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This is an extraction of one of the central questions arising from my original (overly broad) question.

I would like to know how to best represent the concept that there is a god who is, through a very gradual changing of the rituals I am asking about here, making fire something to be feared, and only to be used by the elite.

It is important to note that the god who is changing the rituals is not the god of fire. It is another god who, eons ago, was in a battle with the god of fire. The god of fire is still in a coma/deep sleep/healing trance/whatever. The low-mid level priests of the god of fire do not realize what has happened, only the high level priests, and they have all been corrupted and bought over to the service of the other god.

The end goal of the changing of the rituals is to decrease the power of the god of fire enough so that the other god can permanently defeat the god of fire. Part of this will involve making the use of fire-based spells (fireball, etc) frowned upon unless you are part of the elite mentioned previously.

Related question: How to make rituals a part of everyday life

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Does this restriction on who can use fire only count for fire magic, or is mundane fire restricted as well? Do you need to be part of the elite to run a forge, for example, or have a hearth? –  DuckTapeAl Jul 14 '12 at 20:42
    
Fire magic would be severely restricted, only the elite. For the rest, a forge, baker, etc, while it wouldn't be just the elite, but those that use it would be either very trusted, almost sycophantic to the priesthood, or they would be very fearful. This is the part I am having trouble with. How to make the daily restriction on fire seem not heavy-handed. Perhaps a central mess hall type thing for cities and towns. –  mudbunny Jul 14 '12 at 21:20
    
I'm struggling with "misrepresented" in the title. How does misrepresentation fit in? –  Simon Withers Jul 15 '12 at 1:23
    
Also, you have tagged this as D&D4e and D&D Next, are there specifics of those games cosmologies that you are interested in, or is this really more system agnostic. –  Simon Withers Jul 15 '12 at 1:25
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I have tagged it as such as I will be running this using one of those rule sets. I don't know enough about DMing to know if it being system agnostic or 4E/Next specific would make a difference. –  mudbunny Jul 15 '12 at 1:31

1 Answer 1

I've got a few ideas that might help with this.

1) Be subtle.

Whatever way you end up going with this, don't make a huge deal out of it unless it's critical to the plot. If this is meant to be a piece of the background, then don't call attention to it all the time. I'd suggest that unless fire magic is related to the adventure or story arc at hand, only mention the prohibition against fire magic every few sessions, if that.

2) Make related objects hard to find.

Maybe this proscription against fire magic means that tindertwigs and smokesticks aren't available for general use. Maybe the only way to make lamp oil in this world is through the use of a fire magic ritual, so normal folks can't use lamps or lanterns. Think of some fire-related objects that are useful, but not totally necessary that make players notice their lack without penalizing them overmuch.

3) Make items that require fire more expensive

This is related to my comment above. Maybe swords are more expensive, because only the church and their personal blacksmith can cast the spell that lets you forge steel. Unless making fire explicitly requires a ritual, there are probably some "atheist" craftsmen that create things without using the rituals, but do so slower.

4) Give benefits to faithful players

If a player is a member of the church and sucks up to the high priests enough, maybe they get a discount on weapons, or access to some minor fire-related item that most people don't get.

5) Have the fire church wield significant temporal power

Fire is extremely useful, especially in the pseudo-medieval world that D&D is based on. The average person has a hearth, and makes a cooking fire all or most nights. The only real way to stave off the cold during the winter (or year-round, in colder climes) is through fire. If the only practical source of fire is the fire church, then that church will be very politically powerful, and might even be the primary political force in the land.

I'd also like to rephrase the question that I asked above: Is there any practical way for non-church-affiliates to create fire without rituals? Can a normal person light a fire in their home without fear? If people can't use mundane fire, then that is a super big deal, and emphasizes point #5 even more. In temperate areas (like most of Europe, for example), it's nearly impossible to survive a bad winter without some kind of heating for your home.

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Adding to 3) Maybe some rare component (fire lizard gizzards, firebloom plant, etc) could be needed without the aid of the church –  Rob Jul 16 '12 at 7:39

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