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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:27 am 
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As it happens one of the two books I'm working through on my kindle is Bound in Venice ... a history of the publishing explosion that took place around 1500 centered on the Venetian Republic. A very charming piece of history filled with anecdotes and context taken from the lives of people like Aldus Manutus who ran one of the first major Publishing House in Europe. And helped create the modern idea of reading for leisure & pleasure.

Once German immigrants showed up in the Serene Republic (essentially the New York of the time period ... full of immigrants and a comparatively liberal laws) with the technology of Gutenberg's press they quickly caused an explosion of printed goods. Something that surprised me to learn was that Bibles made up no more than 25% of production. The most common books were grammars to help people learn new languages (usually Latin or Greek). The Classics were also popular. And if you knew how to ask for the things kept under the counter ... pornography (23 errotic Poems, collected with woodcuts images was state of the ... Uh... Art at the time).

One of the biggest costs was the raw paper. Printers & publishers sometimes ended up badly in debt or bought out by the people making raw paper. That changed with the invention of paper based on wood pulp rather than rags. Bindings were often expensive. Often you would buy a popular work and it would be unbound allowing you to spend what you wanted on the binding.

The market filled up fast & was seen as as a prestigious or at least glamorous proffesion. You could hit several dozens of different book publishers/sellers within a couple of blocks of the city center near St. Marks Catherdral.

Editions tended to be small. 300 copies would be a larger run. But lots of people produce the same classics and new editions are always coming out as stock as stock decreases.

While books are expensive, students and scholars,M secondary markets, intense competition & technological improvements drive the price down continually.

How much of this impacts the Arcanis campaign is questionable. I also share some frustration with players who access inappropriate knowledge. (I thought the guidelines in the Blessed Lands book was interesting attempt to address this). But though I largely agree with Cody, I don't think I'm quite as conservative as he is.

We know the Altherians have (essentially) the technology of Guttenberg (i.e. Moveable type press). It's not clear how long they've had it, but it's at least 50 years. So it's reasonable to assume that "the Arcanis Classics" are available to anyone of modest wealth who wants to have them. That should include the basics of the Mother Church, the Corayni Empire and e foundation of their states. It also probably covers the classics like the Theocracy of the Cleansing Flame. Because there are books being published it's certainly possible that someone in the ES (or Asure Way etc etc...) could get their hands on paper for rubbings ... Though Cody in undoubtedly correct that the paper is far more expensive than the chalk or chalk sharing the pouch.

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Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 10:36 am 
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One of the advantages of being in the campaign staff is that sometimes Henry will make clarifications to me when I try to write adventures expanding on ideas I have :P With his permission to post this. . .

Word of Henry: There are NO printing presses (a la the Guttenberg Press) on Arcanis. Period. As such, at this time all known works are produced by hand.

Now, this does make the whole "Altherian Press" reference in A:RPG rather dubious, and likely it got past fact-checking in the final document. That said, the word 'press' does not necessarily mean "Printing Press", but has (through its original meaning of the printing press) taken on the meaning of "media outlet". This means that by Altherian Press, we could interpret (even if only as a bit of a retcon) that they mean "the people in Altheria who produce this media for distribution." The reason it is 33% cheaper could be that the Altherians (the nation) have nationalized the industry of producing prayer books (which all God-fearing humans should own!) to undercut the industries elsewhere?

Anyway, a theory to ponder.

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Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
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Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 2:09 pm 
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Hmm. Good to know. I had assumed Altherian Press equals moveable type press. Never mind my discoveries in Bound in Venice...

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. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 4:01 pm 

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Suddenly I respect how much work all those copied of his letters Tukufu sends out a whole lot more.... Leaves me wondering how he manages to run a book shop on the side.

I guess he must make use of the scriveners he employs. I can just imagine their joy every time he finishes a letter that just must be sent out to his dozens of correspondents...

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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 4:46 pm 
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Well, if you are going to test the skills of new hires, I guess you need to get them scribing SOMEWHERE ;)

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Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 5:34 am 
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:D "Write faster! Or you all go out on the street!"

I have always thought that Tukufu's letters went out on a model (somewhat) similar to Cicero/Atticus.

Much about what we know of the end of the Roman Republic comes from the private letters Cicero was always writting to his best friend Atticus... After Cicero's death Atticus invited people to read (and copy) these letters and they spread widely enough to become part of the Western Canon.

I sort of assume there are no more than a dozen original copies of each Tukufu letter, but that they go out to acquaintances in "strategic" locations like major ports, seats of learning, or the Temples of Altheres. And the letters maybe get copied again or passed along by word of mouth from there to interested parties.

Of course in A Drink, A Dance, A Knife Henry revealed at least one powerful NPC in Ymandragore regularly read Tukufu's letters. Zoinks! So I don't really know who is on the reading list, or where the letters go. Because they are done IC, I have changed somewhat the "whats" I write as a result of that discovery. You never know. Tukufu is more careful to omit information that could get people hurt & tries never to poke powerful people in the eye with his writting. Could be other potentially hostile/undesirable readers out there. In particular the letters for Overdue would have been different but for A Drink, A Dance, A Knife.

Still. You can't become the "voice for your age" if you are never heard, so it's not like at Tukufu will stop....

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. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 4:57 pm 
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Religion in the Known Lands

I will start this post by stating up front that I profess no faith in real life. My reasons for this are plenty and complicated and I hope that those who do profess faith are not offended by my lack of it. Because of this, I do not intend to discuss WHY people have faith in this article, but simply describe the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ of religion and the mechanical structures involved and the historical precedents in our world which may inform one as to how the system works in this fictional universe.

That being said. . .

Religion in Arcanis is a complicated thing, and it shows itself to be something of a mixture of faiths and practices from around the world and throughout history mashed together in new ways. In a lot of ways, there are aspects of religion in Arcanis (primarily that of the Mother Church of Coryan) which in my mind do not adequately fit with the setting of the world which calls heavily on pantheonistism and early-Roman equipment. In other ways, it does not need to. Religion in our world has been constantly evolving for as long as it has existed, a point which has caused many religions such as Christianity and Islam which both make claims of a ‘final prophet’ (or a functional equivalent) stating the “true and final” word of God problematic. Whenever a religion enters a new area, it will inevitably fall victim to synchrotism with previous religions, forming faiths and practices which combine earlier practices and beliefs with the newly introduced ones.

Overall, the faiths of Arcanis follow many of the tenants of Abrahamic religions within our own world, with a heavy focus on Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity (though with some strong elements of traditions such as Islam and Judaism). Leaving aside all judgements on the relative merit of these faiths, it is understandable that this basic framework would be chosen by Henry and PCI in general as these traditions are the dominant religious practices of North Americans generally, and those specific individuals specifically. However, these practices are not the ‘natural’ state of religion, especially in the relative technological and cultural setting that of the Arcanis universe in relation to our own world.

Let us start first with gods. For the overwhelming part of human history, the concept of gods as far-away, omniscient, all powerful beings simply did not exist. The concept of gods (according to all of the anthropological works that I have consumed) originates out of shamanistic practices of spirits. Basically, everything in the world has a spirit, from the animals around us, the trees, rocks, the clouds, and even us. Whenever something happens involving these beings, it is because of the spirit. When lightning strikes the ground, the spirits of the sky and the earth are fighting. When one is sick, the spirit of the person is either lost or beset by other spirits. Many shamanistic cultures do not have a specific creator deity, and do not look beyond the immediate presence of these spirits when practicing their beliefs. Eventually, people began honouring certain of these spirits over others. As certain spirits became more honoured, the shamans which intercede between those spirits and the rest of the people became more important. Eventually, these spirits had temples and shrines built to honour them and the shamans focused on them became the first priests.

Yes, this is an overly simplistic view of the evolution of religion. However, I only have some 4000 words for these so I have to condense somewhat.

Because of their origins in ‘simple’ nature spirits, it is not difficult to understand why gods of the ancient world are portrayed in the way they are. Most gods (such as those in Arcanis) are granted ‘dominion’ over certain elements of reality associated with the thing that they were originally considered to be the spirit of. Thor the god of Norse myth evolved from the ancient Scandanavian spirit of thunder which became honoured for various reasons (in fact, the German word for thunder is donner, which is also the ancient Germanic name for Thor). It also explains why many ancient gods were basically “humans, writ-large” in their personalities and motivations, for the spirits of natural things were considered to be generally equivalent to human spirits, and therefore all the needs and motivations of people. By this logic, if Cadic was an evolution of spirits in our world, He would likely have started out as a spirit associated with darkness, and then accreted to include murder (which often happens in the dark), and music (which often is played at night after the work day is done).

Now, leaving aside all judgements on the existence of gods (or God, proper noun) or debates about what qualifies under that title or if all of these conceptualizations of spirits is just humanity slowly becoming enlightened to the true meaning of those words, we come to Arcanis Gods. These creatures are, simply put, proven divine creatures. In our world, since few people have witnessed any but the most mundane of miracles (most of which can, and have, been argued as something else) there is no doubt in the minds of any in Arcanis to the existence of powerful supernatural creatures. Spirits indisputably exist as people can bargain with them (Primal Casters/Shamans), ‘angels’ exist as people have witnessed Valinor and casters can summon celestial creatures to aid them, and gods (both with and without capitals, per Arcanis style conventions) indisputably exist because of massive acts like the raising the God’s Wall or the Curse of the Dwarves. While Dungeons and Dragons (at various points) have included mechanics on how to ‘become a god’, there exists no such conventions within official Arcanis Canon. Because of this, Arcanis does not have any instances of people seeing little things and forming religions around it to the same extent.

While you get cults dedicated to individual spirits or powerful Infernals (such as the Cult of the Thousand Eyed Man), few can truly compare them to THE Gods like Illiir or Kassegore. Where a lot of these cults seem to gain their power has less to do with the objective and recognized power of these creatures and more the immediacy of them. An Undine spirit can directly affect you if you travel by a river, while there has not been a recognizable act of a God for centuries on the grand scale. Because of this, you are going to put more effort into honouring the undine than a distant god, even if objectively you know that the God is more powerful. However, the lack of obvious presence of the Gods on Arcanis allows enough people to doubt their CONTINUED existence and power over them, leading to cults and groups like the Mourners in Silence. After all, while it is indisputable that Illiir existed and walked among humanity, where is he now? He isn’t stopping me from venerating this nature spirit, so maybe he’s dead? It is because of this that almost every religious organization in Arcanis maintains some equivalent of an Inquisition in order to keep the doctrine of faith among the people. You have priests constantly telling the people of the power of the Gods and reminding them of the importance of their veneration while demonizing these lesser powers which, while obviously less powerful, are more tangible.

On that note, I shall proceed away from theological debates on the nature of God(s) and onto the exact mechanics of the religion, starting with the Temple. In modern Arcanis, we think of temples existing as individual county churches, run by a single priest with maybe a few under-priests helping them, with people attending services on a specific day. However, this does not represent how non-Abrahamic religions work, and does not even represent how Judaism works within the Abrahamic traditions, at least during the time of the Temple of Jerusalem. For the entirety of human history (including the modern day outside of the Abrahamic traditions), temples fell into one of two categories: they were either shrines where you would go if you needed to appeal to the Gods but otherwise would not enter regularly, or secretive compounds run by the priesthood which were closed to all except the most consecrated. Either way, these facilities were not like a modern Christian church, and more like a Hindu temple (outside of predominantly Abrahamic regions, anyway) where people go to on holy days or to appeal to a specific god for a favour similar to how people would go to Delphi in ancient Greece to receive an oracle prediction. Even Temple-era Judaism did not follow the ‘weekly schedule’, as the Temple itself was closed except to those offering sacrifices to Yahweh (the Hebrew God’s true name, though it is rarely if ever supposed to be spoken aloud).

Arcanis, however, is something of a mishmash of this, and I am probably as much to blame for this as anyone else. Reading mods written primarily by Henry Lopez, you find that you rarely have more than a single temple in any specific city. This temple is not used for weekly services, and acts more as a headquarters for the priesthood (of the God it is dedicated to) within that city. Larger cities like Savona may have multiple temples dedicated to different Gods, and truly large cities like Naeraanth or Grand Coryan may even have a single “Grand” temple dedicated to the entire Pantheon. In this case, religious services are not performed regularly, and most people’s individual dedications are performed in the home or as part of public holidays and rituals. There may be smaller shrines dedicated to the Gods around the city, and these are tended to by priests, but they are not official churches and may even be a statue or idol in the middle of square which is maintained by a small group of individuals.

As a quick aside, I would like to describe the concept of a Cult Statue. For effectively EVERY religion except Christianity and Islam (and their offshoots) that I know of, they all focus their worship upon what is known as a cult statue. This object, typically an artistic and anthropomorphized representation of the deity, acts as a focus for peoples religion that they can touch and even appeal to. In religions like that of Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia these statues are often considered to house the god in question, or at least act as their physical connection to their people, and are often directly appealed to in prayer or for questions. Because of this, individual gods became associated with specific geographical regions where their statues were found, and temples typically sprung up as homes for “the god” (the cult statue), and it was this reason why there were sometimes thousands of gods honoured in small regions instead of just a few worshiped in common. If the cult statue was ever removed from its ‘home’, many people would refuse to live there any longer and follow their ‘god’ to its new home. This happened when the ‘god’ of Babylon (Marduk) was taken by the Assyrians when the city was sacked, and the city could not properly be rebuilt until the god was returned. Also for reference, this also occurred in Temple-era Judaism as the Temple on the Mount was built to house the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments. While not a statue representing Yahweh specifically (as the Hebrew conceptualization of Yahweh was that of the God of the Universe who couldn’t be contained in a single representation), it served the same function as they were honouring items directly associated with that God.

Near as I can tell, no religion in Arcanis directly makes use of cult statues (or their equivalents), but they do maintain the fact that there should not be more than a single temple to a specific God located within a given community which acts as the centre of devotion of that God. This has broken down in many other adventures (some of mine included) where references are made to ‘auxiliary temples’ and the like, but a review of the ‘official’ adventures and works of PCI shows that at best these ancillary temples are nothing more than larger shrines and do not warrant being called temples. After all, Ansharan priests may operate dozens of soup kitchens in a city, and each may have a shrine dedicated to Her, but they are not themselves temples any more than a post office is a centre of government. They merely are buildings or facilities owned or run by the specific Church in question to facilitate a role or aspect of them. Maybe over time they may overshadow an existing temple, or become a temple in their own right if one did not previously exist, but it is not THE temple of that God.

Following this up is the role of the priest. In many ancient cultures, there was no real vocation of ‘priest.’ If you look at ancient Rome or Greece, priest was at best a part time job or even an elected official rather than a job requiring training for. Even in ancient Egypt where there was a large and established priesthood, you typically only ‘worked’ as a priest for a specific amount of time, and when not ‘on shift’ you were not expected to follow your own vocation. This was true even in Temple Judaism, where while being a priest you had to maintain perfect purity (per documents like Deuteronomy), but when not working you were allowed to ignore these (as long as you repurified before being a priest again). Having men (and women) who dedicated their lives to the priesthood as a vocation, based on faith and not simply secular desires is a relatively new concept. Near as I can tell, it really evolved in its modern form from Rabbinic Judaism following the Jewish Diaspora following the Roman destruction of the Temple when Rabbi’s became the primary religious officials of the Jewish faith after the official Priests of the Temple were lost with its destruction.

In Arcanis, however, effectively every religion that I can see uses dedicated and consecrated priests of their respective Gods. This is mechanically represented by the Anointed Priest Path, and is common among any religion which is applicable for Divine Spell Casting (aside to 5e players, this would be represented by the Cleric class specifically, as well as the Acolyte Background). The ‘traditional’ role of a priest as per societies like ancient Greece simply does not exist outside of minor cults such as the Ghost Scale worship of Herka. Do not get me wrong, there is still a large amount of politics involved, and unlike some religions the moral practices of the priests of the various religions are (depending on the God in question) more lax than what we often expect from, for example, Catholic priests, but they are not simply Julius Caesar being elected to be the High Priest of Jupiter despite not having any particular religious training.

In fact, the ‘organization’ of individual priesthoods within the world of Arcanis goes far and beyond that of almost any religion I can think of even in our world. One good example of this are Templars/Paladins/etc. In Crusade-era Catholicism, there existed many “Orders Militant” which were officially controlled by the Church, but in reality these orders were mostly independent of their parent body which is why groups like the Knights Templar were so easily targeted by secular powers. In Arcanis, however, the templars are literally the private armies of the various Temples of which they are dedicated to, guarding the various temples and shrines and serving as the strong-arm of their specific Church and Temple. The Holy Champion Orders are somewhat more independent and would be more akin to the various Catholic Orders in our world, but even then there seems to be a much tighter leesh on them than existed in our world. Hell, it is know that Temples in the Coryani Empire specifically sponsor entire LEGIONS of non-Templars, which while officially dedicated to the Emperor and to Coryan in specific, should the Emperor ever break faith with the temple in question there is some doubt as to if that legion would side with the church or the Emperor.

Moving onto actual examples in canon, the most detailed religion in the Arcanis setting is that of the Mother Church of Coryan. This religion is a polytheist faith in a group of twelve specific gods. The actual religion (the mechanical organization, not simply the presence of faith) has specific consecrated priests whose entire vocation is the practice of religion. Actually, polytheist is probably not the best word, since unlike the First Imperium Church and (officially) the Khitani Kalindruhl, each temple is effectively its own unit. As such, it would probably be best to refer to the Mother Church as HENOTHEIST as each temple acknowledges the existence of the other Gods, they are typically viewed as lesser compared to their own patron. This is strongly seen in that each temple has its own clergy, infrastructure, and followers distinct from the other Gods, all while officially recognizing the Mother Church as their sovereign body, similar to how the Holy Roman Emperor was the titular ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, but practically each fief was an independent body.

As stated before, the First Imperium Church (as far as we know) and the Khitani Kalindruhl (officially, at least) are true polytheist Churches, and this also probably held true for the ssethrics during the days of the Empire of Yahssremore. Nowadays, however, few churches except for the Milandisian Orthodoxy Church among the ‘Known Lands’ of Onara match the level of integration seen in the Mother Church of Coryan (and even then the Milandisians are a bit picky with Nier, Neroth, and Sarish). In cases of the Church of the Dark Triumvirate in Canceri, it never seems like any of the other Gods of the Pantheon of Man seem like they are acknowledged, and definitely not as equals to the Big Three. The Varn gods in Ssethregore also are ‘officially’ a Pantheon (or a polytheon, I guess), but from what I can read it does not look like the worshipers of those gods overly like each other, so it may be a similar situation to Coryan, with maybe only the Naga Emperor being the ‘glue’ which ties four separate religions together.

The elorii represent a big question mark for me in this analysis, since I cannot say we know enough about their religion to call it one way or another. Officially, during the Golden Age Belisarda and the Elemental Lords were all worshiped, suggesting a polytheistic religion. However, the more that is revealed of ancient Eloran culture suggests that the different races of elorii were much more divided from one another than we previously thought, so that might not be the case. Additionally, while the elorii venerate the Elemental Lords, my read of their religion basically says that they always considered Belisarda to be the ‘senior partner’ of that relationship as she is a God and the other four were merely gods (notice G vs. g), which would push the elorii into henotheistic territory. That said, all of our perspective on that comes from a time when only Belisarda was still alive, so this may be a modern interpretation and re-evaluation based on reality.

We also know that there is a certain amount of syncretism between religions the further away you get from major population and political centres. For example, like the Turks and Mongols of our own history, the Yhing Hir of the Hinterlands maintain their own religious traditions which incorporate shamanistic practices common of tribal people with more settled religions. Tribal peoples typically live ‘closer’ to the land, and as such would be more likely to appeal to the spirits of the land for boons rather than far-away gods (especially if those are the gods of settled people in their territory). We know that the Coryani and Milandisians have long tried exporting their religion to the Yhing Hir, and there are many aspects of ‘normal’ Pantheon of Man worship that exist there (especially Hurrian as the Storm Lord). However, like the Mongols of Genghis Khan’s time, a Yhing Hir who officially worships Hurrian would be just as likely to prey to or offer sacrifices to nature spirits of the plains before planting or harvesting crops, and likely would not see much of a contradiction. After all, why risk angering one set of ‘gods’ to appease another?

The only real exception to this that we know of is the Temple of Aii. All other societies that we know have various mixes of poly-, heno-, and pantheism, but Aii is the only truly monotheistic religion that we have. While we know very little about its actual theology (for more info, please look at the Appendix in the Blessed Lands book!), one thing that is clear is that the followers of Aii consider Him to be the All-Powerful God, and all other Gods being simple aspects of the One True God. While this looks like a Judeo-Christian view, and in some ways it is, this almost seems to me to be almost more true of the Bahai faith, which is an offshoot of Islam. In this religion, the followers of Bahai believe that (from my understanding) that all prior faiths maintain PART of the true nature of God (in this case, the One True God), but for various reasons they cannot see the whole truth. It is only by looking at ALL religions that man can truly see the reality that is God. I am not sure if this is an accurate view of Aii and His worshipers, but some of the traits of The Prophet seen in “Vexing Priests” led me to equate the two religions together more than the Hebrew religion (the first ‘real’ monotheistic religion) or any of its other successors (Christianity and Islam).

So what does this say about how people in the actual world of Arcanis treat religion? Well, for that we can look easily at our own world. Throughout history, the overwhelming majority of humanity was officially a member of a given religion, and would honour their gods as appropriate. However, only a tiny fraction of the followers of the religion actively LIVED the religion at any given time, with priests and shamans and such usually squirreling away power among themselves. It was through these people that divine power flowed, and this is seen strongly in Arcanis with both Divine and Primal spell casting (even though in our world it was often literacy and knowledge, especially in Egypt). The common person would not know more than the myths of their respective gods, but they would constantly have the existance of that god proved to them by its priests (or shamans) casting miracles before their very eyes. To the uneducated person, this would be enough to constantly reinforce belief in the gods, even if it does not mean that they are zealous followers of that god. For those who are more educated, however, knowledge of the metaphysics of magic would probably dilute the ‘power’ of these magical miracles somewhat, which leads to groups like the Mourners in Silence.

It is (in part) because of this that the Mother Church of Coryan takes such a dim view of arcane casters. For them, these people are playing with the powers that should only be done in the name of the Gods themselves and bending it to their will. More cynical priests, however, would probably admit that a bigger worry for them than ‘the abuse of the Gifts of the Gods’ is that these casters prove to the common folk that these miracles are not the exclusive domain of the priesthood, or divinely gifted groups like vals (psionic magic). As with our world, the proliferation of knowledge and power has an effect of eroding the powerbase of the people who have long monopolized that power. However, unlike things like literacy in our world (and the spreading of the bible though the use of the printing press and translations into vernacular languages), magic is more difficult to casually pass on, so the priesthoods have the power to use the literal ‘fear of God’ to demonize the people who wield the Arcanum outside of their control.

I have tried to end this essay in a few different ways up to this point, but all of them started devolving into arguments about Church and State, and honestly there is still more than enough of these arguments for me to risk raising them here. In fact, it was for these very reasons that this essay has sat on my computer, unfinished, for literal months. As such, I will just leave this here for your enjoyment, education, or at least thought-provoking reading (even if those thoughts are negative). I fully acknowledge that I could be wrong about this, but it continues to be my hope that it will spark discussion and interest in these topics both in and out of the universe.

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Cody Bergman
Legends of Arcanis Campaign Staff
Initial Author Contact/Adventure Vetting

Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2017 6:53 pm 
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Thanks to Rexplode for sparking this particular thought in my head up on the Community Forums . . .

Morality

What is morality? For all intents and purposes, it is the relative values of what is good and what is evil in a world. As in our world, these are nebulous concepts which have seen a great deal of shift in our own world and even in very closed societies. What was once considered evil in Christianity (such as violence for any means) became normalized (for example, the Crusades) where a value judgement was applied to make doing the thing which originally was abhorrent in all forms acceptable. As with many things and as in our world, the issue of morality is quite muddied in the world of Arcanis.

First of all, we should discuss how Arcanis relates to other gaming systems, and by other gaming systems, I mean Dungeons and Dragons (which, for better or worse, we all have at least some familiarity with). In D&D, there exists the “Alignment System” which chops people up into nine broad categories along a Good-Neutral-Evil and Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic axis. As someone who brings gaming logic into not-necessarily gaming environments such as using game mechanics as examples of social, psychological, and cultural debates with my retired (and distinctly non-gaming) mother, I have been forced to analyze what this system basically means so I can best describe it to people who don’t use the system (as well as a LOT of people who do use it and steadfastly refuse to READ it).

In terms of morality, the Lawful-Neutral-Chaos axis represents one of the more straightforward angles to take. This axis basically measures how willing you are to give into the standard cultural norms of your society. At the extreme lawful end of the gradient (and please remember, it is a gradient not three uniform blocks) are people who are ultimate conformists, who follow all laws and norms regardless of how virtuous those laws and norms may be. On the other hand, the most extreme end of the Chaotic side are those who utterly reject societal norms and laws for a variety of reasons. To put it in a rather pithy form, it is the difference between ‘squares’ and ‘hippies’, but can be far more extreme.

The Good-Neutral-Evil scale, on the other hand, is a far more nebulous one. As D&D and all of its various iterations have been the product of North American (primarily) cultural values, which themselves derive from Christian Western Europe, this has come to mean that this axis is actually that of the “upright, white knight” versus the “self-centered psychopath.” This is where I have found a lot of people (many of whom should know better) err in their insistence that they themselves are of an evil alignment, typically out of (in my opinion) a rather juvenile sense of counter-cultural and anti-social views. What these people don’t understand is that these views that they are insisting on them being evil actually are more the Chaotic/Lawful angle. Good and Evil used here, again following Western culture, should actually be written as Altruistic and Selfish. In this case, the “Lawful Good” Paladin fights for Truth, Justice, and the. . . Coryani(?) way, helping the helpless and being respectful of authority. In here, the Good part comes from their willingness to self-sacrifice for others (altruism) and not their respect for authority.

It is this way that we can actually divorce “good” and “evil” from many cultural values of Arcanis. You can be a Good-aligned Coryani who believes in slavery, because slavery is not necessarily a good/evil thing, but a culturally normative thing. It falls onto the Lawful/Chaotic angle. Now, this doesn’t mean that slavery is ‘good’ as I just said that good can be rewritten as altruistic, and relying on the labour of others is inherently not altruistic. However, it also is not inherently selfish, as there were many reasons that a person could be enslaved in a given society which isn’t directly related to the ‘master’ of the relationship being self-serving. In this case, it can be argued that (within the laws of their nation) the master there is being altruisitc as they are taking on a monetary (and possibly legal) burden on themselves for limited direct benefit.

This all, of course, is like everything else in the world, a grey matter. Things like chattel slavery where the master rapes and otherwise abuses their slaves would be evil, but debt slavery where a person binds themselves to another while they pay off their debts is not in itself evil. This shows that while the two angles of Good/Evil and Lawful/Chaotic can be used to help define a person, they are not equivlancies. In the case of slavery, if you had a Chaotic/Good person in a slave society, they would be the ones who sacrifice their own comfort and resources to break down the institution of slavery within that society, while a Lawful Good person is one who would treat their slaves well, but believe that slavery was a useful institution (for example, a way of punishing people for crimes that was better than having them locked away in the ‘cesspool’ of a prison population). On the contrary angle of this, a Lawful/Evil person would believe that the accepted institution of slavery is perfectly fine, and would rape and abuse their slaves because ultimately this person is entirely selfish and only interested in their own benefits, while a Chaotic Evil person would probably not care at all about the structures about slavery (or any other lawful institution) and rape, pillage, murder, and steal however much they wanted to satisfy their selfish desires.

Now that we have established my opinion of this dynamic (using the above mentioned system as a common frame of reference), we can move into Arcanis generally.

Much of the world of Arcanis, as it was built by people who grew up in Western society, follows the morality that we mentioned above. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule, such as Canceri, who’s entire theology is based on doing terrible things to purge those urges during your mortal life so that your soul is clean when it goes to the afterlife. However, even in this case, the Cancerese acknowledge that this is ‘evil’, for they acknowledge that they are stains upon the person and their soul which need to be removed before they can gain entrance into the Paradise of the Gods. These evil urges are things to be removed, even if Becherek’s theological descendents do so with such vigour to make people question its ability to truly purify a soul.

With the talk of Becherek and Canceri’s. . . unique take on the evil/good dynamic, I fell I should bring up religion in general. For most societies, the values espoused by their respective gods go a long way into shaping what is viewed as culturally normative within that society. However, almost without fail, none of the Arcanis Gods (note the capital G) show that they espouse any particular “good” versus “Evil” dynamic, as per my statements comparing them to altruistic and selfish. These Gods are, for the most part, neutral on this matter, as they do not appear to be willing to sacrifice themselves for others, but are also not so selfish to make others suffer for their benefit. For example, when Illiir cursed the Celestial Giants, he did a ‘good’ thing in that he protected humanity (which he views as “his children”), but he did not punish himself for the fact that it was HE who chose the Giants to ward over humanity. As such, he was (officially) unwilling to sacrifice for his own actions, punishing others for them giving into their natures.

Where most people would look at evil and good, from a religious perspective, is on what constitutes heresy. However, heresy by definition is a cultural phenomenon, not a good/evil one. For example, the views of Islam espoused by the Turkic tribes between 900 and 1300 AD/CE would very much be considered heretical to the people of the Abbasid Caliphate centred in Bagdad of that era. While officially both Muslim, the Turkic people incorporated a lot of their own mysticism and traditions into the actual expression of Islam that the people of Bagdad would (and did) view as highly inappropriate and even outright heretical to their views of the word of Mohammad. However, neither of these cultures were the original Arabic tribes centred around Mecca in 610 AD/CE, and likely BOTH of these other groups would be viewed as heretical to Mohammad. In all three cases, they are Muslims, but all have a differing view of the religion.

The same is true for the Gods of Arcanis. All major human nations worship the Pantheon of Man, but none seem to be able to properly agree on what is the appropriate worship. Cancerese Sarishans see no problem summoning Infernals, for Sarish is the Lord of the Hells, and through their faith in Him they can use these vile beasts as tools to advance humanity (and them specifically). Coryani Sarishans, however, were raised to view Infernals as detestable and are more likely to hunt them down and bind them. They believe that Sarish gained dominion over the Hells to protect humanity, and to subjugate a threat to them.

One major cultural point here is how the two societies dealt with the Time of Terror. The Sarishans of Canceri were in contact with Infernals for centuries, and had made many arcane deals with them which allowed them to survive the Time of Terror relatively intact, while the people of the other nations which didn’t specifically venerate Sarish suffered the predations of the Infernals. The Coryani Empire was founded after a war to push the Infernals away, and because of this the Coryani Empire (generally) maintains a hateful view of that aspect of Sarish, and the Sarishans raised in that culture espouse a view on the Infernals which is culturally normative to that environment (Infernals are bad and a threat and the First Emperor died to protect us from them!). The Sarishans of Nishanpur, however, didn’t suffer as much, and as such their views at the dawn of the Empire were far more neutral. When the rest of the Empire recoiled away from summoning demons as tools, they shunned the Cancerese Sarishans, causing them to grow more insular and keep their more heinous practices private. When Canceri left the Empire, these strongly held traditions (kept alive in that most distant and hated of provinces) came back as something of a revival of ‘traditional values’ which had long been suppressed by Coryani imperialists.

In this case, the Cancerese worship is entirely lawful for them, so a Sarishan to summons demons as playthings would be considered a “Lawful” character in Cancerei, while one who actively bound those Infernals would be considered “Chaotic” since they are going against cultural norms where Infernals are acceptable tools. In Coryan (and Milandir and Altheria and other places) it is the literal opposite, where if a Sarishan walked around with a pet Infernal with a mark on his forhead, they would be shunned by society. In that case, that Sarishan is going against cultural trends, and would be labelled as Chaotic while the person who then attempts to kill the devil would be Lawful as they are upholding ancient Coryani laws, set down in the first of the first Crusade of Light.

This is why you can have both good and evil followers of all the various Gods of Arcanis. You can have Deathbringers of Neroth who are literal Paladins of good, while you can have vicious Altharians who vivisect people in the name of knowledge. How you can have a Nierite who burns down villages satisfying Niers aspect of the Lord of Destruction, while you can have another Nierite who goes around a city like Batman righting injustices in Nier’s aspect of the Lord of Justice. As far as these Gods are concerned, all of these things espouse their aspects equally well, for every god has a very complicated identity.

Now, different societies will view different (and sometimes contradictory) aspects of the Gods as being more ‘righteous’ than others. The Milandisians view Larissa’s aspect as the Farseer as being more inherently of value than her aspect as the Divine Harlot, because Milandisian society tends to be more staid and proper. The Khitani view the elemental aspects of Hurrian, Nier, Saluwe’, and Yarris as more inherently heretical because those came from the ‘tainted’ influence of ‘lesser beings’ when they absorbed the Elemental Lords (debateable with Yarris, as Beroe already seemed within Yarris’ ‘domain’), while the Mother Church actively supports Hurrian as the Storm Lord and the Erdukene delight in Nier’s role as the Fiery God.

This system becomes more complicated, however, with the non-human Gods of Belisarda and Kassagore. In almost every book we have, Belisarda is always viewed as being nurturing to Her children (the elorii) and others, though still not necessarily self-sacrificing. Meanwhile, Kassagore is always viewed as the Devourer, and has always been a harsh and jealous God. However, these views of objective good and evil in these two forces may have less to do with them as Gods, but the press they have received by the modern people of Arcanis. To the elorii, Belisarda almost HAS to be viewed as unbelievably good, for She is their sole remaining God. Without the Elemental Lords to add. . . nuance to her portrayal, the elorii inherently have to start believing she is the best because she is literally all they have. If they admit fault, they risk losing even her.

Kassagore is somewhat the opposite. All across Arcanis (except for a few scattered groups like the Emerald Scale ss’ressen), worship of Kassagore is proscribed. The Black Talons view Him as the quintessential aspect of evil, and the Varn-worshipping Ssethregore demonize him for his veneration takes away the souls their Varn lords need to form the Soul Bridge so that they can fully manifest on Arcanis. In both cases, the respective ssethric societies have reason to view him as the utter worst possible being, because it supports their own worship. For the Black Talons, they venerate the Fire Dragon as everything Kassagore is not, while the Varn will broach no competition.

Of course, this discussion also should include Umor/The Other and Yig/Anshar. Both of these deities are often viewed as either very good or utterly depraved by different people. For example, the elorii view of Umor/The Other is that of a lost and mad God, but not necessarily an evil god. In fact, Belisarda seemed to take sympathy on Him. Meanwhile, the Pantheon of Man view of Him is that His existence is antithetical to order, life, and everything else good in the world. Mention of His name is so proscribed that he literally has been stripped of identity.

Likewise, Anshar is viewed (by the Mother Church, at least) as being an utterly self-sacrificing God devoted to charity, while the ssethric view of Her as Yig is that of the Goddess of Lies. While 99.999% of the population do not know that these two Gods are one and the same, we know metanarratively that they are. To have the same divine creature have such massively opposed aspects represents a major shift even in the complicated nature of Gods, to the point of making those wonder if Yig is entirely something else than a normal God as we know it. That said, there are many examples which show Anshar as being far less benign, such as the crazy cult which was seen in the A2 adventure “Hide and Seek.”

Anyway, I’ll leave these thoughts here. I could go into much more detail about the world, but that would be belabouring the point and diluting my arguments (which I probably have already done).

_________________
Cody Bergman
Legends of Arcanis Campaign Staff
Initial Author Contact/Adventure Vetting

Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 12:05 pm 
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I've been mulling Cody's last two musings for awhile. One musing centers on PC's faith and religion (and how religion is organized in the real world and on Arcanis). And the other musing looks at morality in general and how we attempt to approach it in gaming systems. They are not short, but I think they overlap in interesting ways.

Despite their length both musings leave off with reaching any conclusions other than trying to survey what's out there. But I suspect in both musings Cody is reaching toward the question, "what does the typical NPC think is the 'Good Life' in Arcanis?" Or perhaps "What should a PC who aspires to represent real Justice believe?"

(its also possible that these two questions are merely my own internal responses to Cody's external stimuli. if so you I say you should still blame him :P )

Those are potentially great questions to ask! Not every hero need to aspire to super duper "Goodness." This is Arcanis! But thinking about these two questions and rooting for answers can help inform any hero you are playing...

SO: "I want to play a PC that is not just a hero but a real 'White Hat' ... what foundation can I anchor their beliefs in?"

That question is tough because so many different locations in Arcanis have separate belief systems that contradict each other. If someone IC or OOC goes looking for a Universal Truth in Arcanis I hope they have a really big search party, time on their hands, and lots and lots of helpful stuff stuff like microscopes, telescopes, maps, charts and all sorts of scales and calipers...

Still. Let's say you want to play a moral champion. A real white hat. And to make matters a little simpler lets start with a PC that is basically human. What does this PC think about the Mother Church (and its derivatives). What does this PC think of nationalism? Morality?

I think the issue of organized religion really is a tough nut to crack. Do you follow one? Blindly? Fortunately (?) the issue was litigated through the original campaign arc. Basically the Coryan Civil War broke down on lines of faith. Did you believe that Calcestus' Valinor represented the Gods and was essentially unquestionable? Or did you see a train wreck coming starting with the fall of the Gods Wall and want to resist?

I think at this point point a PC that aspired to true White Hat status would have to accept that he or she lived in a world where even the appearance of a Valinor does not lead to unquestioning obedience. The divine servants of the Gods are fallible and worse, some are fallen. And mortals can't tell the fallen from the righteous through conversation and empathy checks.

Similarly I think a PC from would have to be at least somewhat sheltered not to be aware that the current religious leaders of Elandre and (now dead) Sabinius appear to have major flaws. OOC (and for some of us IC) we know that Sabinius was an entertaining villain in sheep's clothing. And Elandre has inner scars from the abuse she suffered as a political pawn and as (effectively) a martyr for the Word of Illiir. She has shown rigidity and a lack of empathy. Seriously. She didn't lift a finger to help the Crusade where anyone could see it. Even given her legitimate and serious conflicts with Sabinius and Milandir, that majorly sucks in a spiritual leader. If an infernal invasion didn't count as enough for threat to unite in common cause, then I wonder what possibly could? And what about the faithful who lived in Pearlspar, Censure or Sicaris? It looks like she left them to twist in the wind.

Other human religions have problems as bad or worse. The Dark Triumverate?!? Next! Aii? Is Aii schizophrenic with all these "parts" at war with each other? Or is he just incompetent or indifferent enough that he doesn't care? If Aii is everything divine, why is there evil in the world? Next! The Death Mongers? Do they even have a central hierarchy you can theoretically appeal to? Interesting but ...Next! Cult of the Thousand eyed Man? Yikes! And NEXT!

So I think a PC that wants to be a real White Hat has to (ultimately. in extremis) be ready to turn outside the religious structures of the world of Arcanis. Even if that PC that is a divine caster of some stripe. That leaves morality as a guiding light.

But as Cody notes, morality is not as cut and dried as we might like. Culture and beliefs (and probably biology) have major influences on what is considered moral in different places and times. Milandir generally thinks holding hands and kissing amongst unwed couples is morally suspect. In Coryan its is generally accepted that you can be a moral citizen and own three dozen slaves who pamper you.Gods have mercy on your PC if he or she has to rely on the morality of a Canceriman.

Still I believe that in the broadest sense, through human history, morality (in all its permutations) boils down to two essential flavors that have nearly endless variations.

ONE: What I think is the original version of morality/moral behavior is the model of personal excellence. We find variations of this all over from ancient Greece & China, to the Celts, Samurai, and Plains Indians. Often this is expressed in some form or code of warrior ethos. It promotes an unbreakable loyalty to family and clan (and perhaps city), a duties as a host to guests, and permission/duty to prove your excellence against against "everyone else" in any (culturally acceptable) way you can get away with. If you want to get into "heaven" and hang out with the hero of previous generations then your life better be worth stories around the camp fire (the Valhalla model). A quiet person who causes no trouble and does nothing bold and exciting in their life is an object worthy of scorn in this model. I don't think of this as the better model of a white hat PC, but it definitely provides a foundation of morality in several cultures and hero tropes.

TWO: Between 800-200 BCE historians talk about the Axial Age where spiritual development took place simultaneously in China, India, the Middle East and Europe. Amid terms like ahimsa & karma & the commandments this model took shape around that is essentially the Golden Rule of treating other people as you yourself would like to be treated. Although there are many (many) variations, if you want to go "to heaven" then you (a) have to look inward toward seeking spirituality/faith and (b) you have to perform acts of humility/charity. A quiet person who causes no trouble and does nothing bold and exciting but who prayed and helped the poor is worthy of deep respect in this model.

Alright. I'm biased and strongly prefer the second model in real life. But what model of morality should your "white hat" PC place at the foundation of their being? Depends strongly where your PC comes from.

Almeric, Altheria, dwarvenkind, the elorii, the Golden Court of the Tomal Khan, the League of Princes and Milandir all seem to me to draw on the second model. Even when they honor it in the breach. (And in Almeric in particular at the moment there seem to be a lot of breaches...). Canceri, the tribes of the Hinterlands and the Scallywags of the Pirate Isles seem to me to draw on the first model. Coryan seems to me to be somewhere in the middle.

I am pretty sure that Ancient Rome leaned toward the first model at least until Constantine (and perhaps later still). The mythology of Romulus and Remus and the story of the Rape of the Sabines seems to support this. And the civic religion of Rome was silent on the issue of how to live a moral and just life. And Julius Caeser supposedly cried at 30 when he compared his accomplishments against Alexander the Great - the ultimate benchmark against which to measure yourself if you want to prove you are the greatest ever... And Pliny(?) couldn't resist speculative fiction in his histories when he digressed to explain how the roman legions would have defeated Alexander if he had gone West instead of East... But while Ancient Rome went one way, the Mother Church has dogma that leans the other way. Probably as a faithful member of the Mother Church you also lean towards the Golden Rule.

(As an aside supposedly Gen. Patton as he neared 60 also cried at the unfavorable comparison with Alexander...proof if needed you don't need to fall entirely into one camp or the other).

I think those are your two options for bedrock to build upon. I favor the second category that derives from the Golden Rule. But you could try to build a real "morally conscious" PC based on the first category. The greatest Khur Gi warrior trying to prove his or her "ultimate awesomeness" by defeating the Destroyer gives you just as many benchmarks and sign posts on how to play your character or what your character thinks is moral and correct.

Obviously your character's morality (and development) will also depend a lot on where your PC is from. The Golden Rule probably looks different in Altheria or Milandir. Being the best of the Yhing Hir looks different than the ultimate Sea Captain.

This is what i think about how religion and morality intersect in Arcanis. Particularly in relation to how (N)PCs structure their lives.

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:10 pm 
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Well, speaking for myself, Eric is fairly close to my intentions.

I'll be fairly real here by saying that a lot of these topics that come up are usually seeded by books I've read or conversations that I've had. The religion one came up from me listening to an audiobook about comparative religions in the modern world, and seeing similarities between our world and Arcanis. The essay on good and evil comes up from a debate I saw on facebook about the bible and its injunctions on slavery (specifically, the difference between Biblical Civil Law and Biblical Moral Law).

In both cases, I found this to be a good method of expressing my thoughts on the matter. In the same way that Science Fiction allows writers to talk about present problems by replacing real-world equivalents with aliens to allow us to examine things one-step removed, I find Arcanis is able to do that for me.

That said, I also have STRONG opinions when it comes to what is and is not realistic when it comes to player/NPC/human motivations in the world of Arcanis. I know that for many people, RPG games are a form of escapism. They want to be the immortal badasses so they can feel like Gods in a world where they feel increasingly like insignificant cogs in the machine. It is this reason that zombie fiction has become so prominent in the last few decades: a force of unfeeling, uniform masses pushing down upon you and destroying your individuality in favor of conformity by literally consuming you. Similarly, I understand why people play completely over-the-top characters, such as cartoonishly evil characters or rampant sex-fiends that would not be allowed in any civilized society. It is a way of channeling those urges/thoughts/etc in a 'safe' manner so that they do not come out in a context where they may illicit punishment or social scorn. This is why in Japan hyper-violent Manga and pornography is so accepted, as people need a way to vent their human urges in a society which demands discipline, conformity, and lawfulness.

For me, I view RPG's as a way of exploring people. I use roleplay to place myself in the mindset of a person who I am not to see if it expands my own views. For example, I am about as against the concept of organized religion as you can be (I stress: I don't necessarily disagree with having Faith in divine beings and such, but the human-built organizations which exploit this faith for their own real-world power I find offensive), but almost in every context in Arcanis I play some flavour of priest. Not only that, I play Nierites, which are the literal inquisitional and behaviour-police of the Pantheon of Man. I use these characters to (try) to explore in my mind what would cause someone to be a person of such blind faith and zealotry that they would ignore evidence and rational argument. I also strive to use this as a vessel for me to see what of these thoughts exist in me.

_________________
Cody Bergman
Legends of Arcanis Campaign Staff
Initial Author Contact/Adventure Vetting

Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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