Storytelling, Tabletop and Pop Culture
So by now we’ve fleshed out the big points of your TTRPG faith (in parts 1, 2, 3 and 4) so today we’re going to start getting down into some details. Clerics, theologians, philosophers and scholars might relate to heady theology and debates over complicated ancient texts but for many people of various beliefs, it's more the daily rites, rituals and practices that are the primary way they interact with their faith.
These rites will go a long way towards setting the immediate character and vibe for your fantasy faith. You might know the War Cleric for ages before you talk about their theology of Just War but you’re going to notice immediately if they ritually douse themselves in blood after each battle. A special prayer or practice for specific occasions will help you hint at the more complex spiritual life underneath.
As you think through these categories, consider three categories: trope, subverted trope and randomness. The War Cleric and blood rites would be a trope, an easily recognizable character pattern that will help you hint at your faith’s nature. A subverted trope, deployed rarely, helps distinguish the faith and stops it from being a one dimensional presentation. Perhaps the War Cleric has substantial, reverential burial rites and obligations to the families of each person they kill in a duel. Perhaps they mark their graves with delicate flower circlets or write tear-jerking poetry of mourning.
And finally, a realistic faith will have things that fit into neither of these categories. Part of what makes real world faiths and philosophies feel more real and lived in is that not everything is neatly packaged and coherent. Maybe the War Cleric is religiously obligated to care for small rodents. It has nothing directly to do with War nor does it immediately evoke an aesthetic of War. It just is because that’s what the faith is.
Rites and Rituals
I’ve included several categories to help you round out your spiritual practices. You can roll and randomly select a few or just work your way down the list. Consider how these connect back to the elements you've already established. Maybe a practice is descended from a particular historical event. Maybe a prayer was written by an important reformer. Maybe only certain factions perform this or that rite.
1. Your faith practices a special ceremonial meal. What does it consist of? How often do they share it? What makes it unique?
2. Your faith recommends or requires daily prayers or meditations. When are they and what do they consist of? Are they subtle or obvious? What do you do if you’re occupied with something else? What should you do if you miss one?
3. Your faith requires a certain style or article of attire. What is it? Is it humble or extravagant? What is its function or symbolism?
4. Your faith forbids a common activity. What is it? Why is it not allowed? How consistently is this practiced by laity or clergy?
5. Your belief requires or encourages you to perform certain rites after every battle or every death. What are they? What happens if you fail to observe them? What makes them distinct from other folks?
6. Your faith has a very specific calendar of holy days, fasts and observances. What are some of the dates? How are they observed? Are they private or communal? Are they tied to a specific place? Are they open to outsiders?
With a few of these added to your fantasy faith you should have some practical every day ways to reflect your character’s beliefs and worldview. These can also be great jumping off points for conversations about contrasting beliefs and even a source for plot hooks or sidequests. A pilgrimage sidequest, an upbeat holy festival or an obscure, mystical rite can all make for great party excursions.
So what have been your favorite rites and rituals from your games or PC's? What's been the weirdest religious practice you've found in a game? Let us know in the comments!
Hi! I'm Colby. DM, Nerd, IRL Cleric and Writer.