Playing Pathfinder with Devout Players


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Hello everyone, thank you for taking the time to listen. I recently moved and by serendipity heard a fellow player looking for a GM at our FLGS. We have been talking and I am meeting with the group in order to start the game when it was brought up that they were all "uncomfortable with the deity aspect". I told them that it was fine and I could work around it, which I can... but I would like to ask some advice.

I know I should talk to my players more and find where there thresholds are. Personally I am saddened as I always love the religion portion of settings and have grown fond of the Golarion Pantheon, but I feel comfort of the player's comes first. Having never dealt with this issue I wanted to ask if anyone had dealt with this before and has any advice for me so that I can make sure my players have a good time.

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Set the campaign in Rahadoum?

Is there a reason they give or are they expressing a general dislike?

Depending on what they are worried about, you might be able to just re-skin the gods as Saints (good) and Demonic Powers (evil) if the only real issue they have is calling things gods.

If they don't like religion at all in their RPGs, you will probably just have to take it out. However Clerics as a class could remain, they just gain their divine magics through devotion to ideals, not any particular divine being.

Big thing is, as you expressed, figuring out exactly where they are coming from and what they mean.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just don't run games for such people. Sooner or later, my deranged godless communist Yurpean self shines through and I get thrown out of the window.

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If it's due to their religious beliefs, they may be equally as upset with Random atheism as they are general polytheism. Or clerics gaining faith-based powers through godless ideals. Or pagan-seeming druids or witches for that matter. Or perhaps even the notion of devils and demons walking the earth. Sounds like you need to have a nice, LONG chat about comfort levels.

Talk with them, definitely. Only way to find out what they like or don't.

If it's a problem with monotheists not wanting to adventure in a polytheistic world, just redo the religions, and have good clerics follow The One True Good, and various evil clerics follow Not Nice Enemies of God.

Or have the only spell-casting clerics in the world as holy sages living in remote monasteries (which is much closer to some of the medieval epics anyway) and players have to quest to find them.

If it's a problem with atheists not wanting to adventure in a deity-ridden morass of backwater superstition, then set the campaign in Rahadoum or something like that, or just have no clerics in the world.

Either of these will result in necessary changes in adventure design, of course.

I'll add in my two cents for talking to them. You could look to the Sparhawk series by David Eddings as an example of characters that deal primarily with the One True God and his enemies, as well as the pagan pantheons on the side. It might be what they are looking for, or towards.

Grand Lodge

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Have they given you a reason why?

That would be key to coming up with a solution.

Instead of Gods make them Planar Emperors, able to die but nigh invulnerable.

I think an equally valid question is whether Pathfinder is the right system for those players. The real world is full of metaphysical uncertainty, but Pathfinder has a deeply ingrained and concrete metaphysics. I think Rhorik covered it best with his statement: there's a lot they could potentially be offended by in the system.

Definitely talk with them. Assess their comfort level on a number of topics and, if they are squeamish about more than just Clerics, then consider alternative systems. I would recommend starting a thread in the Gamer Talk section if you need system suggestions.

I'd advise them not to play Clerics, and ask them if they're ok with seeking out, stopping, and killing demons and evil. Chances are they'll think about it and say yes.

I'm quite devout myself, and went through a phase where if I played a Cleric (which I quite liked to do) it would have to be re-skinned so that the God they worshiped was the same one I did, but in disguise. I got over it, eventually.

If they're anything like I was, the issue they are concerned about is role-playing serving other gods. Fighting other gods, and having other followers of other gods around is absolutely ok. Devout people can really get into destroying evil and protecting the innocent. Be prepared for if someone tries redeeming an evil humanoid, as this is also common.

I would definitely NOT have a long conversation with them, as that can open a can of worms that you'll never get free of. Just run the educated guess of where they're at past them and ask them if that's what they're talking about, or if it's at least close. If it is, then all you have to avoid is direct divine and outsider intervention on their behalf.

If not, then I'd take everyone elses advice instead :)

Grand Lodge

This needs more explanation.

Liberty's Edge

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I'm not sure if 'devout' is the right term to use here. I'm certainly devout (though pagan, which makes for less of a disconnect with Pathfinder's cosmology) and have no problems playing in worlds that don't synch up with my beliefs about the real world's cosmology, and have played with devout Christians who felt the same, and even favored playing Clerics of Good deities in D&D.

I'm not sure what you call people who are unwilling to play in a world with a cosmology vastly different from that they believe is true, but I don't think devout covers it. And, frankly, given the vast diversity of worlds I run games in, I don't think I'd be much inclined to play with people like that.


I would strongly recommend against trying to speculate on the motives or inclinations of the players here. It's out of scope for the OP's question and teeters on the boundaries of good conduct given the volatile nature of the subject.

A lot of people struggle with their faith or other life experiences that make this sort of endeavor challenging for them. It's my opinion that we should make every reasonable effort to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to an optional leisure activity as gaming. Even to an atheist like myself, it makes sense to treat people with religious concerns with the same respect that we would treat younger gamers, survivors of all stripes, veterans, etc. that may be sensitive to content that we're more than able to leave out.

That said, my original advice to consider if Pathfinder is the appropriate system and setting is still relevant here.

Liberty's Edge

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Fantasy RPGs seem to not be an ideal place for those offended by the idea of a story with other deities than their own real life one they believe in. Some of the most interesting things come from the deities of Golarion. For anyone not religious like them is in the group, sterilizing the game would suck the fun right out of it for the others. Also, this thread has a high change to take a terrible turn. I've been editing what I say heavily, so as not to offend (atheist). Apologies if any is.

Emmanuel Nouvellon-Pugh wrote:
Instead of Gods make them Planar Emperors, able to die but nigh invulnerable.

After all they're not much of gods anyway. Most can be killed by creative level 20 PC's.

Shadow Lodge

Im a devout catholic and im aware pathfinder is a game and really has nothing to do with daily religion.

Really if they have a problem with deities they may have problems with aberrations, demon, devils,etc. THeir issues may be more complex than jsut beign "devout".

Anyway leaving that aside, ravenloft could be a good setting, considering there are not real deities, just "evilish eldritch things"

Scarab Sages

Religion in pathfinder/d&d has always been quite integral to the setting and the mechanics. You can rename clerics to something like 'white mage' and let them choose which two domains they want, but I imagine it will be quite a different game. Another system might be better.

I'd also check if there's anything else they might have problems with in the future. (Demons, witchcraft, etc)

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[Trolling] Ask them if they want to play Way of the Wicked. It's the most appropriate adventure path for these circumstances! [/Trolling].

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Undone wrote:
Emmanuel Nouvellon-Pugh wrote:
Instead of Gods make them Planar Emperors, able to die but nigh invulnerable.
After all they're not much of gods anyway. Most can be killed by creative level 20 PC's.

That'd be a trick considering none of the actual gods have statblocks.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There exist game settings where the Christian church plays a major role. For example Ars Magica and Chivalry & Sorcery both used a fantasy version of medieval Europe as their settings. One could easily have a Pathfinder game set in such a place, where clerics and at least some other divine classes were devoted to the Christian God or the Devil.

However, such a setting might be even more problematic for a group of devoutly religious people than a full fantasy approach as in Golarion or the Forgotten Realms. For many fundamentalist Christians, the very act of playing "D&D" is satanic, and magic as such is seen as a diabolical practice.

I would imagine that the most important thing before even thinking about playing would be to sit down together with the potential players and talk through some of these issues. It's always best to work through consensus. I would tend to think that Christian players would like the idea of playing a band of heros fighting against the forces of evil, but that is something only the players can tell you.

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Thank you everyone for responding, many of you have been helpful or just made me laugh. I am meeting with the group tomorrow and I can ascertain their issues then. I will try not to get dragged into a long conversation I don't want to have, thanks for the advice Guang.

I would like to state that I did not state the player's faith for a reason. I have seen that some of you have assumed them to be of Christian or Catholic faith, but I would prefer no assumptions, as I want to respect the privacy of my group.

I apologize if my use of the word devout offended anyone, I was quite flabbergasted at the time of posting and it was the best, least offensive word that came to my mind at the time.

Well, this is a complicated situation. Some people have a REALLY hard time dealing with fantasy, much less fantasy that messes around with something that could be part of their identity (in this case religion).

Now, there are ways to deal with this; creating/presenting a setting which is more in line with their beliefs (if the whole group is on board). Options include:
-Rahadoum (Atheist Golarion nation that literally hunts down all worshipers of deities)
-Biblical setting (for christians/jewish folk): considering the amount of epic warfare in the old testament, I'm surprised it aint used more. A campaign centering on the Israelites reconquering Palestine after returning from Egypt could be quite interesting.

-Historical setting: also very fruitful. I'm currently in a "fantasized" 15th century europe game, where (on the christian side anyway) gods are replaced by certain saints (I play an Inquisitor of St Jude, patron saint of lost causes) all in the context of the church (there are pagan deities there too though). Another example (for, let's say, buhddists) would be the religious forces in Japan; buddhist monks frequently battled against the numerous lords to assert their authority.

In the end, this really depends on the players. If all players are of a similar mindset, you can arrange something; and I know a number of fairly religious folks who love being in a metaphysically more "simple" world, despite the polytheism.

In any case, good luck finding a good balance for your group!

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@Gallifrey: Well what do you mean by "devout"?

Rather than respecting your players beliefs how about respecting us as a community enough to candidly explain the situation and thus get some advice that might actually be on target and helpful.

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If the complaints are coming indirectly from a local religious leader, you might also want to talk with them as well. That can avoid getting into a situation where they are getting a mixed message.

I would suggest doing a few web searches on the issue, find some of the blogs where people explain how it doesn't have to conflict with their religion.


adjective: devout

having or showing deep religious feeling or commitment.

As I said before, I will be speaking to my players soon about the particulars. The amount of information I have given is the amount of information I have. I asked without this information because I was hoping there would be some people who might have encountered something similar and could advise me. And there have been posts I found quite helpful despite the lack of information I provided. Depending on how my conversation goes with them later, I may need further advising... in which case I will say more on the subject, as I learn more about it.

Liberty's Edge

Gallifrey wrote:
Thank you everyone for responding, many of you have been helpful or just made me laugh. I am meeting with the group tomorrow and I can ascertain their issues then. I will try not to get dragged into a long conversation I don't want to have, thanks for the advice Guang.

Good luck. :)

Gallifrey wrote:
I would like to state that I did not state the player's faith for a reason. I have seen that some of you have assumed them to be of Christian or Catholic faith, but I would prefer no assumptions, as I want to respect the privacy of my group.

Very reasonable. I think a lot of the assumptions of Christianity have to do with it clearly being a monotheistic faith based on the nature of the complaints...and there only being a few of those, with Christianity being the most common in most first world nations. still, they could easily be Islamic instead, I suppose.

Gallifrey wrote:
I apologize if my use of the word devout offended anyone, I was quite flabbergasted at the time of posting and it was the best, least offensive word that came to my mind at the time.

For the record I, at least, wasn't offended, just being pedantic and noting that not all devout people felt that way.

@williamoak - Anybody with those kind of problems handling fantasy shouldn't be immersing themselves in role playing, imo. That would just generally be dangerous.

@OP - Coming from a Southern Baptist background, with a GM who is quite devout I can understand that some players will have a problem with polytheistic faiths and especially playing characters that are devoted to such deities. Since we don't have specifics from your group and you want to respect their privacy I'll share some ways people I know have dealt with these issues. I would be curious to know how they plan to deal with all the magic and violence in the game however.

First, just avoiding a few specific classes can work pretty well. Clerics and Warpriests in particular can be a problem, but an Oracle or a Paladin could easily receive their powers from a vague "divine being" or "force of good" and don't have to have aspects of worship worked in.

Second, create a custom setting. My devout GM created his own campaign world with a generic fantasy analog of Catholicism. Instead of picking a deity you pick a branch of the church each granting access to domains and selected weapons from Fighter weapon groups. You could also move to a fictional setting that is more acceptable, such as Narnia (for Christians) or even set the game in the real world.

Finally, you may want to try an entirely different game system. Polytheism and wars between gods is a pretty standard trope in fantasy settings and Pathfinder is very much designed with fantasy in mind. You might have more fun in a modern-day or sci-fi setting, Shadow Run games can be a blast for instance.

If you really want to play with these people, just move the deities to the background. Or find a new group without people who feel their faith is being threatened by playing a game.

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Run DARK SUN on the world of Athas.

No Gods. Gods can't exist because the world of Athas is incapable of supporting divine accession.

Clerics get their power from worshiping Elemental powers. Druids are similar.

The only beings that can grant divine spells like gods are the Evil Sorcerer Kings. And all their Templars are loyal to them.


Option number 2. Get a copy of D&D Unearthed Arcana. Disallow divine magic period. And play with the "Injury System" that replaces hit points. The gist of the system works like this.

-There are no Hit points.
-Whenever a character takes damage divide the damage by 5 rounded up. This is the Damage Value of the attack. You then make a fortitude Save vs a DC of 15+ The Damage Value. If you succeed you suffer no ill effect. If you fail consult the following:

Failed by 1 to 9: Hit suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to Fortitude saves to resist injury.
Failed by 10 or more: Disabled
*If a character is disabled and suffers a hit they start Dying.

Dying characters must make a Fortitude Save vs a starting DC of 10 (+1 to the DC per round) in order to remain alive. If they fail a Fortitude save at this point they die. If they succeed by 5 or less they survive but their condition does not improve. If they succeed by 5 or more but less than 10 they become stable, but remain unconscious. If they succeed by 10 or more they become conscious but disabled.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

If the players are devout Muslims, I suspect you may have similar problems to a devout Christian group. One could easily imagine a fantasy setting in the early middle ages, say, pre-Charlemagne Europe, with the Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalus (Spain) pushing northward into what is now France. Or even fighting against crusaders in the Middle East. But these settings would be problematic for many reasons, since their overt referentiality with current events could create major problems around your table.

All things considered, I would try to play in a setting as far removed as possible from the real world. As long as the gods have names like Desna and Sarenrae, there will be little reason for any player to feel offended by any religious references.

On the whole "magic is evil" front, it seems to me that fundamentalist Christian groups would be the only real problem area. Islamic literature has a lot of example of magic, for both good and evil ends, so a group of devout Muslims probably would have fewer identity-linked issues with the underlying concepts of a standard Pathfinder game.

At the end of the day, the only constructive way to proceed is through dialogue and mutually agreed conventions. Good luck!

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