The Theology of Cemar

   From the materials for the Cemar campaign, here we have a section on the Theology of the Church – a monotheistic faith and the only really major religion of the setting.


The Theology Of The High One:

   There is only one great faith on Cemar; that of the High One (also commonly known as the High Father or the Great Mother according to local theology). Outside of weird cults and a few local “gods”, it’s only major rival is the worship of the six elements, and the elementals themselves maintain that they have no power over the dead who pass beyond the astral plane. There are a variety of mystical philosophies about, but none that grant their followers the awesome powers that have sometimes been displayed by the High One’s priests.

   Ages past, before the first demon invasion, men and elves worshiped other entities – but the wisdom of the Church was spread to them through the efforts of the Sullari, the Merrin, and the living Saints. Originally, the faith came from the west, far beyond the Black Desert. It’s passing through that desolate waste is not the least among its miracles.

   Within the church, each Saint acts more or less independently and – like the High One – they generally do not respond to divinatory magic. On those (rare) occasions when they do answer some mortal’s question, it is for their own purposes, and their answer usually isn’t very clear. The Saints are not omnipotent or omniscient, and probably are not omni-benevolent – although the High One may be. By and large they work to enlighten the people of Cemar – but they disagree with each other as to the best way to go about this. This fact sometimes irritates the living priests, who privately wonder why the High One doesn’t do anything about it.

   Given this variation in focus and outright vagueness on many topics, it’s not surprising that most issues in the church are subject to debate. Almost everyone agrees on a very few topics – principally the Seven Virtues and the elimination of demons from Cemar – however. General church positions include;

Things which are almost invariably bad:

   Oathbreaking. This is generally bad, but can be acceptable if you were decieved or great evil will result otherwise.

   The Seven Great Vices. Cowardice, Wrath, Greed, Pride, Ignorance, Cruelty, and Sloth. It must be noted that lying generally falls under ignorance – albeit in others, rather then yourself.

   Serving, Worshiping, Releasing, or Sacrificing to Demons. Demons can be very tempting, and fair to look upon – but if it asks for more then thanks it is best to deal with it with caution. An exchange of services is reasonable, but ask yourself; would you do this in exchange for some mundane benefit?

   Despair and Suicide. The High One is with you; it’s wrong to simply give up.

Things Which Are Debatable:

   Arcane Magic. In general the church sees arcane magic as simply another tool for men to use. There are, of course, ways to misuse it. In general, the church is suspicious of coercive magic and mental tampering, “evil” spells, demon-summoning, and any form of quilopothic magic. There’s no general rule however, it’s just that those areas tend to be all too easy to abuse or cause disasters with.

   Divorce. Between the magic of the marriage rite and the uncertainties of life this is rarely much of a problem – but it does come up. Some orders think it’s wrong, some that it’s acceptable as long as a couple has fulfilled their responsibilities and have no children to care for, and some that it depends on the vows taken. It should be noted that elven vows are normally “For so long as (a poetic allusion of some sort)” and are often renewed, while humans tend towards “for all eternity” and “Until death”.

   Mysticism, Pacts, and Worshipping Other “Gods”. It’s generally accepted that paying due respect to powerful benign spirits is both sensible and quite acceptable, whether or not such entities are truly “gods” is debatable. In any case, making a magical pact with a minor “goddess” who specializes in the protection of the innocent, children, fertility, and healing, is very different from making a pact with some malevolent demon. Worshiping an entity other than the High One as a god is an error – but not necessarily evil; such eccentric individuals can get to the misty kingdoms (the “Heaven” of the Church) as well, it just takes them a lot longer.

   Slavery. If it’s nonsentient, it’s property. If it’s nonhumanoid and/or of a species that can’t talk without magical help, it’s generally considered to be property. Owning other people is questionable at best – although the practice is widely accepted outside the church. Many priests quietly oppose it in general, but many others accept it or see it as a question of how they’re treated.

   Sex. There’s nothing inherently bad about sex – but being deceptive, irresponsibile, manipulative, coercive, excessively lustful, disobedient while underage, breaking your word, or taking advantage of others is wrong. Most priests recommend waiting until marriage, simply because it makes life a lot simpler, but there isn’t any particular importance attached to virginity or it’s lack. Prostitution is discouraged, but it’s a minor bit of misbehavior (usually punishable by a severe scolding). The standards for priests vary with the order, but they are expected to live up to the same rules as anyone else at a minimum. Most are expected to remain chaste until they marry.

   Parental Authority. The discussion here lies in exactly where the limits are. It’s usually agreed that, despite common law, parents do not own their children, and do not have the right to sell, kill, or maim them. Whether they have the right to force them into an unwanted apprenticeship, indenture or service is another thing. They definitely have the right to discipline them – and the responsibility to support, raise, and teach them until adulthood.

   Is There A Goddess? Theologists generally state that the High One – being all things – has no “sex” as such and appears however he/she/it desires. Some splinter sects believe that the “High Father” is male or Female and may, or may not, (depending on the sect) have a consort.

   Demonology. Unfortunately, studying demons can expose you to their temptations and influences – but is a necessary part of studying exorcisms. Calling up a demon for information is gray magic at best; it can put everyone else at risk as well as the operator. Bargianing with demons is generally bad – although bargianing with the fey may or may not be; they’re pretty inconsistent. Trading some trinket for badly-needed aid is fine. Trading children for personal luxuries definitely isn’t.

   The Divine Right Of Kings. Kings do seem to get some special powers. In game terms; anyone crowned a king gets talents as a PC, not as an NPC. Major nobles, high church officials, and legendary figures – including legendary rogues and villains – tend to get them too, although those who are already PC’s get no benefit. Kings and nobles usually maintain that this is “evidence” of Gods approval. Others often point out that the throughly unworthy seem to get such powers as well, and maintain that this simply shows that political power and support focuses mystic power even better then wealth does.

   Torture. A few of the more martial orders agree that torture to obtain information is acceptable if, and only if, such information is necessary for the protection of the faithful and there is no other way to get it. Most of the others think it’s very wrong – that’s what truth-determining and divinatory magic is for.

   The Authority Of The Church Councils. This is a simple one. The orders that sent representitives feel that the council has a good deal of authority and represents a gathering of their wisest, and most learned, priests. Those who did not send somebody, or were classed as minor orders, usually don’t pay a lot of attention.

   The Death Penalty. It’s generally agreed that it is better to redeem then to kill, that children should not be killed, and that executing someone for petty crimes is wrong. After all, it’s easy enough to “curse” a pickpocket with honesty, nervousness, shaky fingers, etcetera. On the other hand, truly abhorrent criminals must be punished, and preserving a criminal at the expense of innocent lives, or an ongoing threat to the community, is foolishness.

   Assassination. Provided that it’s a “legitimate target” – a powerful combatant individual during a justified conflict – this is both quite acceptable and certainly preferable to war. After all, the deciding battle is likely to be between a few very powerful individuals anyway; if your champions are gone, sending out a low-level army is simply asking for a massacre. Weaker, but politically-important, types are generally not legitimate. Assassinating the infant heir to the throne may save a war – but it’s still despicable. That doesn’t mean that good people may not resort to such means however.

   The Nature Of Evil. Evil, demons, undead, hell, and corrupting forces exist, but their origin, and whether or not they have some ultimate incarnation or not, is subject to debate. Most scholars agree that – if there is an ultimate incarnation of evil – he, she, or it, certainly puts up with plenty of inefficient squabbling among the subordinates.

   Eternal Damnation. It’s known that spirits that have fallen to the lower planes sometimes reappear as demons, that demons have been redeemed – and that powerful adventurer’s have rescued others from the very depths of hell itself. On the other hand, no resident of the misty kingdoms has ever been known to leave them for long. Whether some evil beings were created evil, were assigned to such jobs – or whether all of them are simply fallen mortals – is impossible to say. Regardless of the deeper truth, evil is not eternal and will be defeated in the end.

   Robbing Tombs, Temples, and Ruins. In a world of spirits, curses, and malevolent undead, this is generally considered foolish and reckless – as well as being disrespectful and distasteful when it comes to tombs – but it’s not necessarily “wrong”. In general;

  • It’s blasphemous to desecrate hallowed ground, or to misuse “holy” items, regardless of the faith involved – but the infusion of divine energy which empowers such things tends to fade without regular reconsecration. Items, blessings, and wards powerful enough to last for centuries are very rare, and tend to be fairly obvious. Unhallowed ground and unholy items are, of course, quite another matter.
  • Buried treasures or grave-goods are subject to local law, especially if someone owns the place or takes an active interest in it. Lost cities, tombs and ruins usually fall under “abandoned property”, or – as it’s often expressed – “finder’s keepers”.
  • On the mystical side, spirits which have truly passed on no longer need treasure, items reclaimed from undead are fairly won, unquiet spirits should be offered the opprotunity to move onwards, and thus be laid to rest (if at all possible) – and relics should only be taken if the spirit is agreeable, just as a practical matter. 
  • Bodies should be treated with dignity, and due respect, properly re-interred or blessed, and left with personal items (Many adventurers and treasure hunters pay little attention to this principle).

Relics and Haunts:

   Spirits tend to be strongly linked to their old bodies, place of death, place of birth, relatives, various personal items, whatever killed them, and to anything to which they were magically bonded. Such links normally fade with time – otherwise you’d be tripping over a ghost every time you turned around – but spirits sometimes maintain a link to an item (“Relic”), person and/or place (“Haunt”) or to their old body (An “Unquiet Spirit”) for a long time. In rare cases links may persist even after the spirit has departed to the higher or lower planes, and so acts as a channel for divine or infernal power.

   Whatever it is that they’re linked to, a spirit can sense what is going on around it – and exert a certain amount of power through it. Truly powerful spirits may even be able to manifest physically. Lesser ones usually settle for either helping – or hindering – those in the vicinity. It is, thereby, wise to make sure that any relics you happen to be carrying about are linked to spirits who like you.

   Vengeance. “Justice” is generally considered to be good – but can be really difficult to define. Acting out of hatred or a desire for revenge isn’t a good thing. For your own sake, it’s usually best to leave administering justice to somebody who has less personal involvement. Far too many souls have pursued vengeance into evil.    The “Seven Virtues” – Courage, Stoicism, Grace, Knowledge, Intelligence, Patience, Charity and Hu-mility – at least within the bounds of sanity. One must have humility to avoid the pitfalls of taking virtue too far; foolhardiness, refusing to ask for necessary help, and similar follies, aren’t virtues.

   Honor and Truth. While not among the seven great virtues, integrity, keeping to your word, and truth, are almost invariably good – unless it’s obviously going to lead to some sort of disaster.

   Equal Rights. Men and Women are equal, at least in theory, in the eyes of the church. After all, if the High One has seen fit to grant someone a Flame Strike spell who are we to argue? Women are, however, generally expected to focus on their children, if any. It simply seems to be the way things are set up to run.

   Self-Defense. In a world where demons walk, the idea of non-violent pacifism has never taken root. There is a vague notion of “excessive force” – but it’s mostly limited to things like “you don’t pull out your battleaxe during a bar room fistfight” or “you don’t arrest pickpocketing children with fireballs”.     

Saints And Religious Orders:

   There are seven major Cemarian Saints, and quite a few minor ones. Technically, anyone who puts in a spiritual appearance wielding positive energies after death qualifies as a “minor” saint. “Major” saints are the few who can pass such powers on to others, do so reliably, do so on a large scale, and who keep on doing it.

   Popularly, of course, “minor” saints are often confused with benevolent extradimensional beings/ “gods”, major saints who aren’t normally involved with Cemar, the occasional celestials with Cemar- related tasks, and assorted benign spirits. After all, such entities generally aren’t available for study – and even most priests feel that a general discussion of the “technical details” of becoming a saint is more then a bit irreverant.