Hacking Faith for a Polytheistic Setting

I’m getting ready to kick off my next BW campaign and wanted to make some changes to Faith. Both the Prayers and the Believer vs. Infidel don’t quite feel appropriate for the world we will be playing in. For context, this is a world recovering from environmental catastrophe in recent history - most of the world is unsettled, unmapped, unexplored and the various cultures cling to their Faith as a way to navigate that uncertainty. Before going too far with this, wanted to bounce my changes off the community.

For who is affected, rather than making it limited to believers or those who are opposed, what about imposing Ob penalties depending on their faith? Thinking it could be as simple a +1 Ob penalty if the target is devoted to a different, but not opposed deity and +2 Ob if the deity is opposed.

As to prayers, I want to make their effects similar to more traditional D&D clerics in that their impact is tied to the deity’s domain. Other Emotional magic (Orcs in particular) seem like they were built with this in mind, but, as examples:

-A priest devoted to a deity of Deception could use their Prayers to ignore the double ob penalty from Beginner’s Luck for using skills they don’t have when using the art of deception
-A priest devoted to Thievery could use Prayers to Pick locks
-A priest devoted to a deity of Light could summon torchlight

The above is hardly comprehensive, but you get the idea - we would build the list of prayers based on the type of deity the characters worship.

Am I on the right track with this?

The Codex has a bunch of rules for dealing with multiple deities, mostly rooted in the Portfolio system that D&D kinda uses.

The Faithful need to supplicate to their god, and so a Priest of the God of Lies can’t really ask for a Miracle to compel truth, but could definitely ask for Aid on a Deception roll.

I recommend against buffing Faith too much, and instead get the player to try to be creative to get the things they want.

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Definitely agree the outcome of prayer are shaped by what the god is a god of. However, what I like about BW Faith is that it isn’t just another spell list that is called “priest” instead of “wizard”; miracles feel like they should be strange and unique to circumstance.

So, as @silverwizard says, make your players be creative by making them explain why their god would do it: for example, the god of tricksters is unlikely to have domain over grievous chest wounds but could take away pain by “fooling” someone into not noticing it, so might remove a low level wound penalty.

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Thanks for pointing me towards the codex, forgot about that section. Definitely some good rules for building a pantheon a la D&D as that is definitely the closest analog.

My question about hacking prayer effects is unlikely to result in buffs but flavorful limitations. Using Aid as an example, the restriction would be limited to their domains vs. any skill, stat, health, or Steel test. It’s likely some effects would be omitted from the base list but also some new ones added, too - I imagine the more narrow use the lower the Ob whereas more open ended, powerful (see: Miracles) would have a higher Ob.

The Believer vs Infidel limitation isn’t a hard rule. The section says to establish before the game whether Faith works on everyone or only people who believe, oppose, etc. So, if you want Faith to work on everyone, that wouldn’t be a hack; it’s just flicking a switch that’s already built into the rules.

As for portfolios, it seems like restricting what kind of Miracles, Boons, Aids, Hindrances, etc Faith can work would accomplish that well enough. A Priest of the Deceiver could grant a Boon to Falsehood, but not Sword, for instance (Knives, maybe, and definitely if someone is getting stabbed in the back!).

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One big part of this for me is to agree how big a part of the game religious dispute/faith is going to be: if most NPCs follow the same religion but aren’t true believers and Faith only works on true believers, Faith will be much less useful in most situations; whereas in a “hunting the blasphemous demon-summoning cult” game Faith might be one of the most powerful skills in the group.

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