Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mathetes to Diognetus: Chapter 1 Part 2

In his opening statement to Diognetus, Mathetes acknowledges “the most excellent Diognetus” and that he is “exceedingly desirous” to learn:
what form of religion [Christians] observe so as all to look down upon the world itself and despise death
In context of an FRPG (especially D&D), this is a very juicy quote.

From a Christian POV, death deserves to be despised because Christ overcame death by death on the Cross:
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? —1 Cor 15:55
In a world where death can be overcome through undeath via arcane means, the despising of death comes with it a whole new set of possibilities.

Imagine, for a moment, that the slave economy found in an ancient Rome were powered, not by human labor, but by undead labor. Then imagine there arose a religion whose practitioners not only could Turn and Destroy Undead but saw undeath as heinous. Imagine that they insist that the body is an integral part of the human person and that every human person is valuable, unique and unrepeatable. This would lead to an explosive situation where the Roman Empire analogue is going to see the Christianity/Church analogue as an existential threat.

This implies that the Turn Undead mechanic is exclusive to Christian clerics. This would necessitate re-skinning other classes to be pagan and Jewish priests or the creation of two whole new classes to fill these roles.

Some initial thoughts:
  • The 5E Warlock would do nicely as a pagan priest-class.
  • One could replace the Turn Undead mechanic with a “Lay on Hands” type of ability that would siphon hp from the pagan priest to their target. This could also be used offensively to siphon hp from victims to heal the priest. This would fit with the suggested necromantic/undead theme. I would also fiddle with spell lists.
  • One could also just require that pagan priests be anti-clerics and that Turn Undead is actually Control Undead and that they have to cast all the reverse spells within the Cleric spell list.
  • Pathfinder has introduced the idea of a Sorcerer who casts divine spells. In 1E this is the Oracle and in 2E the sorcerer’s bloodline can grant access to the divine spell list. This would be an interesting way to emulate the Jewish priest class. In B/X, by trading out the use of armor and weapons and limiting the number of spells known, a divine sorcerer could have access to spells at 1st level and be more of a spell-oriented class.
  • Since I am unlikely to find any references to suggest the existence of demi-humans, it might be interesting to re-skin elves as Jews.
Finally, if necromancy is so prevalent within the Empire, would the reason that citizens worship the Emperor as a God-King is the fact that the Emperor has actually embraced undeath as a lich as has been ruling for many generations? How common would undeath be among aristocratic families?


Fuzzy Skinner said...

The idea of an undead labor economy is a fascinating one. You might also find it useful to consult old movies for their different portrayals of priests. While the inaccuracies are irritating to the historian in me, they make for exciting possibilities in a purely fictional world.

As an example, Rabbi Loew from The Golem would seem to fit the sorcerer or warlock archetype fairly well. Summoning an arch-demon to learn the secret formula for animating a golem? That's pretty arcane, if you ask me.

FrDave said...

Hmmm...the minimalist in me is now really tempted to re-skin the elves as Jews...