the local Loviataran faith, who offered armed trained troops for law-enforcement in exchange for a presence in the city. In a similar vein Banites (of the now-dead god Bane, god of tyranny and domination) are known for their military excellence and discipline and a town or city could conceivably employ some Banite law-enforcers or military officers.

The Malarite church has a custom in which the faithful hunt and bring food for villages in winter, especially to isolated or endangered communities. This is something most Malarite groups take part in.

The clergy of Talona (goddess of poison and disease) sell medicine against toxins and illnesses and treat the "untreatably" ill in exchange for some form of profit. They don't necessarily mention that they do this after having spread sickness through a community or that the untreatable patients are chosen from their ranks...

Evil in Conclusion
Most evil churches seek a balance between appealing to the public and committing atrocious deeds on the same public. The common man harbours little love for them but understands he cannot escape them, while some authorities abide by the "live and let live" principle, attempting to leash and control the evil faiths with moderate success. Good and evil churches will always be in conflict and usually will not manage to be represented in equal numbers in a specific community; one will usually have the upper hand over the other and restrict it as much as possible.

The struggle of evil and good deities and their churches remains eternal. Both fight to win the hearts (or submission) of commoners to finally turn the tides; but unless a radical shift in the cosmic balance occurs there will be no winning side. And the common man has greater concerns than religion and the world's fate, anyway...

This concludes the Divine Trivia topic. Thanks for reading! As always the information is susceptible to TER's own interpretations and isn't to be considered official.
Artemis D'Assanthe, Dawnmaster
Udhana, the Kinless
Dhovainithil, Silver Elf
Jhasira of the Bai Kabor, Dawnbringer (deceased)

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