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Old 09-16-2016, 08:06 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

Religious Ritual is the IQ/H skill of performing religious rituals and ceremonies, including sacrifices, if appropriate. The skill is necessary to be a professional priest, shaman, minister, etc., although its content varies widely by religion, requiring specialisation in a religion. There could presumably be defaults between closely related religions, but leaving that to world-building is entirely reasonable. The defaults are Ritual Magic (same tradition) -6 or Theology (same religion)-4, and Exorcism, Ritual Magic and Theology have defaults to this skill, which appeared at GURPS 4e, consolidating the 3e skills of Performance/Ritual, Rituals and Ceremonies, and Sacrifice.

Theology is the IQ/H study of the stories, mythology and doctrine of a religion. The skill is necessary to be a religious professional at TL1 or later, and requires specialisation in a particular religion, or (Comparative) for study of how religions agree and differ. Related religions will have some defaults between their theologies, and (Comparative) gives a default at -5 for any religion your school of scholarship studies. The defaults are IQ-6 or Religious Ritual (same religion)-4, and Exorcism and Religious Ritual have defaults to Theology. The skill may be a prerequisite for advantages such as Religious Rank or Trained by a Master, and appeared at GURPS 1e.

Religious Ritual doesn't let you do magic, but the skill allows for schools of religious magic. There, a successful roll against Religious Ritual will give bonuses to the skill(s) of religious magic. Alternatively, Religious Ritual might be a capping skill on magical skills. If you believe in the Theology you study, you can ask the GM to roll against it and tell you what the principles of your theology suggest in a difficult situation. Both skills can also be useful in predicting the actions of other people who know and use them. Even within a religion, there can be plenty of scope for differences over the details of these skills, and disagreements over them are one of the ways that religions split.

Naturally, these skills show up on templates and character sheets for characters who work in or use religion. Banestorm and Abydos have a lot of those and an explanation of how miracles work in the setting. Bio-Tech touches on the interfaces between biology and Theology, very lightly, and City Stats reminds us that Religious Ritual can be important for maintaining a polity. DF holy types can use Religious Ritual for aggravating evil monsters, sanctifying convenient altars in the dungeon, leading group appeals for divine help and asking gods to identify (un)holy items; Theology can be used for soapbox lectures, recognising curses, individual pleas, and identifying tombs. Fantasy has holy relics, Jewish golems, holy men, oaths, sacred places, and Roman religion. Horror doesn't give these skills much power, but Madness Dossier can use Religious Ritual as the base for Enthrallment. Infinite Worlds has Theology as a possible political skill, and Religious Ritual cross-time familiarity penalties; Collegio Januari has opponents of the college who "save" worlds via Religious Ritual, and Worlds of Horror has Etruscan vampire priests and a Stalin empowered by Azathoth. Locations: Worminghall has example priests and a sacred site of a lost religion, and LTC1 deals with mental altered states and Religious Ritual.

Monster Hunters makes Theology, in a few broad specialisations, a skill for knowledge about demons, ghosts and spirits, and adds a perk for using it as a social skill on the faithful. The Power-Ups series has examples of talents, impulse buys, quirks wildcard skills and even limitations that use these two skills. Powers has ways to use them with special abilities, or heal damaged abilities, and Divine Favour naturally has important uses for both of them. Social Engineering has uses for them in recognising religious rank, improving reactions from the faithful, for the loyalty of priests, for changing the minds of organisations, masquerading as clergy, and calming religious mobs. Supers uses Theology for analysing divine powers, while Thaumatology can use it for inventing new magic, of the right kind, and both these skills can be caps on magical skills, useful in mass ceremonies, and be core skills for ritual magic. Alchemical Baroque requires Theology for ritual magicians, Magical Styles has clerical examples, and Urban Magics uses it for exorcists, sacred architecture and healing springs. And Zombies are often religious phenomena...

I've never done much with these skills: a priest of Apollo I played over a decade ago probably had them, and a few characters have had Theology because they actually studied the religion they followed, but I don't remember ever rolling against it. But they have plenty of potential applications: what have you done with them?
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Old 09-16-2016, 08:29 AM   #2
Anders
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

Given that Divine Favor is used in my Trudvang campaign, Religious Ritual has obviously seen some use. Theology hasn't been as useful yet, but it will become important in the next adventure...
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Old 09-16-2016, 09:47 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

I've played one or two religious types, but these skills have generally been background. I could see Religious Ritual being a good way to get scared locals on your side, but outside its esoteric uses Theology is probably about as useful as Philosophy in play. (I could see it being a helpful substitute for Psychology (Gods), but if you need to roll that…)
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Old 09-16-2016, 10:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
(I could see [Theology] being a helpful substitute for Psychology (Gods), but if you need to roll that…)
There are a couple of D&D campaigns where figuring out the psychology of gods has been quite important for my more devious schemes.
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Old 09-16-2016, 01:05 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
There are a couple of D&D campaigns where figuring out the psychology of gods has been quite important for my more devious schemes.
With the most epic (as world-ending on failure) games, I'd bet it comes up fairly often. I'm not sure that its not best used as a NPC skill even in those games though.
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Old 09-16-2016, 06:01 PM   #6
dripton
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

The cleric in my DF game has both, because they're on the template. Neither has seen much use, other than for background color and assumed knowledge. (If you have points in Theology, you are the automatic party authority on any campaign religious trivia that the GM wants you to know.) Both can be useful as knowledge rolls, but neither has come up much in my game yet.

Religious Ritual has a mandatory specialization, so the cleric of a particular religion is likely to know his own religion's rituals, but not those of the random evil cultists in the dungeon. I don't think that's particularly fun, so I allow characters with the wrong specialization to have a chance to figure out other religions' religious rituals. At a penalty, of course.
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Old 09-16-2016, 11:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

Several specialisations of Theology are becoming increasingly useful behind the scenes of my epic fantasy campaign based on Jürgen Hubert's Doomed Slayers book — and will start seeing more time in the spotlight as the players enter Book III* of the campaign as the players start discovering why nobody worships the old gods anymore...


* I outlined the long-term plot as a four-part novel with a potential sequel — and over the course of the first two “books” the players' actions have expanded that to six volumes and two sequels, and butterflied into some very interesting plots down the line in each of the three campaigns.
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Old 09-17-2016, 03:23 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

I've used Theology as a necessary skill to puzzle out the allegiance and motivation of spiritual entities quite often, actually. When a blazing, terrible light tells you "fear not", the untrained have no idea whether they're dealing with an obedient or fallen angel, for example. When it appears as a skeletal crocodile covered in swamp moss, that represents a slight situational penalty. (Communicating clearly, in natural language, is something few spirits can do, and if you're dealing with one of those you have problems no matter what its allegiance...)
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Old 09-17-2016, 06:38 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Religious Ritual and Theology

I have considered using Theology and Religious Ritual as alternative skills for a religious RPM caster.
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