Keeping the Faith
A look at religion and blessings in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Religion is an important, intrinsic part of life in the Empire, the pre-eminent human realm of the Old World. Prayers, faith, and belief are woven through the fabric of the Warhammer Fantasy setting. It is such a vital element, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay includes the Tome of Blessings, a book dedicated to exploring religion in the setting.
The Tome of Blessings provides a brief history of religion in the Empire, as well as information on how the various Imperial Cults are structured, tenets of the different faiths, and descriptions for the major faiths practised in the setting. This book provides additional game rules and mechanics for invoking divine blessings, as well as useful information for players who want to play a priest or religious character.
This diary provides a small excerpt from Chapter One: Faith in the Old World from Tome of Blessings, as well as an overview of how devoted characters invoke blessings. At the end of this diary, be sure to download the invocation example PDF.
Faith in the Empire
“When Sigmar wishes to punish us, He answers our prayers” – Erich Keller, Warrior Priest of Sigmar
The Old World is a dark and cruel place. Disease and deprivation fall on the good and the wicked alike. Evil spirits and powerful daemons prey upon the people’s very souls. In the face of this, the inhabitants of the Empire turn to faith and superstition to protect them. The gods offer a sliver of hope in a violent and dangerous world, but that sliver is enough to make men cling to their faith with desperate strength. Only a fool ignores the gods, and only a madman insults them.
The Empire is steeped in religion and superstition. From birth to death, the gods watch over all aspects of life. From dawn to dusk, a man will pray to many gods many times as he goes about his daily life. The gods are everywhere, always watching and judging their flock. Every part of the world comes under the domain of a god and sometimes the domain of smaller, local spirits as well. Then there are the dark gods, their temples hidden, their worship banned, but their force still felt and feared by all.
The gods of the Old World are capricious and whimsical, and few see rhyme or reason in their interactions with mortal life. All hope and pray for miracles and blessings, but know the gods may just as soon send them burdens instead. The gods may even strike a man down in any instant, and as such they are feared as much as they are praised. This is right and proper, for the gods are mighty, and men are small and insignificant by comparison.
There are ten prominent gods citizens of the Empire worship (though some consider Taal and Rhya different aspects of the same deity). They are all recognised and treated with respect. Some people may choose one god over the others to be the focus of their worship. A rarer few will join the cult of one god and become a priest. The priests of each god maintain the countless temples and shrines to their deity that are scattered across the Empire, and guide the common folk in worship.
Those who rise to the high positions of these Imperial Cults tend to the rituals of the faithful, and guide the entire Empire in its worship. No matter their position, priests from the Imperial Cults show respect to all the other gods, however, and expect their followers to do likewise.
The practices and rituals of worship vary greatly across the Empire. In the Reikland, where the faiths are strongly influenced by centralised organisations, there is general uniformity, but in the distant provinces the practices may be very different, possibly changing from village to village. Depictions and stories of the gods themselves may differ.
Yet most citizens of the Empire recognise that they all worship the same gods – however they may be worshipped. It is often this united faith in a shared pantheon that binds the Empire together as one people. They may know of foreign gods and faiths beyond the limits of the Empire, but these are simply signs of the ignorance or heathen nature of such unenlightened folk. Some also know of the dark gods and those who worship them, and look to the priests and witch hunters to guard them against such foes.
All the gods are great, but there is one that is loved above all by the people of the Empire – Sigmar. He walked as a man among them, and founded their great Empire. The citizens of the Empire are his chosen people and he watches over them with a greater care than the other, more distant deities.
The worship of Sigmar takes place throughout the Empire, and often his faith is inseparable from the life of the Empire. All of the gods have a degree of worldly power and secular influence, but Sigmar stands for the Empire, and it is not uncommon for his faith and followers to permeate Imperial politics and life. While each god may have warrior priests and devoted knight templars, the wars of the Empire are Sigmar’s personal battles. It may be the Emperor and the nobles that declare war, but it is faith in Sigmar that drives the common man to take to the battlefield, and it is the words of Sigmar’s pious warrior priests that give him the courage to face the enemy.
Divine Prayers & Invoking Blessings
Religion and the power of prayer are undeniably present in the Old World. Those who have curried the favour of their chosen gods can perform great deeds in their names. Calling upon one’s patron deity is not without its own risks, however. Should a faithful servant beseech his god at the wrong time, or without due case, he may lose what favour he has gained, and suffer strain, injury, or worse!
Divine prayers and blessings in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are fuelled by favour. Divine characters invoke their god for aid, asking to be blessed, then pray to generate the favour necessary to fulfil their request. The more significant the blessing, the more favour required before being fulfilled.
Before generating favour, a divine character must ask his deity for a specific blessing. This is called invocation, or invoking a blessing. If the deity responds to the request and deems the character worthy, the character then prays to curry favour and fulfil the blessing.
To invoke a blessing, the character selects the appropriate blessing from among those he knows. The character must be able to fulfil all the requirements listed in the blessing’s description. Most blessings require the character to attempt an Invocation check, which is based on his Fellowship. Some blessings use other abilities, or are automatic.
Invoking divine blessings is inherently safer than casting arcane spells. Since the specific blessing is selected first, it is far less likely for a divine character to “overchannel” in the same way an arcane caster might – a blessing resolves as soon as as it has accumulated the required amount of favour.
If the Invocation check fails, the blessing is not successfully invoked. The character loses one favour, regardless of the listed favour required for the blessing. The character may try again at another time.
Once a blessing is successfully invoked, it automatically draws favour from the character in an attempt to fulfil the requirements. If the character has enough favour to fuel the blessing, the favour is immediately consumed and the blessing’s effect goes off. If the character does not have enough favour to immediately activate the blessing, all of the character’s favour is drawn out and placed on the blessing card to indicate how much favour has already been accumulated.
Invoking a blessing is just one part of the process to create miraculous effects. Once the character succeeds at invoking a blessing, he must gain enough favour with his deity to fuel the effect.
An individual divine character can be viewed as a rechargeable favour “battery” of sorts. A divine character slowly earns favour with his god over time, by remaining faithful to his god’s tenets and teachings. The divine character’s Willpower rating indicates his favour equilibrium. When a divine character is currently holding favour equal to his Willpower rating, he is at equilibrium.
When his favour level is below his Willpower rating, his favour slowly recharges, until it eventually reaches his Willpower rating. When his favour level is higher than his Willpower rating, he slowly loses favour unless the character can show his god that he deserves the extra favour coursing through his body and soul. If the amount of favour currently held by a divine character is far more than his willpower, he risks angering his god by showing too much pride and arrogance, and the excess favour will be violently purged from his body. This purge can potentially cause fatigue or inflict wounds to the character.
To generate favour, the divine character performs the Curry Favour action. The Curry Favour action is resolved by making a Piety check, which is based on the character’s Willpower. The action card details how much favour is generated based on the results of the Piety check.
Download the Illustrated Invocation Example (PDF 900 kb)
Set in the grim world of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy universe, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure. Players will venture into the dark corners of the Empire, guided by luck and Fate, and challenge the threats that others cannot or will not face.
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