I’m the host so really I should go first with these things but as with everything best intentions usually mean somethings going to get in the way.
My take on the topic of Religion in gaming comes from the side of your average Joe. One thing that always stuck in my mind about Forgotten Realms was that by our understanding everyone had to pick a religion but apart from the Cleric/Paladin outlook on things the books very rarely gave you a look at how everyone else dealt with it. Well apart from the warriors shouting, “By the Gods!” when they get a surprise that is.
I’ve seen players running Clerics and Paladins going about their daily devotions and doing just what you would expect a member of a religious order to do. Unfortunately it’s a rarity that those players remember all this about their character as most of the characters I’ve came across seem to only check in with their church/order as an when they need something or can be bothered. In fact I can only think of two that even prayed on daily basis in game.
When it comes to your average character however I’ve always tried to reward any that take an active part in their church. I’ve had a couple of characters in the past that due to their piety have managed to pull off things that they would have otherwise been unable to do.
A warrior we had in the group several years ago always made an attempt to attend church when he was in town and always went out of his way to make sure that 10% of his earnings from adventuring went directly to his local priest. On one occasion the group had to petition a local lord to help out with a problem effecting the local populous. We’d never made a big thing of it but at the larger services at the church the lord and his nobles would be there so I’d try and highlight them giving ahms to the poor never thinking much of it other than it looking like something from Prince of Sherwood. The warrior remembered this though and because of his generosity the church agreed to back his petition. I couldn’t ignore how well the player had done to a: remember the lords religious feelings and b: manage to orchestrate the support of the church as well as his fellow adventurers attempts. What was supposed to take 2 or 3 game sessions as they worked their way into lords good books turned into a session of political gaming and a little one-up-manship to keep the other players involved.
Whilst it wasn’t a benefit that couldn’t have been done any other way it gave me an insight into how the character looked at the structure and power of the church. The other example I as going to give was the complete opposite in terms of how the player interacted with religion.
The player had for some time been wanting to play a thief that was always getting into trouble. For many sessions their original character just seemed to sit at the back and do nothing. It wasn’t though lack of trying on both our parts it jut seemed to be the fate of bad dice rolls on random encounters etc. So we agreed they would retire that character and bring in a clumsy thief but one that really believed in their god. They didn’t even chose to follow a god of thieves and rogues. Instead they went with one of the gods more closely aligned to powers of good. The idea was that the thief only ever stole out of necessity but used their other skills to help out the party in their day to day business of adventuring and dungeon crawling. Before trying anything close to being illegal he’d say a prayer asking for forgiveness. If it came down to taking a life or causing pain to someone else again he would say a prayer.
Now I’m going to let you into a secret that I’ve never shared with any of my players.
In cases like this it’s not unheard of for me to grant my players very temporary powers along the lines of 0th-1st level cleric/paladin spells. In our thief’s case during a battle in a dungeon in which the party where getting seriously beat by what appeared to be zombies that could not be harmed by normal weapons our plucky thief said his prayer and dove in to save one of the other players from being dragged away and eaten. Little did he know that his little prayer let the god in question channels it’s power through his weapon giving him a low powered holy weapon but holy none the less. To this day I think he still believes he just got really good result from his dice rolling. He was also very good at not fumbling when he really really needed a decent result although those times were few and far between.
What I’m getting at basically is that you don’t have to devote your life to your religion in game in order to get any benefits from your god. Just because you don’t take up arms in their name or take a vow of poverty and shave the top of your hair off just to get your god to save your hairy behind.
I mentioned in a comment that I’ve having net issues at the moment but hopefully they will be sorted very soon. Being at home with a very limited net connection is killing me at the moment. I can’t read my daily blogs and I can’t post to my own blogs. In fact I’ve had to wait until I returned to work in order to post this over my lunch break. Oh Major Diety of Postal Workers everywhere…please bring me my new modem with much haste. If it takes a few offerings of dead chickens I can handle that but can I keep the meat afterwords? I don’t think my wife would be please at wasting them after rearing them for so long.