This is a massive and detailed exploration of matters religious within this campaign seting. It starts with the truth: that a Creator made both the world and a raft of 'gods' to inhabit it, each deity being the embodiment of a given characteristic of the Creator. These gods plotted and schemed and bickered amongst themselves, and then discovered that their strength was in direct relationship to the numbers of worshippers that they could attract! Their bickering changed, rather than endanger themselves they now use their worshippers as pawns in their squabbles, while the Creator sits back and watches the story unfold.
The first chapter goes on to explain that while this is both what actually has taken place and the orthodox view, each race has its own set of creation myths and understanding of the place of gods and mortals within the world. As with real world religions, there are numerous myths and legends all aiming to fill that need of all sentient beings to understand the world and their place in it. The chapter rounds off with a selection of Tellene favourites.
Chapter 2: Following the Faith looks at the way in which making your character a religious believer can enhance role-playing, even for those who are not of an obviously faithful class such as the cleric. Naturally a cleric needs to choose a patron deity and immerse himself in that god's lore. Druids recognise the gods but normally give their true allegience to 'Nature' as a whole, and so on. But any character can choose a deity to follow, and - unlike the religious classes - choose if his interest is casual or whether he is extremely devout. Devout characters may wish to put points into Knowledge (Religion) or select feats appropriate to the chosen god's nature and style. Characters may also acquire holy symbols, religious texts or their god's favourite weapon; and make a point of visiting temples and attending worship during gameplay. It all makes for a fully-rounded believable character, after all! Note that with a pantheistic world such as this, a character does not have to devote himself to one deity to the exclusion of all others, and the habit of praying to the god whose sphere of influence is most appropriate to what you are doing at the time is common.
The chapter goes on to cover what clerics do and how worship is conducted in fairly general terms (leaving the god-specific details for later), then talks about how the difference regions of Tellene view religion. And then, the concept of heresy is introduced, along with the Vessels of Man, a group who have decided that they don't need gods (or their priests!) at all. There's also a discussion of the minimal organisation that druids go in for, and an assortment of cults - being any religious system that does not conform to the orthodox view of the worship of the Creator's set of gods. Next comes a analysis of the undead and how the orthodox churches react - and these reactions range from destruction on sight to viewing them as something to be encouraged or even created on purpose. Then comes an overview of rank within religion, and what a cleric must do to achieve it... and his duties and responsibilities when he does. This is a generic discussion, more church-specific detail comes later. At the highest level - which the DM might rule is not open to a player-character - you are head of your particular church, your deity's representative on Tellene.
Chapter 3 is called The Celestial Council, and consists of a detailed account of the churches of all the 'good' deities within the orthodox patheon. Each listing provides all the details you need to run a cleric within that church, or present it convincingly to your players. So this where to come to find out what colour of vestments to wear, the names of the major holy texts, even where in Tellene the main centres of worship are... just about everything you might wsh to know about the business of following the deity of your choice. As an option, a variant on the core cleric character class is provided for each church, so you can customise cleric characters according to whom they worship. Chapter 4: The Gray Assemby provides the same service for neutral deities, while Chapter 5: The Fiendish contains details of all evil-aligned deities. These three chapters form the main part of the book, each with glorious amounts of detail - if cleric characters know what is written here, they will be equipped to engage in theological debate if they so wish... it is that comprehensive!
Chapter 6: Skills, Feats and Equipment covers the use of existing skills, for example using the Diplomacy skill to convert hearers to your chosen faith. There are a whole raft of new feats, including ones introduced with the descriptions of faith-specific cleric variants from the preceeding chapters. The equipment is mainly associated with the practise of religion - temple trappings, robes, books and even pilgrimmage badges!
As you might expect, Chapter 7 covers Domains and Spells, with particular reference to new Domains introduced in the survey of faiths earlier. There are plenty of new spells, too, both those within these new Domains and more general ones. Most can be used by arcane spellcasters who research or otherwise discover them, and they range from the useful (e.g. coinchanger, which lets you change a heap of coins into their equivalent in another type of coin) to the downright nasty.
Chapter 8: Campaigns of Faith is aimed mainly at the DM and contains suggestions for how religion can become central within your game, perhaps providing the impetus for adventure or even a whole campaign. Perhaps your characters are trying to figure out a prophecy, or maybe they all serve the same deity and serve as missionaries (this one works well, I'm in the middle of my second campaign along those lines!). There are lots more ideas, even if religion is not quite that central to your campaign. Perhaps tension between church and state develops into open dispute, or one faith conducts an inquisition - these may be background events that occasionally affect the characters rather than the main focus of the game.
Chapter 9 looks at Templates and Artifacts. Things like a template for any progeny your deities might beget. Divine artifacts that may be the focus of a quest to discover, or a desperate fight to defend or retrieve them from the enemies of your god.
Overall, this is a masterful exposition of how to interweave realistic religion into your campaign. Invaluable, of course, if you use the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting; but even if you do not you may wish to use some or all of these faiths or use them as guidelines for creating your own.
Return to Divine Masters: The Faiths and Followers of Tellene page.
Reviewed: 19 February 2008