If RPGs Were Religions

A warning: If you can’t laugh at stereotypes of religions, you should close your browser now, otherwise please enjoy (and if you can come up with some funny comparisons yourself, put them in the comments!).

Blackmoor + Chainmail – Paganism

Not much is known about roleplaying during this era, as recorded history was just in its youth.  Many strange things were attempted and many of the rituals involved esoteric adaptations of wargaming rules.

OD&D – Judaism

From the chaos of early roleplaying developments arises the Original Dungeons & Dragons.  During this time, the great leader of the people freed from Wargames, TSR, brought down the holy writ from the mountain near Lake Geneva that provided the basic rules of Dungeons & Dragons.  These rules, created by Gygax and dictated by Arneson, were recorded on great stone tablets and placed in the ark of the Boxed Set.

This old and venerable roleplaying game has influenced or been incorporated into many modern roleplaying games today.  Today, the majority of OD&D’s adherents have been relocated to a special location set aside for them after the horrors of the Great D&D Holocaust during the 80s.

AD&D – Early Christianity

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons took much the dogma of OD&D, its spiritual predecessor but changed much of the fundamental doctrine.  The messiah of AD&D, the son of Gygax is d20 and its message, “Believe in me and you shall be saved, from all those charts.”  This was very much a time of trial and error as the roleplaying game tried to define itself.

There are still many followers of this early rules system.  Not only do the adherents of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons believe that THAC0 is best method of determining initiative, they are likely to burn you at the stake for disagreeing.

DL 5th Age – Satanism

During the period of AD&D, a new diceless form of roleplaying developed within one of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ sects, Dragonlance.  The 5th Age, or SAGA roleplaying game attempts to lure the unwary with promises of decadent pleasure, but by the time the roleplayer figures out his mistake, he has lost his soul (or at least a part of his life he shall never recover).

Because of the horrors of the Fifth Age, many gamers think that any diceless roleplaying game is the spawn of Satan.

D&D 3rd Edition – Roman Catholic Church

When a new pontiff, christened Wizards of the Coast, took up the pastoral staff of D&D, he declared a reformation of the holy writ of Dungeons & Dragons.  Thus after a lengthy conclave and much deliberation, the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons was born. In response to the pivotal document known as the Open Gaming License sent shockwaves through the industry as it was the harbinger of great (and horrible) things to come.

Many publishers took the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game and reinterpreted it in an image that they felt was more appealing or closer to the gospel truth.  These OGL roleplaying games are many and varied in number and have taken a large slice of the market share.

Dungeons & Dragons was further refined by the 3.5 council and many religious orders and spiritual movements were formed.  The Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance orders were revised and the new Eberron movement was established.

d20 OGL – Protestantism

After the posting of Ryan Dancey’s Open Gaming License, many publishers decided to make their own versions of Dungeons & Dragons.  These games come and go, but there have been several OGL games take root and flourish.  Some well established games include Pathfinder, True20, and Mutants & Masterminds.

OGL games, their publishers, and their followers will argue that their interpretation is the best and hardly see eye to eye, even when two games are so similar it is hard to distinguish between the two.

OSRIC – Reconstructionist Judaism

In recent years, there has been a revival movement of the Original Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game.  The adherents of this movement wish to reinterpret the rules for modern use instead of trying to maintain the decaying tomes of OD&D and the copyright and trademark infringement problems associated with them.  There are even some OGL rules that attempt to hearken back to ancient days of OD&D, such as Castles & Crusades.  Many of the followers of these games refer to their preferred style of gaming as “old school.”

D&D 4e – Latter Day Saints

Theoretically, the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, or simply 4e, is supposed to be based upon Dungeons & Dragons, but it changes and adds so many rules that it doesn’t feel like the old rules at all.  4e also adheres to the proclamations of their current prophet, Hasbro, who claims to speak with god.

Many roleplayers suspect that 4e would probably be nice, if only the followers of the older Dungeons & Dragons wouldn’t discriminate against them so much for following it.

Storytelling System – Islam

Though younger than the Original Dungeons & Dragons, the Storytelling System quickly found its place in the world and claimed many converts to its rules system that claims to advocate a narrative style of roleplaying that places “story” as the most important pillar of faith.

Many think that the game heralded by the prophet White Wolf is really nothing more than a refuge for power gaming zealots that are quickly angered when their motives are called into question.  The extremists of this game, Mind’s Eye LARPers, are known to threaten infidels with death and participate in terror tactics by having their most disgusting members wear horrible costumes that may invoke the gag reflex of innocent gamers.

Rifts – Scientology

There are many roleplayers who claim to follow it, but you’ve always suspected that it’s a huge and elaborate prank that got out of control.  Not only is the game mystifying and broken to outsiders, to truly get the big picture, Rifters are driven to spend obscene amounts of money to obtain supplements with special rules and settings.

Call of Cthulhu – Voodoo

It is said that merely dabbling in this game can drive roleplayers mad or corrupt their souls so that no other system can bring joy.  The Keepers that preside over Call of Cthulhu games easily make zombies out of their players, as the rules are made to destroy their characters.

Savage Worlds – Humanism

It’s simple, unrestrictive, and all you need to follow it is common sense. Many of the followers of Savage Worlds claim to feel relieved from the entire burden imposed by other games, and that they have rediscovered the joy of roleplaying.

FUDGE – Taoism

It is so different from other games that many roleplayers don’t understand how anyone can use FUDGE to produce anything fun and meaningful. Its followers believe that it’s the true path to wisdom, but that wisdom is beyond the grasp of most mortals.

GURPS – Hinduism

Followers of GURPS endorse its ability to adapt to multiple genres and its ability to allow complete customization of character.  Even though GURPS does not claim the largest market share, it keeps reincarnating itself into new editions and its followers hope to eventually reach Gaming Nirvana.

Rolemaster – Zoroastrianism

Almost as old as the Original Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game (I know Zoroastrianism is actually older than Judaism, but I couldn’t think of anything better), Rolemaster is all but extinct today.  Known for its attempt to simulate every variable, Rolemaster can be a tedious game to play.

Today, what little adherents of Rolemaster that exist are usually of the Middle-Earth Roleplaying faction and are content to spend their lives cross referencing hundreds of charts in order to attain perfect simulationism.

Nobilis – Zen Buddhism

There are no dice.  There are no random elements.  The entire universe of roleplaying is there at your reach – if only you are enlightened enough to grasp it.  Nobilis has few attributes and much of its mechanics are hidden within its holy text.  Some gamers say that it’s not a game at all; others say that it’s the only game that truly makes sense.


This article was inspired (and heavily borrows from) by If  Programming Languages Were Religions and is meant to be humorous, but no doubt there will be zealots that will want to spew flames and scholars that want to correct my interpretations.  So have at it.

Listening to: Fear Factory – Obsolete – Messiah

17 thoughts on “If RPGs Were Religions

  1. I think it’s funny. Though I believe most scholars agree that Judaism is older than Zoastrianism.

    I really like the RIFTS/Scientology one. It’s my guilty secret that I want to some day play RIFTs, but the comparison is scarily accurate.

  2. @gleichman: Nope, it would just make you one of the many undocumented religions out there. Though I can see Homebrew systems being “Neo-paganism” and I’d have to do some research to fit HERO in there.

    @Swordgleam: Don’t fall victim to the scam! Once you join, you can only leave through death or insanity. J/K, play it, maybe you really will enjoy it.

  3. Neo-Paganism would be cool, at least they get lots of chicks. Or is that just what they claim?

    HERO might be put in Hinduism with GURPS, although I think it’s success outside the Superhero genre is limited.

  4. @gleichman: HERO could definitely fit under Hinduism, considering the very non-centralized characteristic of the religion, and the fact that HERO and GURPS appear to have the same goals.

    @Viriatha: Glad you liked it!

    @Zachary: LoL, I imagine in the RPG as Religions world, the ULC would have a larger market than in reality. I might be an Agnostic Theist…

  5. Whew, that was really close. We almost made it the whole day without any 4th edition bashing in the rpg blogs.

    This one is really good to, now fanboys can fight about editions AND religion.

  6. Got a laugh out of me–very well done! But judging from all this, I must be a member of the Universal Life Church. 🙂

    Zachary Houghton’s last blog post..Whitehall ParaIndustries

  7. HERO would be Confucianism: more a philosophy than a religion, it nevertheless prescribes a set of rules for “right” roleplaying, which its adherents adapt to the genre and setting of their choice.

    I’d have to say Nobilis is right on, though.

  8. @Scott: I can live with HERO = Confucianism, and yes, I think I may have nailed Nobilis. Thanks for stopping by!

    @Gamefiend: I burned, shredded, and exercised my copy and yet it keeps coming back.

  9. DL 5th Age –Satanism

    Man I got a good laugh out of this one, but not too loud, lest someone learn that I own that book and the companion.

    Or I could announce it like I just did.

    gamefiend’s last blog post..Inside the Insider: Character Builder full version released!

  10. While it obvious that people play RPGs very fervently, RPG Atheists reject the idea of a so-called “game designer”. Some point to the existence of 4E as proof that a benevolent designer does not exist. Others ask, if games are designed, who designed the designer? Some point out that RPGs are equally fun whether you believe in designers or not, so why multiply entities?

    rainswept’s last blog post..buried alive

  11. Harnmaster — Atheism

    Even more laden with simulationist restrictions than Zoroastrianism, the actual mechanics of the game are simpler in concept and presentation than those of Rolemaster, though many are yet to be inferred from the interactions of the system’s rules. Designed more to set characters in the roles of dirt-farmer peasants than heroic adventurers, Realism is its only “god”. After years of playing it, in fact, many Harnmaster players have been known to succumb under the soul-crushing weight of such relentless, bleak realism with a cry of “There is no God!”

    . . . or was that “There is no game!”?

    apotheon’s last blog post..RPGs and Intellectual Protectionism

  12. Homebrew Systems — Occultism

    Followers of the occult faith of homebrew roleplaying believe that, regardless of the existence of a game designer or pantheon thereof, they could have designed it better. More poseur to this faith exist than any other, commonly among GM’s with excessive house rules for a particular system.

    Ambrose’s last blog post..Superpowers: Secret Versus Public Vigilantes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.