Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Eagles' Brood (Gaming Edition)

The Eagles' Brood
Written by Jack Whyte
Book 3 of the Camulod Chronicles
Price: $25.99 ($16.04 at Amazon)
Historical Fiction/Fantasy (Arthurian)
Pages: 623 (mass paperback)

Author Jack Whyte, author's website here, http://www.jackwhyte.com/ , has a lot of great bits in volume three of the Camulod Chronicles that anyone running a role playing game, ranging from Pendragon to Dungeons and Dragons and other games, can snag for their own campaigns.

Religion: Religion can be a tricky subject in role playing games that have a historical origin. However its important to note that even now, in 2016, people living today do not believe as people living one hundred years ago did.

Expand that out to hundreds of years ago, or thousands, or in a fantasy setting where the gods are real entities, and well, the subject of using religion in and of itself should be a no-brainer.

In The Eagles' Brood, there are two separate times that religion takes center point in a manner that should be incorporated into a RPG.

1. Funeral Celebration: When Merlyn's father, the son of one of the founders of the colony, of Camulod itself, is slain by assassins, the colony's morale is damaged. Merlyn is encouraged to set his father aflame, as the old tributes to Mithras, who was the Roman god of soldiers. This burning was like the bit in the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, where the keeper of the crown calls for he and his son to be burned like the kings of old!

In doing this, Merlyn makes his father more than a leader, he makes him into a martyr. He makes him into a hero. He makes him into a legend.

This turns the funeral into one that was somber and of despair into one of joy and triumph. 

2. Religious Schism: The second scene, is when Merlyn decides to visit a gathering of priests who are set to debate religion, or at least, Christian religion itself. History is sadly full of wars waged in the name of the "right" religion. A lively debate is far easier to handle. 

In a fantasy game, this isn't as hard to do as it may seem. In the Forgotten Realms, the Sun God has two identities. During the Twilight War, written by Paul S Kemp, the religion is changing at the time. It is going from one face of the Sun God to a harsher face.

In other venues of a pantheon, there could be discussion if the gods even exist at all. While in some settings like Planescape or the Forgotten Realms, the evidence may be obvious, in others like Eberon, it may not be so obvious.

Even in deity rich settings like the Forgotten Realms, some gods like Ao, a god above gods, may not want mortal worshipers, even actively discouraging them by providing their clerics with no power and never answering prayers. 

But why use such a thing in the first place? What is it going to bring to the campaign?

If you've ever run a campaign, especially a fantasy one or a space opera one, there is an old stereotype about "the bar" as a place for all characters to be.

But what if all the characters meet at one of these events? What if there is a gathering to discuss apostates and heresy? What if certain factions are cast out of the clergy itself? Are any of the player's some odd class that might be effected? Have worshippers of the god Tempus declared that psioncis are anathema to their cause and all psionic using professions be slain on sight?

Or what if the characters are all effected in some manner, by the death of a great hero whose funeral has been declared a holiday through the city? While the background of meeting in a bar might still remain true, the background why the characters are there, can be a little more varied. One could be a grandson, proud of the sacrifices made by his grandmother. Another could be a student from a school founded by the deceased hero. Others might be drawn near to hear tales of this character's greatness and to draw strength and inspiration from it.

And as an adventure seed, perhaps others are not so pleased and decide to attack on this holiday, leaving the players the only ones in the vicinity to halt this blasphemy. 

To make it even more interesting, you can have the attack lead by another student, one who was not impressed by this "false" hero, one whose so upset that they died because it proves all of their teachings were in vain and that other methods, harsher methods, must be embraced. 

It also provides the Game Master with reasons why high powered or well placed individuals might be around. The players may have social reason to be within reach of the powerful and well placed and well, if your players are anything like mine have been, there will be many a tale from that in and of itself that could provide hours of amusement.

Another thing that you can add to the campaign setting to make it more unique, is a new "site" or a new monument to the fallen hero. Characters may recall the first time they came together as a group over that monument and spill a decanter of wine to the fallen hero. They may assemble together every year during this holiday to forgive and forget old trespasses. 

Religion has a myriad of uses in a campaign setting and the Game Master should be on the lookout for every opportunity to utilize them and make his own gaming easier.