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For this question, assume I will shortly be running a campaign for some players who are new to D&D, most of whom are of Hindu faith.

I'd like to introduce some elements of the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana for flavor, but I'm only passingly familiar with these texts. Note that I don't plan to spawn avatars of Vishnu in combat or anything so trite, but I'd like some thematic elements of the campaign to match to ideals they are already culturally familiar with, as it may help facilitate immersive roleplaying, rather than trying to accommodate to a less familiar cultural identity.

It might be a long shot, but how can I incorporate elements of the Hindu faith into my campaign without the attempts looking goofy or causing offense?

Obviously, things like basic animistic spiritual beliefs already exist in D&D, and traditionally famous figures like Rama do not. But, if the players can encounter similar times of struggle and perseverance of character, that's sort of what I'm aiming for.

To put it another way, using a mythology I'm slightly more familiar with, if I were running a campaign and wanted to incorporate elements from Greek mythology, I wouldn't just create the D&D version of Hercules, but perhaps the players encounter similar trials, being tasked with sidequests performing labors to prove their worth and/or divine spirit. Anything like this for Hindu tales?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you think this question may be better suited to Hinduism.SE? After reviewing the discussions you've linked on RPG.meta I don't think this kind of question is very welcomed here at all. \$\endgroup\$ – 3d12 Dec 2 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ The edit looks good, I think its something we can possibly answer with experience cited. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 2 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, I don't know. I think it may matter whether you're more concerned about the gaming part (like this question seems to be) or the causing offense part. (The Hinduism.SE question may be like What topics should I avoid in my upcoming RPG so I don't offend my Hindu players? sounds like a decent question to me, but I'm not familiar with the Hinduism.SE standards.) I'd urge adding at least a genre if not also a system to this question. Sci-fi answers will be different from Wild West ones and both will be different from fantasy ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 2 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to re-open, but would also encourage you to post a similar question on Hinduism.SE. We may be able to provide useful answers as they relate to our personal experiences and as they relate to specific game systems (but I do think a system tag will make this much more practical to get a useful answer); while Hinduism.SE will be able to provide additional input on avoiding offense. I very much expect you to have at least one additional question in a week or two that attempts to combine the results of the questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Dec 2 at 19:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical I have done so, per my comment on Tim's answer below: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/37312/… \$\endgroup\$ – 3d12 2 days ago
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Talk to your players before proceeding

Religion can be very personal and is something very strongly rooted in the world we currently live in. Whether or not your players want their actual current religion to be a part of their fantasy game really needs to come from them.

As you've noted, there are a lot of potential pitfalls about trying to incorporate a religion that your players actively observe and that you do not have a strong knowledge about. I would strongly suggest that before you go down the road of "how do I do this", you need to ask your players "should I do this?".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for answering honestly. I commented a reply to your question on the parent question, but it looks like you removed your comments. I do plan to discuss this with my players, but I think this answer is very correct regardless. \$\endgroup\$ – 3d12 Dec 2 at 20:50
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I've always really enjoyed efforts to incorporate "real" religion/philosophy into a setting.

As a model, in the past (if I remember correctly and for example) Zeus was a god of the "multiverse" and is documented, stats and all; I think all the Greek gods were (are, no reason you couldn't use that info). Much as we may have marginalized Zeus as fiction these days, there was a time when he was VERY real in the minds of people (and possibly...?)

Such characters can also be represented as "projections" or some such from a "mysterious multi dimensional traveller" that returned from one of his sojourns with fragments of the faith, which enables a particular divine entity to pierce the realms and establish a presence of "some kind" in your setting.

Meaning...it doesn't have to be perfect, and imperfections can be excused as shortcomings in the "mysterious traveler's" tome (or whatever).

In fact, now that I think about it, such imperfections that might cause characters to complain, could become quests (to correct) in and of themselves, which could be really interesting for your players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't really see "active" making a difference to "real" (vs. fictional). A third party observer introducing notes on a religion, active or not, doesn't set aside the fact that any tables generated from those notes are understood to be possibly wrong. But, that could be heading the wrong way. Let's keep it more direct: I did a little reading, and found this (I'm sure you know of it), the Padma Purana. (This will be multiple comments...) \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Consolazio 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's FILLED with info (ages, descriptions, abilities) and ideas: Vishnu can detach a "chakra" to guide people. In particular, the fights with demons, and even their descriptions and names. The story of how Bashkali "had his wings clipped" is vivid; there's a description of his city, the inhabitants, etc (Bashkali seemed a very benevolent ruler of his subjects, which interesting). "Goddess Gayatri... is of fair complexion and fire is the symbolical expression of her mouth. Lord Brahma dwells on her forehead, Lord Vishnu in her heart and Lord Rudra has his abode in her braided hair." \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Consolazio 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also found this story, which suggests a quest: "Once, there lived a famous Brahmin called Narottam. He had acquired divine powers on account of his austere penance but (never treated parents with respect).After taking his daily bath, Narottam hanged his wet clothes in the open sky without any support...this special power had made him very arrogant.One day, a crane flying in the sky passed dung on his face, which made him very furious. Narottam cursed the crane...it was burnt to death. His special power vanished due to the sin acquired by killing an innocent bird." \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Consolazio 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ A fascinating story line could be, "find the Burnt Crane and lay it to rest at (some location of religious significance, an altar or some such)". I suppose that no matter what you do, you could offend somebody simply by making the attempt at all (no matter how benign). Hopefully an open-minded pen 'n paper player would be able to suspend that in the name of an honest attempt and a good game. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Consolazio 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ adding personal details as to what you've done with modern religions when players at your table currently follow that religions would be a great addition to your answer (both in terms of what you did, and how the players responded.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch 2 days ago

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