The various pantheons in D&D and other RPGs provide players with interesting details and pull from lots of different sources of lore. Experimenting with these deities and their narratives, characteristics, and histories can be a great way to complicate and personalize your game or narrative world.
This is easiest explored and expressed through individual characters. So, what is your character’s relationship with their deity, deities, or the gods in general, like? How does that differ from others who practice their religion? From the other members of their party?
You’ve probably already considered those questions. Building from there, what are some creative ways you could include the daily practice of your character’s worship in your RP and understanding of your character? How could their unique practice speak to the role of deities in your fictional world as a whole?
Internal Framing and Personalization
Perhaps your character’s approach to worship is more internal, compelling them to find opportunities for worship in the midst of everyday circumstances.
For example: One of my characters is a cleric of Sune, the goddess of love and beauty, and she views sex as a form of worship. Much of the reasoning is embedded in her backstory, but this practice and connection is vital to her as she’s traveling and talking to others about her deity. Beyond that, she searches for beauty in unlikely places and tries to capture it either through art or by sharing it with others.
The source texts were really helpful when I was working through what her practicing her faith might look like. The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide suggests that clerics of Sune set up hanging mirror stations stocked with makeup and perfumes so those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford those things can enjoy them. So I’ve added that to her worship practice too; in some ways she conforms to others who practice her religion, and in others ways she’s unique.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, perhaps you have a barbarian who worships through combat, viewing the spilling of blood and extreme physical exertion as a way to celebrate being alive. There are plenty of options, especially when we add personal touches for each character.
Bringing in Backstory
For many characters, their connection to a deity or the natural realm may be relatively new. In that case, they might personalize their worship practice by incorporating elements of their life from before they became an adventurer.
The main character I play is a druid-ranger, but she didn’t become a druid until her early twenties. However, she’s been a dancer for most of her life. In D&D, with their intense connection to nature itself, I imagine druids’ worship practices as a sort of active meditation, like vinyasa flow yoga.
For my character, this is even more the case as she’s accustomed to expressing herself through movement. Her worship practice, depending on how much space she has, combines elements of yoga, Pilates, and dance, channeling her link to the world around herself and the life and movement inherent to it.
Characters could face further complications in their relationship to the gods depending on how you incorporate some of the racial elements in the D&D lore. How does your half-orc feel about Gruumsh, for example? Is the Elven scholar your party depends on for information a bit of an outcast in their culture due to their lack of reverence for the Seldarine?
One of my favorite homebrew races is the Luminians, who used to live in the heavens in direct contact with the goddess Selûne. However, on the day of the Convergence, their connection to the goddess was broken, and the city fell from the sky, killing thousands. Some continue to hope for a re-connection with Selûne, but others cannot forgive the blatant abandonment. How would a Luminian react upon running into a cleric of Selûne?
This setup for turmoil is similar to the choice between evil and good that Aasimars face, picking from three archetypes and deciding if they identify more with Celestials or Fiends.
I recognize that these examples are more related to attitudes toward the gods in general and less about personal worship practice, but the assumptions that others would have about the particular character’s religious beliefs and practices are important to consider as we more closely conceptualize the daily reality of their world.
At the moment, I’m working on a cleric of Oghma, trying to figure out what his religious practices would look like. I’m also working on better ways of incorporating worship and expressions of faith into RP at the table. If you have any strategies or examples of your own for unique worship practices, please share below!