Religion and the divine are an important part of most fantasy settings, and K20 is no different. While K20 doesn’t have a direct setting with elaborate lore, mechanical choices inherently build a bit of a setting, and in order to flesh out the classic D&D tropes of spells like raise dead, we had to answer some of these questions. This inherently brings about some setting lore, and the religions chapter brings some of that to the front.
How Religions work
In all of existence, across every plane and planet, there are one hundred and eleven divine ranks. At the dawning of creation, these ranks sat, unclaimed and unused. As the ages went by, and creatures of power arose, they slowly began to stake a claim to these ranks, granting them cosmic power. Time passed quickly then, and suddenly all these divine ranks were claimed creating the first 111 gods. These gods wielded their power with wild abandon, and quickly the mortals learned to fear and obey. This obedience quickly became worship, and some enterprising deities realized they could use this worship to further fuel their powers and so began the first clash of titans. These gods slew one another, stealing divine ranks, and so began the never-ending Godwar. From that day ages ago until today, the beings of divine might began to court followers, grow power, and slay one another all to collect more power, and shape reality to their whim.
Mechanically, characters and monsters cannot accrue more than 20 hit die. To further advance in power, they must acquire a divine rank. This rank can only be acquired if there is a vacant rank (this almost never happens), or if a deity is slain and the rank stolen. This rank defines the maximum power a deity can wield, but their powers are granted through prayer and belief. This leads to the founding of the first churches. Originally, the churches were simply places of forced prayer, almost like factories. Eventually the deities realized that they could give commandments, which allow them to do two things. First, they can give commandments to shape the world into how they prefer it, allowing mortals to do their work for them. Secondly, they can give commandments to carry out activities that would draw potential future worshipers to their fold. A commandment to feed the homeless draws homeless to your church, for example.
Broadly speaking, there are four types of religions.
Organized religions have an official deity sponsor them, give commandments, and grant powers to their faithful. This is the most identified religion, and usually includes tenants, holidays, and customs.
Disorganized Religions are religions that are not focused on a deity, because they have not encountered anything that can grant divine spells or perform miracles. They worship concepts, or beings but have no direct evidence. This usually does not hold up once they encounter someone who can actually do miracles because of their god, but these groups do exist.
Lack of belief in the gods is hard when people can call them up and ask for favors. Very remote folk occasionally have this belief, but it is hard to deny once scrutiny is applied.
Agnosticism is pretty much impossible because the existence debate is usually fairly short. Most towns have a small temple and a priest who can cure by divine power. Apatheism though, is common. The belief that a god may or may not exist, but it does not matter. Many poor have a belief along these lines because, well, the gods are not helping me, why should I help them? Many rich also have this believe because, what do I need from gods, my life is great?
Souls and Death
Souls and Death. All living beings have souls, and most living beings die. When a being dies there are a few things that happen to their soul, based on decisions made during life. The order of operations for deciding what happens is as follows.
- Method of Death
Method of Death
Some methods of death or abilities specifically call out that the soul is destroyed. When this happens, the soul is destroyed and cannot be raised or communed with.
Many powerful entities, such as genies or devils, can barter with souls. A living being can promise ownership of their soul to one of these beings and after their death, their soul is directly channeled to this being. The new owner can store the vessel in any receptacle they deem acceptable and have it on hand for any of a variety of reasons. Fuel for magic, trophies, or simply as an enslaved spirit for companionship. The soul can only be released by its new owner, and if released, continues down the order of operations. If the new owner is slain, anyone possessing its receptacle can release it. If a soul is pledged once, it cannot be done again. Souls in the possession of a claimant cannot be resurrected unless the new owner permits. The soul can be further bartered or traded to other entities with minimal effort.
Souls possessed in this manner cannot be consulted by abilities that allow communion with the dead and cannot be raised without the owner’s permission.
Many characters worship a god in possession of a divine rank. A being with a single divine rank gains the ability to collect the souls of their followers upon death and bring them to live in an afterlife. This afterlife is unique per deity, and generally thematic based on the virtues extolled by the deity. Deities of peace and love may grant their practitioners an eternity in an idyllic landscape. Those who preach war and conquest may opt for an eternal battlefield. A worshiper generally knows where they are to be sent. Deities attempt to amass as many of these souls as possible, which are used to power their abilities.
Souls possessed in this manner can be communed with but cannot be raised without the deity’s admission. Some deities readily allow this, and others do not. Others are choosier about who and what they allow.
The souls of characters with no religious affiliation, and no claimants are simply funneled to the Gray Wastes, where Hades himself takes ownership. These souls are the domain of Hades, and he can call upon them just like other deities. Hades generally makes it a habit not to prevent communion or resurrection if the target soul is willing. They will return his way soon enough anyway.