Background

We have plenty of material through several editions of D&D for several pantheons of old - Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and etc. Have there ever been published material for Christianity? Or would such a thing be taboo?

We were talking about this while waiting for the one guy that is always late to the gaming table. I think it would be neat, to be frank, to see how Satan's statistics, or St. Michael, or Jesus unfold.


Question

Conversation aside, since I am 99% certain TSR/WotC never ventured into that territory, are there 3rd Party publications that have quantified modern day faith systems?

  • Only use comments to clarify or improve the question. – mxyzplk Dec 7 '15 at 15:12
up vote 59 down vote accepted

Short answer: Yes

Christian and Christian-themed elements, in the very early years of Dragon Magazine, did in fact get some coverage. An article called The Politics of Hell in Dragon 28 (warning that it "cannot be considered the official doctrine of" AD&D) presented a history of Hell's struggle against God as played out on an interpretation of modern Earth, and included stats for "Astaroth," "Belial," and even "Satan" himself, an absolute beast of an adversary with such features as a move speed of "whatever is necessary" and an immunity to attacks made without "purity of heart."

The traditional Christian orders of angels - seraphim, thrones, powers etc. - appeared in Dragon 35. They were preceded by generic angels of healing and wrath, the archangel of mercy and a prior seraphim in Dragon 17. These began to be displaced by more familiar (and less religiously-inspired) celestials in Dragon 63 and 64, a displacement that has never been rolled back.

Let us not forget the clerics

Explicitly noted in prior editions for similarities to the Knights Templar and Hospitalers, clerical orders were noted in the 2E PHB to be "frequently found on the outer edges of the Christian world."

Several cleric spells both old and perennial are derived from or show strong ties to the Christian mythos - Elijah's miraculous calling of fire from the heavens, for instance, suggests flame strike; create food and water recalls the loaves and fish, water walk, tongues, sticks to snakes, insect plague... there was at one time in the core PHB a spell literally called part water and I doubt I need to suggest the origins of that one.

And of course there are the other names...

While Satan was off the table for full canon status, likely due to the expected taboo in their major market, other names from Christian sources did make it through. Lucifer was the other major casualty - Ed Greenwood has suggested that this was another name for Beherit, a fallen archdevil. Dragonlance poked around at the borders with the gods Paladine (named E'li by the elves) and Habakkuk (a Biblical prophet), the retributive deity St. Cuthbert still bears the unusual honorific and was suggested to have traveled from Earth, and the names of various fiends derive from Biblical pagan gods and idols - Adramelech, Moloch, Belial, Baalzebul, Dagon - to say nothing of the innumerable fiendish names derived from Christian demonology.

What about God?

Ah, now there's the great taboo. After the great moral panic, it took a long time for TSR to nudge back onto that ground. When they were feeling bolder, they included some minor notes on Christianity at the end of an article regarding gods of the Dark Ages - Eostre, Mannus, Woden - and gave the following parameters: "lawful neutral or lawful good clerics with the bonus proficiency of Read/Write Latin."

Dungeon 86 included an adventure, "Mysterious Ways," set during the Crusades and explicitly invoking messiahs, the "True Cross," and other Christian trappings. It still doesn't mention God or Jesus by name, however. There may be other adventures in a similar setting in official publications; I know of none offhand, however.

To make a long story short: Taboo

By and large, anything the average layperson would identify as core Christianity has been kept to the margins, left implied, or almost entirely untouched over the course of the game's existence. If it would suggest that Yahweh is on a similar footing as Zeus, Odin or Ra, it's been left out.

TSR faced several concerns in its early age, with AD&D having strong opponents linking roleplay to suicidal tendencies, satanism, and worse. As a consequence, TSR was very cautious regarding their image about religion. As an example, the original Deities & Demigods was renamed Legend & Lore in later editions. This taboo is probably way less of a concern nowadays, but game editors and publisher are probably still cautious on the topic, especially in the US.

On another hand, while polytheism allows comparison of divine characters, this raises an issue when monotheism appears. For example, a monotheist God possess all characteristics (even opposite ones) in all possible proportions (including infinite), and this does of course not really fit most gaming systems. Another issue is that God is all-powerful, his/her will not only supersedes anything like a game system or a dice roll, but is reality itself. And as all the "Divine Pantheon" is part of a Greater Plan (that God cannot ignore, because well... S-He knows everything), no randomness is possible, as stated in Proverbs 16:33 : We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.

That said, some games exist that play with monotheism, beside AD&D. I can think of Nephilim or the very fun In Nomine Satanis when you play demons or angels, usually in a Good Omens style. Even there, God is not playable and is only described as all-powerful. As a side note, both games were created in France, where taboos against religions are lower than other countries.

While the New Testament has, I think, been untouched even by third-party publishers, Green Ronin's Mythic Vistas series at one point included...

Testament

It's billed as d20 role-playing in the biblical era and focuses on the Old Testament. Reviews of it are on RPGNet, Drive-thru RPG, and this guy's blog. One of Wargame Vault's customer reviews lauds Testament's mass combat rules. Who knew?

I suspect folks looking to include the biblical Jesus in a role-playing game would turn to something like GURPS Imperial Rome.

Was going to be a comment since it’s a fairly weak answer, but too long for that, and ultimately it does have an answer to the title question.

Lucifer, under that name, definitely does appear in D&D, that much I know – but they pretty quickly got rid of him to avoid offending anyone, and because of the whole D&D-satanism hysteria.

There was also a deity who is claimed to be a thinly-veiled allusion to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God, but is not explicitly such.

Beyond these two things, no, D&D has never gone there.

  • Neverwinter Nights games have Belial as a demon. Illmater resembles many Jesus-Christ points when referring to the relationship with slaves (good slaves get his bless), and also with magic (hates the magic and worshipping other gods). – Luis Masuelli Dec 7 '15 at 15:17
  • 3
    @LuisMasuelli Usage of the names of Biblical characters, or even more broadly the names of angels, demons, and others from the broader Christian mythos, is far too common across all kinds of media, and rarely directly refers to the details of those sources, to really count here. 3.5’s Tome of Magic has a couple dozen “vestiges” which are almost all named for the Goetic demons of the Lesser Key of Solomon. But beyond the (generally obscure) names, there’s no real connection. – KRyan Dec 7 '15 at 17:03

Have there ever been published material for Christianity?

Yes, but perhaps not as direct as other pantheons. For example, from the intro to the Book of Exalted Deeds:

In the Book of Exalted Deeds you'll find archons with names drawn from Jewish, Christian and Gnostic angelology, paladins with stigmata, and monks who have sworn not to touch dead flesh or drink alcohol."

Or would such a thing be taboo?

The text from later in the BoED intro does seem to imply this

To many of us with deeply held convictions about such matters, the subject is touchy at best.

From James Wyatt. While not directly coming out and saying it, I would argue there is some sense of taboo in the admittance that these matters are intended for "adults" and is why the book includes (along with the Book of Vile Darkness) an "Intended for mature Audiences" warning.

One could argue any gaming revolving around matters of faith or belief, whether largely unpracticed "mythos" or modern, "major" religions would benefit from a degree of deference. ymmv

are there 3rd Party publications that have quantified modern day faith systems?

Have there ever been published material for Christianity? Or would such a thing be taboo? ... I think it would be neat, to be frank, to see how Satan's statistics, or St. Michael, or Jesus unfold.

The answer is yes, some material was published in this regard, and it did became taboo in the wake of the cultural witch-hunts of the 1980's.

In Original D&D (1974), the cleric class is pretty obviously a dedicated Christian type (the level titles are all Catholic clergy positions, the small spell list is almost entirely from Biblical miracles, the equipment list has a "cross" and no other religious symbol available, etc.). The various demons and devils in the OD&D supplements/AD&D monster manuals are at least arguably part of Christian mythology. Various Dragon magazine articles gave more detail to Biblical-style angels, devils, etc. The last of this occurred around 1984 (Gygax left TSR the next year, and the prohibition in the writer's guidelines appeared after that point).

An article discussing "The Politics of Hell" in Dragon #28, and the presentation of Satan therein, can be found here -- Delta's D&D Hotspot: Devil's Advocate.

protected by mxyzplk Dec 7 '15 at 15:12

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.