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1. Is Religion a useless skill in 4E Dark Sun?

I know the Divine Power classes are out (aside from house rules) and was thinking that Religion as a knowledge class is of limited or virtually no value.

I would like to be wrong, I would like to find a way to make it a sneaky useful skill, but I am baffled. Given the choice which character is going to focus on Religion over Endurance or Survival in a harsh world like Athas. Even those under the delusion that they are priests (e.g., certain city's templars, elemental priests, etc.) are more likely following Arcane skill related pursuits.

Of course maybe I am looking for a solution to a question that is already answered by the setting--in other words, stop trying to equalize skill choices and accept that some are useless in Dark Sun.

2. If not, how would you incorporate it into skill challenges?

If Religion as a skill has a place, this brings up a different challenge, namely skill challenges. As I work on a set of sample skill challenges I was looking for a diversity of options. One less choice isn't a big problem, but it would be nice to slip in a sly Religion test with a low DC.

For example, with ancient ruins and the like that may have had a religious purpose back in the [insert color] Age, History seems a more appropriate skill check. The options for Religion seem covered by other skills.

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Galieo, did you get your answer or would you like more attention on this question? – Pureferret Jan 20 '12 at 18:13
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The religion skill in Dark Sun is not useless if you look at it from a different angle.

History is a more generalized skill so it is less likely that you would have a character that studied history know about the old religious objects that are still around even though the gods are not.
Ex. the party is in a dungeon that a use to be a temple to [insert god here] and have come to a door that is only activated by answering specific questions about the deity or how that religion viewed history, this would make the history check for the challenge much harder then a religion check.

There are other ways to use the religion skill as a main skill in challenges or for interpreting religious texts on the walls of old tombs and such to help get to or around things. Remember that just because the gods are gone now does not mean they were never there. Religious cults and peoples are known for their odd ways, intricate religious objects, and mysterious places.

That is just my take on the matter bass line is that you are the DM do what you feel is best for your campaign and group. A final thought if one of your players has taken the religion skill try to let him use it every so often to make him or her feel like they didn't waste a skill slot.

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The Religion skill in Dark Sun could go either way, your call as a DM. The definition of useless depends on the group not the campaign.

If a part of the story your group is telling is bringing back the Divine Powers then it will be critical. Or if your characters are involved in something that relates to the defeat of the gods. Your number 2 comment is the perfect example of why you might have it. Stop thinking of it as a useless skill and just treat it like any other skill. Setting up the DC for it and how it applies is a matter of follow through and application. Sometimes a skill just doesn't apply.

Likewise if you intend to never have or allow Divine powers of any kind or other things of that type, then its importance becomes a moot point.

This applies to any skill in any setting. If you as the DM don't use it as a part of the story then your players will learn to not pick it.

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Please note I am unfamiliar with 4e so some things might seem rough at the edges

Considering your last point, I think that history check would mostly find out when it was made and what it was, but some more complex religion related knowledge can only span from Religion check. For example, History identifies a piece of brass as an old Grail, but a successful Religion check unveils that this grail was a sacred artifact of a small religious community, which was praying to an evil god of grailessness, which then reminds this character that he saw similar icons on the cobblestones in front of a Lefthander temple back in Watershallow.

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The sorcerer-kings (some of them, at least) position themselves as gods to the ordinary people, and they even empower their templars with something that in every other context would be divine magic. So at least by-the-book, religion could be used to gain knowledge about sorcerer kings and their templars.

In addition, the halflings in the forest ridge remember the Green Age of Athas, and their beliefs as described in one of the Prism Pentad Novels are quasi-religious.

Finally, I think it's nothing out of the order for people to believe in deities, even if there is no proof of their existence. I'd guess most of the desert dwellers such as the Genasi, elf or half-giant tribes have their own beliefs.

So no, the Religion skill is not useless at all.

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