Monday, July 19, 2021

Alignment and Lawful Clerics

This is the third in a series of web log posts where I describe what “alignment” must mean in the Perilous Realms, based upon our group’s tone and play-style, and its cumulative rulings so far.

Lawful Clerics and Alignment

Lawful Clerics are members of the Church of Law who have made vows and joined some order of religious (which is to say, monastic) knights. Regular, everyday priests and prelates are not “Clerics,” in this sense. Should a Lawful Cleric willingly break any of the Laws of Noe his or her clerical powers would be removed until repentance and restitution are made. That said, those who become knights of religious orders (the so-called “Clerics” of the game) have additional rules they must follow as a part of the vows that set them apart and grant them their authority to call on miraculous powers. Willingly breaking these vows also result in the removal of their special authority until repentance and restitution is made. These are the Seven Vows of the Crusade of the Orders of Religious Knights (Clerics):

The Vows of Crusade

1. Worship the Most High alone

2. Observe Sabbat, fasting, alms, and prayers

3. No shedding of blood

4. Show honor

5. Show mercy

6. Shun falsehood

7. Shun vanity

The first vow, monotheism, sets Clerics apart from their coreligionists. Other Lawful men may “worship” many gods, angels, and saints, including the offering of sacrifices and oblations, so long as these Powers are recognized members of the Council of the Most High and the rituals themselves do not involve the worship of idols. Clerics, on the other hand, may only engage in the ritual worship of the Most High, alone. That said, Clerical powers are mediated by saints and angels whom the Cleric adopts as a patron. But the Cleric does not worship such patrons.

The second vow commits the Cleric to certain religious and ascetical disciplines. These include a day of rest every week – Saturn’s Day, or the Day of Kronos. Kronos is closely associated with the Most High. (But there is debate as to whether or not Kronos is the Most High!) Weekly rest and daily prayers are necessary for the restoration of miraculous authority, Clerical “spells.” If a Cleric does not rest to pray once a day, and rest entirely once a week, Clerical spells are temporarily unavailable. In cases of evasion in the wilderness, this may prove dangerous to a party.

The third vow, no shedding of blood, is where we get the Clerical prohibition on the use of sharps as weapons. The blood is the life of the animal and belongs to the Most High. This means that Clerics are “vegetarians,” in the sense that they do not eat the flesh of mammals. Other animals and milk are not off limits. But won’t, you might ask, a mace “shed blood”? Well, yes. But here is where a little beautiful casuistry enters (and how could a game be “medieval,” without a little casuistry?). The shedding of blood by means of blunts is not necessary and is often a deleterious but unintended consequence of their use. But by fighting with sharps the means of subduing or killing an opponent depends upon cutting, and therefore the shedding of blood is inherent to their use. So: “no sharps,” but not “no killing,” see the commentary on the Fourth Law.

The fourth vow, honor, is directly related to obedience, something inherent to any form of monasticism or membership in a religious order. But it also includes the encouragement of subordinates and things such as respect for the dead by putting them to rest, etc. Clerics rarely tolerate the abuse of a corpse and must never participate. The Clerical war against the Undead is not that of corpse mutilation, but all attempts must be made to free the corpse from this unholy abuse and restore the body to rest through proper committal to the elements. This includes burial, proper, in the earth, but also burial at sea and cremation on pyres. When Clerics gain the authority to dispel the curse of Undeath, this does not cause the undead victim to disappear or disintegrate. It rather immediately restores the corpse to a state of rest, laid and in a position ready for committal to the elements.

The fifth vow, that of mercy, means that all Clerics are expected to do whatever they can to defend and, if necessary, provide for widows, orphans, pilgrims, the oppressed, etc. They are expected always to grant subdued foes the chance to convert to Law, repent and be saved. Fell races and Chaotic monsters are incapable of conversion and repentance, so mercy does not extend to them.

The sixth vow, the prohibition of falsehood, means more than simply not lying. It also demands that a cleric use no disguise, nor engage in any “sting operations” or subterfuge. Nevertheless, a Cleric may tolerate other party members who do so, they simply may not directly participate. If directly questioned in such situations, Clerics may, however, tell the truth in a “creative” way.

The seventh vow, the rejection of vanity, means avoiding the pomp of the world. As a virtue, this includes not coveting the wealth, title, or power of others. As a practice, it includes the requirement to tithe any wealth obtained through adventuring. This corresponds to the traditional monastic vow of “poverty.” It also includes the monastic vow of “chastity.” Remember, this is a medieval fantasy, so marriage in the medieval world was often a means of glory, the making of alliances, and the maintenance of worldly society. Think “trophy wife,” and you will get the picture. Although marriage is lawful and to be esteemed for those not involved in the religious life, for a Cleric, all spouses would be merely worldly “trophies,” for those who have answered the high call of Crusade.

Next: Alignment and Evil Clerics

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Chaos in the Perilous Realms

This is the second in a series of web log posts where I describe what “alignment” must mean in the Perilous Realms, based upon our group’s tone and play-style, and its cumulative rulings so far. The first was on the Law of the Perilous Realms.

Chaos in the Perilous Realms

Okay, so a character is on the side of CHAOS. But what does that mean?

It means you defend moral sentiment and basic instincts as all that is necessary to guide behavior. It means you believe that human culture, customs, and traditions often subvert basic human sentiment and instinct and should thus be shunned and overturned.

The above sounds rather noble. And the highest philosophers of Chaos indeed hold the above in very high esteem and may wax rhapsodic about it from time to time. But mainly folks who choose Chaos just choose it because they don’t want to obey law, or perhaps just anyone at all, so Chaos suites them just fine, whatever its philosophers may or may not say. What are the basic sentiments?

The Seven Sentiments of Chaos

1. Honor

2. Loyalty

3. Reciprocity

4. Affection

5. Purity

6. Pity

7. Liberty

Honor may well be honorable, but it can also turn into a shame-based culture and an almost gang-like vibe of constantly worrying about and accusing others that they have “dissed” them. Think gangsters or the 47 Ronan story.

Loyalty can be honorable, but it can also turn to cruelty when the demands of the superior are not fair to the inferior, but the threat of accusations of disloyalty forces obedience.

NOTE: the combination of honor and loyalty means that, in the main, Chaotic parties, and even Chaotic members of a mixed party, may, generally, be expected to be helpful rather than harmful to the party. In other words, having your character behave poorly towards other members of the party because the player claims to be playing “in character,” as someone on the side of Chaos simply will not fly. So, no Trolls, no Griefers, no doing it “Just for the Evulz.” In the main, this includes even non-player characters, at least towards their own companions.

Reciprocity means fairness and justice, but it can just as well turn into a zero-sum game of retribution. Seeking one’s self-interest can always be justified as demanding justice in the form of mere retribution in the style of a moral “tit for tat.”

So, obsessive concern for the above can turn to their opposite. A sensitivity to dishonor and betrayal, together with a strong commitment to the demands of reciprocity (render as rendered) may lead to retribution and vengeance. This is especially intense as Chaos shuns courts of law as a merely human custom that gets in the way between two parties having the “freedom,” to “resolve” the dispute on their “own terms.” So, duels, feuds, assassination, and lynching are de rigueur for Chaos.

Affection can be a beautiful thing, like a mother’s love of a child or two fast friends. It can also be the affection a master has towards his slave, or, in turn, the “Stockholm Syndrome” generated in the hearts of the kidnapped towards their captives.

Purity is an honorable sentiment, leading to the shunning of things that might degrade human dignity. It can also lead to self-righteousness, a sense of superiority, sexism, racism, bigotry –looking at another member of a free race – or even a free race as a whole – as if they were less-then. Cruelty can always be justified as simply following the human sentiment of “moral disgust” towards the “inferior,” or “vermin.”

Pity can lead to mercy, kindness and even defense of the helpless. Pity can also be condescending and humiliating. Pity is not necessarily compassion or empathy. Conan often shows pity and provides kindness and defense. He would not even know what “compassion” means, and “empathy,” would simply be meaningless to him.

Liberty cannot stand that free races should suffer any compulsion, but it can also just be a freewheeling, “don’t fence me in,” “get of my lawn,” attitude that justifies flouting any law that seems inconvenient in the moment. Liberty is often cited by the chaotic as the very reason why universal Law must be rejected. Universal Law is seen by the chaotic as a trick by which the “weak,” have figured out a way to limit the power of the strong and worthy (think Nietzsche here). (Lawful, on the other hand, sees the Law as the means to freedom. Lawlessness is dangerous and oppressive, not only to the weak but the strong as well. Law guides creativity and reasonable action, and thus true freedom.)

A note about the relationship of Chaos to being a “good” character:

You can certainly have a fundamentally “good” Chaotic character. But there are simply more evil Chaotic characters because evil folks will almost always choose Chaos as it can easily be manipulated to justify their lawless behavior.

Up next: Lawful Clerics and Alignment.