Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Religion Index - a way to bring religion into the game

 In my post on the Religious landscape of my Traveller universe, I mentioned the Religion Index, which I now present here for consideration. My intent is to describe the social attitude towards religion (principally towards Christianity) on a given world. The separation of light-years from other worlds, even in the same star nation, means that each planet’s society is a mostly closed system; so each planet's society will have its own RI code, and codes could vary a lot across the star nation. 

While the explanations mention the force of law, I am not equating Law Level with religious tolerance. Even a militantly religious (or irreligious) society could have an otherwise low Law Level, however harsh the punishments might be for a religious infraction. 

I do not have a method for randomly determining the Religion Index; the referee can start every planet with a RI code 0 and develop from there, as it serves the needs of the campaign.

Short Code
No information regarding religious attitude available
Militantly Religious
Society demands religious participation & adherence to moral requirements is enforced by law.
Actively Religious
Society embraces religion, social forces encourage participation. Public displays common.
Mildly Religious
Society tolerates religion; participation is acceptable but not encouraged. Public displays accepted.
Passively Religious
Society tolerates religion; participation is a matter of private choice. Public displays uncommon.
Society considers religion an entirely private matter, no social influence on another is permitted either way.
Passively Anti-religious
Social forces discourage religious belief; public displays uncommon.
Mildly Anti-religious
Religion is discouraged by law; social forces applied to keep religion “private”.
Actively Anti-religious
Religion is strongly discouraged by law; practitioners face ostracism or loss of rights. Public religious display is persecuted.
Militantly Anti-religious
Religion is outlawed; practitioners if discovered will be jailed or executed. No public signs of religion tolerated.

The definitions in this table are necessarily short and vague. I will not start any flame wars by characterizing any real world society as falling into any one of these categories. Make up your own minds how this plays out in your adventures. The religious aspect can be ignored, used as 'local color' or be an integral part of the character's experience on a given world.

Now, how does this come into a Traveller game? Subtly, as part of the story, that's how. A world's religion index figure should not be doled out along with the UPP string; let the players figure it out themselves by interacting with the people of that world. They could:
  • do research at a university on a neighboring planet. That should get them within +/- 1 of the actual index number, if they succeeded in the research task. 
  • upon arrival find that a major religious festival is taking place in the capital city - which they might be expected to join, or required to avoid. 
  • have a random encounter with a religious group (result 5-3 on the table, TTB page 101), out to convert the unbelievers or smite the heathens, or something else.
  • visit a religious chapel located at the starport, and encounter the clergy there. 
  • contact or be contacted by religious officials who will become the Patron for the next adventure. 
  • have their ship chartered to transport a group of pilgrims to or from a shrine or holy site. 
  • be contacted by persons seeking to escape/flee religious persecution, who ask the PCs to help them get off-planet. 
  • be asked to transport or chaperone a group headed for Ungoverned Space to establish a new religious community. Or go check up on a colony that has broken off communication. 
  • Happen upon a religious site, either known or unknown to members of that faith on that world; such as lost temples and catacomb churches.

The PCs' and the players' attitudes toward the specific religion will determine how they respond to what they have encountered. Referees should remain neutral; if the PC's actions would reasonably have a social or legal repercussion on that world, then the referee should cause them to have to deal with the consequences.

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