Monday, February 1, 2021

One Hundred Holy Taboos

Most older editions keep the tenants of Alignment, Clergy, and Religion almost maddeningly vague. This tends to have a somewhat homogenizing effect on Clerics, often leaning into some somewhat uninspiring implications of monotheism.

I prefer Pantheons & Polytheism for my Holy Wonder-Workers, and one easy way I’ve found to encourage this in games of the Older School is to assign each Spell in the Cleric Spell List a different Deity: so the Prayer Resist Cold is granted by Aldor the Unfeeling, while if one recites the Hymn that grants Light one finds oneself beseeching Eyeless Labha for aid. Each God or Daemon, Spirit or Numen, Totem or Tutelary grants a different Prayer (you can even start small with just 8 apiece and have this gradually grow over have that whole first level after all 😊). Eight seems to be a pretty good number of petty Gods to begin with, and the less they like each other, the better generally.

Each of these divine beings, however, tends to ask for something in return as a show of dedication, faith, or furtherance of their sometimes-inscrutable causes. These can take the form of Taboos that must be followed or deeds that must be performed prior to petitioning them again. I find it seems to work better to work “backwards” rather than apply the proscription up front, and it is certainly sometimes more interesting if it has to inform behavior after the fact.

Sometimes the strictures are fairly finite (do the thing and you’ve appeased them), other times they can last a little longer. One good rule of thumb might be continued compliance for 1 day per level of the Prayer granted perhaps. Break Taboo? This might prevent selection of that spell until proper atonement is performed, or a level is gained. I tend to skin the Edged Weapon Prohibition common to all Clerics as the Taboo that allows them to Turn Undead.

So here is a table of One Hundred to get you started. I sometimes generate these on the fly during play with the Cleric making a note for the future (but sometimes Faith is more fluid and fickler, and what worked once is no longer enough, etc.). It is interesting how the accumulated Taboos can sometimes somewhat contradict, requiring some clever interpretation or tough choices.


  1. Taboos conflicting is at the heart of some of the great myths!
    Cuchulain had a geas to always accept food from a woman, but never eat dog meat. When an old woman offers him dog meat, he's really damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

    1. That's precisely the situation I'd love to see dealt with in play :) There could always be "workarounds" lying in wait for clever player interpretations :)



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