Religion in ShadowRun (1 of 4)
PART 4 Work in Progress...
Welcome sanctified ones to the world religious magiks in SR3(c) and my rambling monologue thereon and herein. First i will outline my take on the shadowrun magic paradigm. With the advent of ShadowRun 3rd Edition (SR3)(c) and Magic in the Shadows (MitS) (c) FASA has sought to explain religious magik as just another magical tradition. However those strong in the faith KNOW that it is much more than this :)
Although many theistic thaumaturgists may seem to be limited to by hermetic or shamanic traditions and rules those that explore their powers are beginning to find that new realms are open to them. Voudoun and the Shamanic traditions (including Druids) define the presence of powerful entities (Totems and Loa) who inhabit the metaplanes and exhibit independence from the beliefs of the individual practitioner.
In this expansion of the basic shadowrun rules the Totems, Loa and now
Gods are powers that exist outside the direct influence of any individual.
There are at least as many theories as there are theorists willing to
explain the nature of these entities varying from the the mirthfull
to the fundamentalist. The Wizards of Pratchett's Discworld claim that
the 'gods' rely in believers for their power but at the same time have
powers of their own to gather those believers in the first place :) While
some fundamental Christian evangelists of the south claim divine knowledge
from their one true God of His own omnipotence. Whatever the truth these
'Beings' seem to have no problem with manifesting in front of agnostics
and setting their pants on fire just to make a point :) and as for the
PCs remember that nothing brings roleplaying to the fore like having
a Totem demans an explanation from a PC.
Legalese and CopyrightFinally a word on Copyright is in order. Shadowrun, Magic in the Shadows, The Grimoire, Awakenings, etc etc are all the copyright property of FASA Corporation and are used here without permission. Such use is not in any way a challenge to FASA's ownership of copyright. The "Religion in Shadowrun" series of works itself is copyrighted by me, although parts of it are taken from Shadownet articles (SN), and are marked as such with the above hyperlink and remain the property of the original author, Dave Kollmer.
The Awakening has shaken the foundations of modern humankind's reality, but at the same time the power of belief has flourished. Whether it be NewAgers becoming Hermetic mages, Natives becoming Shamans or Archbishops summoning Angels to fight "evil". The enormous number of believers in the worlds' major religions would ensure that the Awakening would encompass the Church as well. From the various SR sourcebooks we know that most of the worlds major religions reacted with as much confusion as anyone else to the coming of magic. Initial anti-magic knee-jerk reactions were common and have continued strongly in fundamentalist groups across the world. A more moderate middle ground born of practicality now exists in most organisations with most having (re)instituted special magical orders to keep tabs magic use within the religion. After all when devout priests found that their prayers were now sometimes answered and that Angels actually appeared at saintly shrines and other sites of significance it was obviously useless to resist. Just because the church didn't believe in magic doesn't mean that magic didn't believe in the Church.
It could be argued that magic would fit into religious contexts more easily than into other aspects of everyday life. For example Catholics currently endorse miracles and even have official rites for Exorcism. Most religions already claim we have souls (essence) and that God sometimes acts through spirits. It is also quite possible that relics like the shroud of Turin would behave as natural Foci or magical artefacts. (Top!)
Extrapolating from today, the various religions would still hold a great deal of power either directly, as in Islamic countries, as lobby groups, such as in the bad ole' USA or simply as very large and rich, extraterritorial organisations such as the Vatican. They would also play an ever increasing role in many peoples lives as sources of charity and welfare, no longer provided by the governments of the world. As powerful organisations they can also provide a moral/spiritual counterbalance to the rampant economic rationalism and the increasing corporatisation of Shadowrun society.
Having just said that however there are several references to Corporate churches and even religions in SR. Firstly Sam Verner in the Secrets of Power Trilogy starts of by visiting the Renraku chapel. Secondly and much more importantly at least two countries in SR are run by state religions, Aztlan and England. Smaller corporations could also find uses for "private" religions as a tax shelter.
The most obvious religious Powers for GM's are the Secret cabals. Whether independent or within churches such groups could become powerful not only magically but also politically and economically. Consider the Free Masons with magical influence and rituals that actually do Initiate members. Such organisations can place members in positions of power within governments and corporations, spanning the divide that normally makes each corporation seem to act as an independent power.
Less prosaically religious cabals could be aiming for their own celestial ends. Opening gateways to Holy metaplanes and short cutting their way to Nirvana. Magical orders have already made an appearance in a SR novel where there was a magical order dedicated to protecting the descendants of Jesus.
Overall religion brings in numerous additional possibilities for role-playing in the SR universe that have been somewhat ignored previously. One thing to keep in mind is that religion provides a neat way to introduce some moral motivations to your average hard core team, a task that is often hard if not impossible :) (Top!)
What is in it for the Players? (go to pt 2 of Religion in Shadowrun)
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Updated: November 19, 2000