A lot of neogamers I play with are uncomfortable with taking real religions and putting them into play. With all the “Satanist” backlash against D&D that there’s been, do you feel comfortable having any religion in your games? Do you scrub it of anything controversial?
Going back to my earliest gaming days, I made much of gods and semi-divine beings in the back story of the universe.
This gave the eons some sort of divine agenda. It also got into various story lines that PCs got to explore. They had fun with that.
When the ‘Satanist’ crap started getting splashed on the RPing hobby. I was uncomfortable with how easily it affected people.
My own feelings about real-world religion are that it is a constructive philosophy at best, a debilitating fantasy at worst. I believe there is a principle for living your life. I don’t think you can sell Truth.
When I switched out of D&D to play ‘modern genre’ superheroes—I only included the religions that a modern world might have. These did not figure in the story in a big way.
Skipping over several other gaming types that didn’t touch on religion much (including the game I designed that followed the adventures of the Lost Tribe of Israel.)
We arrive in Amber. Again.
This gets tricky. Is Amber the royal family? Is Amber the common viewpoint? Is Amber the perception from outside of Amber?
Religion changes depending on these questions. And from campaign to campaign.
IMC, the official religion of Amber is the Church of the Unicorn. There are no members of the family currently in this church. None play a part in the ceremonies. Back story tells of Fiona spending time as a nun in the church—something that shocks Youngers when they find out about it.
The Church has no authority greater than any guild of Amber. Let me tell you in Amber’s system of laws that is not much authority at all.
But—- yes, religion plays a big part in the game. Not just in my game. Reading Zelazny, you find that the things said about the Church of the Serpent make you want to know more. Zelazny makes cults out of the Amber royals in later parts of the series. He has a mystic hermit quoting passages at Corwin about the end of the world.
And the sighting of the Unicorn is always a religious experience—even for royals. Cynical, hard-case royals get all tingly when Her Regard falls upon them.
IMC, there is a serious and controversial bit of back story regarding Deela the Desecatrix. She managed to create a shadow spanning army of people around the concept that Amber felt that other shadows were reflections of them. Less Real. Less important.
A cruel tyranny of intellect and perception.
Deela created a church movement to oppose the “Amber values”—to care about the little people, to administer charity to local backwater shadows. Deela managed to invade the Golden Circle with a million plus folks who were mad as hell that Amber might hold such cruel grip on their poor worlds. It was a clever bit of truth that Deela managed ruthlessly. She almost succeeded.
So yes. Has been. Will be. Controversial. Complex. Cruel. Comforting.
[update: I like to think I’ve been even-handed with religions in stories. But perhaps being an American, I’m suspicious of any organization that tells you how the cosmos works. I do make a point of not pushing my bias in my Players faces. I don’t do much with Real Religions in gaming. If someone draws parallels to such from my fictional religions… well.]