I'm writing partially for me, since I want a good grasp on religions before I publish rules for GLOG clerics.
And I'm writing partially for the players in the game I started last week, who have no idea what they're getting into, but want to make a paladin anyway.
I'll update this post as the canon reloads, probably.
|St. Peter's Basilica, Apse|
This level of detail represents what a village priest would know. Heresies (alternate facts) are indicated in italics.
The Church of Hesaya
The continent of Centerra is dominated by a monotheistic religion that subordinates all other gods.
The Church of Hesaya is ancient, powerful, and full of secrets. It is led by the Pope (the last vestige of a former imperial line). It's authority is upheld by clerics, paladins, golems, and the Winds.
The Church is conservative, authoritarian, and intolerant. It is sometimes greedy, sometimes corrupt. And yet, the Church uses its immense resources to build roads, sue for peace, regulate finance, and field armies of brave paladins, who would die to protect the innocent.
The Church is loved. The Church is hated.
The Church rose to its current position of dominance by killing all of the local gods that once pocketed Centerra. A few of the old gods exist as slave-gods beneath Coramont, mostly forgotten and worshipped only briefly.
Other old gods have proved to be worshipped, and so are worshipped along side the Zulin and the Emperors. Any time a sacrifice is made to one of the old gods, an equal sacrifice must also be made to Zulin.
Even monsters know of Zulin, and even dragons hesitate to blaspheme against the Prince of the Upper Air.
The Faithful of the Church are called to prayer every morning by the ringing of the bell of St. Dorbaine, which only they can hear.
Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all living things. The Law Giver. The First Voice. Humanity was created to order the world and make creation pleasing to him, and fair to all of humanity. He is the head of the Church of Hesaya. When he is invoked by magicians, he is calle the name of the sun, which is Dumadiyel.
The Elven Heresy: The Authority did not create the world, he merely discovered it and established himself as ruler of it. Life was not created, it evolved prior to his arrival.
The Antediluvian Heresy: The Authority spent several billion years testing different types of biologies before settling on the current one. In dark corners of the world, you can still bump into ancient creatures whose metabolisms do not use sugars or proteins, instead relying on impossible energy sources, such as morality, or songs. The scholars who proposed this heresy were killed by sky execution.
The Authority lives inside the sun, which is a golden palace that orbits Centerra. In fact, it is possible to see the golden domes of the sun's gardens with a powerful telescope.
Ninca Heresy: the Authority is absent, his palace is empty. The world is like a ship with no one at the helm, adrift. Ninca was killed via scaphism.
Since the Authority is the god of gods, no one is worthy of addressing him directly. Anyone who speaks directly to the Authority risks his wrath. Except for kings, of course, who are allowed to pray directly.
Everyone who is not a king must pray to a lesser deity in his service, most typically Zulin, the Prince of the Upper Air. It is a sin to know the true name of the Authority.
The Fox's Heresy: The true name of the Authority is Akatom. (Foxes do not exist, so they cannot be punished.)
The foremost son of the Authority, Zulin is associated with the color blue, the sky, the wind, and the spoken word (and symbolic thought, by extension). His symbol is a blue hand, sometimes depicted with a tail, usually depicted as a pattern or a tesselation. (This is how Zulin is represented in religious art, at least). His other symbol is a teacup.
He lives atop the Immortal Mountains. The faithful may walk among those peaks with comfort, subsisting only on the snow, while the doubting man will stumble and freeze. Heathens may not even look at the mountains without feeling sick. Saints may actually walk to the Heavenly City while barefoot, walking atop soft snow, untouched by the winds or the cold.
His ex-wife is the Simurgh, the Queen of Birds, who is Thirty Birds. The verdant gardens of the Heavenly House were once hers. Her church is now shunned, and there are no birds in the Heavenly Mansions, except in cages.
At the center of the Heavenly House, Zulin hosts a tea party, the Eternal Tea. The Eternal Tea cannot ever conclude, because if he does, his guests will be allowed to depart.
One of his guests is Agda, a primeval goddess of darkness, silence, and secret fire, who will one day drown the cities in lava. She intends to do this as soon as she departs. She is furious because she has fallen in love with Zulin.
His guests also include all of the emperors who ascended: the first, fourth, ninth, and nineteenth.
Also in attendance are the Three Cryptic Sins, the last three members of the Ten Deadly Sins. While the first seven Sins declined Zulin's invitation and descended on the world, the three eldest Sins were intrigued, and became entrapped. Their names are Ibsia, Ambathy, and Moscalune. Humanity has never experienced them.
Lastly, the party is attended by all of the greatest entertainers, philosophers, and socialites who ever lived. Many of them are especially invested in the party's success, since they are destined for hell once the party ends.
Anyone who accepts an invitation to the tea party and sits down is required to stay until it is finished. This is not a punishment--Zulin is an excellent host.
The Boiler Heresy: There is no contract or compulsion surrounding the Eternal Tea. Zulin remains there, aloof from the affairs of humanity, because he does not care about us. Neither does Agda, who has refrained from ending the world mostly because she can't be bothered. (Timmaeus Boiler still lives, among the orcs.)
The Prophetessa, May She Live Again
Essa (May She Live Again) was the daughter of a gravedigger, and was nineteen when the Zulin revealed himself to her, and asked for her to be his voice. Since that moment, the prophetessa worked tirelessly to bring his words to the world. She founded the Hesayan Church, which is named for her.
After many years, she finally died. Rather than allowing her to join him in the Heavenly Mansion, she was reincarnated so that she could continue to be a source of inspiration for the Church. She has continued to be reincarnated, and currently lives in the holy city of Coramont. She is currently on her 57th cycle.
Essa (May She Live Again) serves as the fulcrum for modernizing interests within the Church, and is a subtle critic of the Pope. If the Church ever fractures, it will be along these lines.
Her body is 10 years old and has not yet remembered all of her past lives. She is protected by her immortal dog, St. Smaudius.
The Planet of Phasmodel (FAZ-mo-DELL)
Centerra is a continent on the planet of Phasmodel, which is hollow and named after its inner sun (as most planets are). The outside of the planet holds the oceans and the continents, while the inside of the planet is Hell.
Water falls as rain, drains through rivers into a porous network of subterranean oceans that border on both the inner and outer suns. Since Hell is so much hotter than the outerside of the planet, water evaporates faster, and exits the planet's interior through the poles, which are open. (Thus is the water cycle of the planet alloyed to the morality of its inhabitants.)
Objects fall towards the earth because they seek to reunite with it. And so a boulder will roll downhill until it encounters a valley. Souls have a similar attractive force towards Phasmodel, which priests call the Furnace of Souls and fools call the Anti-Sun.
Most of the souls who travel to Hell follow the same path as the water, first gathering on the rivers before tricking down through the abyssal caverns on the ocean's floor. Some ride magnificent dream-ships, while others merely drift.
Hell was not created. Every dead thing, every abandoned place, will eventually sink down to hell.
This includes people that no god has claimed, gods that no people have claimed, ideas that have been forgotten, and the geography of abandoned continents. Demons ride iron ships across boiling oceans, and primeval landscapes run together like paints in a pot.
Satan ruled Hell for eons, until an army of paladins found a way into Hell. The Infernal Crusade ended came to a climax when Maxodus of the Holy Hand struck Satan down, and sundered the King of Lies into 77 fragments.
Most of the Satans were captured and enslaved through the use of powerful magic. Many demons were also captured, and forced to swear the Oath. These demons were given Shackles, and became devils--infernal spirits bound to the will of the Church. And while demons war and cavort as their whimsy dictates, the shackled devils have all been given tasks by the Maxodus, the first king of Hell.
Heresy of Dead Embers: Maxodus lost to Satan and was possessed. Everything that has happened since then is a ruse to undermine the Church. (No originator could be found for this heresy. It seems to have arisen from many people simultaneously.)
Some devils hunt their free brethren. Other devils have been turned in gargoyles, and now silently guard the great cathedrals. And yet other devils have been tasked with tempting humans into sin, to better separate the chaff from the grain.
Some may balk at this last task, but consider this: if a cruel man is never given an opportunity for cruelty, how shall we know him for what he is?
The Church stamped out many of the local cults, but many survived the destruction of their temples. This loose collective of fallen gods is called Zala Vacha. They have many different personalities integrated within them, and many different goals, but they are united in their opposition to the Church.
Some of these gods are monstrous, like Elcoroth, the Infinite Pillar of Flesh, who is the god of Growth, Livestock, and Biologic Change. He appears as an infinitely long worm composed of the torsos of all species, arcing through the sky like a banner.
Some are benign, like Oressa and Ulda, two goddesses of the harvest who hate each other almost as much as they hate the Church.
And some are inscrutable, like Casca, a powerful spirit of void, forgetfulness, peace, and solitude. Casca appears as a hole in the universe, and teaches that everything is an illusion, and that desire is the root of all evil.
Heralds of the New Dawn
The Dawnbringers teach that the world was once the battleground between Good and Evil. In the end, Good was defeated, and the world fell to ruin, and was remade in the image of Evil. This is why there is so much pain, disease, death, and futility in the world. It was never meant to be this way.
Humanity was never meant to suffer disease, old age, enslavement, and death. Children were never meant to contract bone cancer. The world is inherently unjust.
The only way to save the world is to end it. Only when the last wicked man has perished will the sun truly set and the world be allowed the purification of a rebirth. And so that is their goal: to extinguish the last wicked soul on Centerra. However, since we cannot tell who is wicked, everyone must pass on before this world is abandoned.
The Cult of the New Dawn operates hospitals, orphanages, and soup kitchens. They take care of the most disadvantaged members of society. (Just because the world is wicked doesn't mean that there aren't still good people who need help.) Most of the time, this is all that they do.
But there have also been mass suicides. And mass murders--entire towns wiped out, hundreds of families who perished peacefully in their sleep.
The Dawnbringers are led by the Radiant Maiden, who appears to be a veiled angel. Lesser angels obey her as well, but they are her creations. She claims to be the only living creature that remembers the world as it was before the Fall, and the Victory of Satan. She brings healing, mercy, and gentle death.
The Deep Gods
The merfolk have their gods, too. Little is known of them, except that they are living creatures that dwell in the blackest abysses of the sea. They are never seen, and in fact it is believed that the lower pressures of the upper ocean would rip them apart if they ever ascended.
Their priestesses spend their entire lives attempting to grow large enough to mate with them.
The Green God
The Green God is more of a force, or a consensus. It is the hatred of civilization, specifically symbolic thought (such as language). In the eyes of nature, symbolism is the only abomination. Just read this post.