So I fell off the planet for a bit around the holidays. Things got busy and I mentally checked out and was unable to really produce anything of worth or note. A new year is in front of us, however, and I am getting back upon the horse.
Today we’ll be discussing the skill Religion. I want to thank you for sticking with me through this series. I’ve rather enjoyed writing it and seeing the discussion it creates. We’re nearing the end of the skill list, and with that I need to think of another excuse to post weekly to my blog.
Using Skills – Religion
The ranger motions for the traveling band to stay back as he examines the half-hidden stone marker among the brambles near the woods path, recognizing it as a symbol for a infernal cult that haunts the wilds of the area. A cleric studies an ancient apocryphal text of his church, recognizing some of the iconography as still in use today. The diplomat nods casually to the grand looking priest that meets her at the entrance of the temple, but bows reverently to the old woman in plain robes that stands beside him – knowing her to be the true head of the religious order. Religion is a skill for those who want to be proficient in divine knowledge.
The Player’s Handbook describes it thus: “Your Intelligence (Religion) check measures your ability to recall lore about deities, rites and prayers, religious hierarchies, holy symbols, and the practices of secret cults.” (PHB, pg. 178)
As a knowledge skill, the importance of Religion is very dependent on the Dungeon Master and the amount of lore they have designed for their campaign. If you’re dealing with a lot of religious authority it is a must, but it’s also very useful for background information on all of those ruined temples you’ll be looting; it might even save your hide if you come across traps or magical obstacles themed around the belief system of the ancient practitioners.
Encourage your DM to think about these sorts of things in the context of their campaign by asking them questions in play when interacting with belief systems and the people who follow them. Ask about the religious leaders of a temple, of particular or strange beliefs they might have, or other general knowledge that your character might have found out. Knowing a person’s religion can tell you a lot about them, if you know anything about the religion itself.
What it is Not
- Other Lore skills – As has been noted in other entries, each lore skill covers a broad but separate sphere of knowledge. Arcana: magic and the planes, History: the past and the people/places/things within it, Nature: terrain, weather, and flora and fauna of the natural world, Religion: divinity, the gods, and religious practices. There may be some overlap, but it is generally easy to keep them separate. Demons and Devils for example, seem to be within the sphere of Arcane being planar entities. However, if a religion involves demons either as an object of worship or as some sort of cosmic opposition to their god or gods then in that context a Religion check would be appropriate -though the information you recall will of course be filtered through that bias.
The following are optional or edge cases for Religion, and are entirely dependent on the Dungeon Master.
- Religious Duties – The Dungeon Master might allow you to perform religious duties during downtime to generate money. For every seven days of downtime, roll an Intelligence (Religion) check versus a DC of 15. If you succeed, you earn enough coin to support a Comfortable lifestyle during those seven days. If you fail, you only earn enough to earn a Poor lifestyle during those seven days. Before rolling, you can choose instead to live a Poor lifestyle and donate the rest of your earnings to the poor or through acts of charity. If you do so, gain a point of inspiration.
- Retributive Lore – The Dungeon master might allow you to use your knowledge of religion to pinpoint weaknesses in your unholy enemies. On your turn as a free action you can attempt to recall lore about undead foes you can see. Roll an Intelligence (Religion) check against a DC equal to 10 + the CR of the creature. If you are successful you know its resistances and weaknesses. Alternatively, this check can be used on a creature type that is a classical enemy in your religious dogma (angels, fiends, undead, constructs, etc.)
- The Flock – If your DM allows it, you may substitute your Religion skill bonus for Persuasion when interacting with a priest, acolyte, cleric, or other member of your religious order.
Dungeon Master Examples
The following is meant to inspire the Dungeon Master to design with Religion in mind. Medieval fantasy is rife with gods and religions, so there will always be plenty of opportunity to utilize this skill if you as a DM keep in mind how much religion plays a crucial role in culture (in most cases). Setting you dungeons in the ancient catacombs of forgotten temples or among unholy sites can give a good creepy depth to your adventures, and give your PCs a chance to exhibit their religious knowledge.
- The Debate of the Gods – A large multi-cultural city is home to a dozen different belief systems, and has come up with many ways to quell animosity between such a diverse populace. One such outlet for religious struggle is an event akin to an arena brawl that could only happen in a huge city with a temple on every corner: an organized religious debate. Each different belief system sends one or more representative to compete in a series of arguments and apologetics before a crowd made up of large swathes of the populace, who are notoriously easily swayed into following a different religion (many following multiple happily). The winning debater is showered with praise, but the religious organization is also exempt from taxes that year. A PC might be invited to debate if they are known to be knowledgeable in their religion, and must pass a series of Religion and Persuasion checks against different speakers. Create a dozen or so speakers, needing only their Charisma and Intelligence scores as well as their proficiency in Religion and Persuasion. Multiple PCs might want to become involved, and it might be fun if two squared off against each other in front of a crowd.
That’s it for this week. Join us next week as we get handsy with Sleight of Hand. Until then, au revoir!