So, you’re interested in writing a religion for your character to follow, or perhaps building on an existing in-game religion for your character’s backstory? Well, we’re always interested in seeing that, but it can be a bit tricky – here are some guidelines to help you get started.
Start With Scale
In general, the more personal the religion, the easier it is to fit into the game world. Remember that, in historical instances, there were any number of tutelary deities, minor place spirits, and personal interpretations of larger religions – we’re not quite used to seeing that in the modern age, due to the prevalence of several larger faiths. So, if you’re thinking of writing a religion for your character, think about how they might have come across their faith, and the amount of work necessary to make it work – if you’re writing a minor, personal deity from your character’s home village, then you don’t need as much detail as if you were to write out a major god or goddess whose worship is universal across, say, Vandregon.
This scale also ties into another aspect – what sort of temples, shrines, or holy places might exist for your religion? In general, think about how you can keep this tied to the thematics of the religion – a nature deity would likely appreciate being worshipped in natural groves, whereas a more mercantile one would prefer sacrifices of money in spaces where trading occurs.
Think About Origins
Where might worship have originated? What appeal does this deity offer to those who worship it? In general, think about why a character would be drawn to worship – there’s generally a promised afterlife, and tenants that the average follower would feel make sense. This helps give your religion weight and feel a little more “real” – it’s hard to justify worshipping a god that places arbitrary prohibitions (for example, worship of a death god that prohibits any helpful acts), or concerned with only one thing to the exclusion of all other activities – even gods of war tended to have larger portfolios than simply battle and bloodshed, including protection, wisdom, and even policing (Seriously: Ares may have, at one point, been written as a god of watchmen. Most of our knowledge of Greek myth is Athenian, so it casts him in a slightly more . . . negative light).
While you’re thinking about origins, it’s also a good time to think about some of the original myths. As Last Hope is a low-fantasy game, it’s rare – even unheard of – for the gods to directly appear or intervene in the world. Yes, there is provably divine magic, but at the same time, the world where the gods are striding around overshadowing humanity (and Syndaranity, and Ulven. . . ity) is harder to make a personal impact. It’s also recommend that you avoid direct prophesies that are provably true or false – having a god of endings with a prophecy that points to Faedrun being doomed is okay, but one that directly states, “The undead will overcome Faedrun, and they will flee to a land with wolf people” is a little too direct for this sort of thing. In general, the fates of mortals is free from major divine intervention, and leaving room for interpretation builds for better stories with more possibilites to interact with.
Look At Worship
How does one worship this god? Is this religion organized in any way, or is it simply a personal belief, spread among various individuals? How is it passed along? Do you have any rituals, prayers, or curses associated with it?
All of these things serve to flesh out a religion – it’s rare that you’ll find any type of worship that places absolutely no expectations on the followers, and this is especially true of games with divine magic. They’re good bits of character flavor – there’s just something more pleasant about cursing the name of an in-game deity when your luck runs poorly or your character has reason to be frustrated. If you’re writing something up, detail some of this for others to read – writing it out helps to make it clear in your mind, as well as makes it easier for you to describe it to other players in-game and teach them about your history.
Look at Real-World Examples
I always recommend looking at real-world examples when writing this – they often point out little beliefs or structural similarities that you can work with when writing something for your character. At the same time, be careful of cribbing too much from real world myths and legends – while taking inspiration is one thing, it’s important to make things distinct and unique to your character, as well as the game world itself. If you’re going to borrow, try to blend things into an interesting mix, rather than changing a few names and mentioned locations, as the game world isn’t exactly a 1-1 correspondance to the real world.
Think of Symbols, Signs, and Sayings
The last part to look at is designing the outward appearance of your religion – are there certain behaviors, symbols, or phrases that mark someone as a worshipper? Are there certain objects that are sacred to their worshippers? If you’re designing stuff like this, think of how you can represent it in-game – the key phrase is oftentimes “Show, Don’t Tell”, and in terms of personal symbols, this is an important one. Making things overly complicated only makes life harder on you to represent it, and the key in many religious symbols is simplicity and recognizability, even if crudely made.
As a final note – please please please don’t just use symbols from real-world religions. We’re looking to avoid offending anyone, and while all of these symbols have historical origins, the confusion that this could create might make things a little harder for you.
Check Out Other In-Game Religions
Finally, before you’re done, check out what some other writers have done with in-game religions: there’s a wide variety of examples that are here, and we really hope to see the pantheons grow over time!