The Religion section in the new game has been handled quite nicely. Entries for gods are expanded from the original, yet not to White Wolf-esque proportions to the point where it gets tiresome, and unnessecary and confusing deities have been stripped out. This section is very humanocentric and even Imperio-centric, which is good since most of your adventures will take place in humanocentristan and involve humans, so fuck you if you like playing Hobbits in Ulthuan or some other such nonsense.
First, some changes to the human pantheon proper. Taal & Rhea (the nature god and his nature wife) are described in terms of a single entry, with their priests having access to the same spells (though with different starting skills). The druidic Old faith has been done away with and more or less folded into their portfolio/replaced with Life Wizards. The most major change is the vastly expanded description of Sigmar, Hero-deity and founder of the Empire.
The game handles oracles, prayer and blessings similarly to 1e, with the possible exception that everything is left even more vague and direct intervention is even more rare. There is no fixed percentage chance to gain a blessing, the situation must be in the deity’s direct interest, be urgent and involve the sacrifice of a substance precious to the deity being invoked. Even then, blessings are fucking rare and have no outward manifestations. WHFP 2e notes that something as blatant and gauche as a direct manifestions (e.g the heavens parting or heavenly messengers appearing and so on) should be so rare that a thousand players could play a thousand lifetimes without it happening once. In addition to blessings, anyone pissing off the gods can expect to be cursed with the Bloody Flux, of which the gods have a particular fondness. My kind of fucking game.
I am rather amused at the vastly expanded amount of fluff in the religion section. The authors really tried to make a sort of coherent practice for most of the Empire, albeit it with the neccesary regional variation here and there, with certain days in the year being important to certain deities and so and so forth. Appropriate rites for all major events in a person’s life are described, some of them quite amusing (a child surviving to its 10th birthday is celebrated by making a sacrifice to Morr, during which special candles are burnt, generating smoke that will hopefully obscure the child from his gaze) or setting appropriate (2 days before Witching night is Mornlimb, when maimed soldiers gather to toast the parts of their bodies that are already in Morr’s realm).
Annyoing point. Warhammer Fantasy uses a “special” Calender of 400 days per year and 8 days per week, which is fucking inconvenient and means you have to learn a new form of timekeeping. However, nothing an excel sheet won’t fix. Important holidays are noted in detail and given terse, evocative description. The Empire also celebrates dwarven holidays (like First Quaff and Saga), given the prominence and importance of Dwarves to the rise of Sigmar and thus their close connection to eachother. The only holiday of any importance to the wretched Halflings is Pie Week, a full 8 days of gastronomic excess which has been enthusiastically adopted as a secular holiday by the Empire’s citizens.
To assuade the wrath of the gods the game provides a list of delightfully medieval acts of contrition, ranging from Bagging (the binding up of one’s head in a sack and jostled), Leeching (to suck out the sin!) and The Anvil (used by sigmar, the offended’s hand is placed upon an anvil and hit with a hammer, the size of which is dependent upon the nature of the offence).
On to the gods themselves. Though alignment has thankfully been stripped out (since in this game it would be all but vestigial), each god is described fairly succinctly. Symbol, Areas of Worship, Temperament and Stricures. The Gods themselves should be familiar by now: Manaan is god of the Sea, Morr is the Grim God of death and dreams, Myrmidia is spanish-italian Athena (and naturally the Tileans and the Estalians quibble over her place of origin), Ranald is a pacifistic trickster god secretely worshipped among the common folk, Shallya is the universally beloved godess of peace and healing (the only thing she hates is Nurgle and Isis), Taal and Rhea are dispassionate nature deities with many different aspects (from Artemis-like huntress to wise nature deity), Ulric is the kickass barbarian wolf god worshipped by the humans before they founded the empire and Verena is the lady of justice and learning. Lest I forget, Sigmar Heldenhammer takes his rightful place at the top of the pantheon, considered only a minor regional deity outside the Empire but a prominent uber-deity inside it. Sigmar’s Hammer protects mankind from the depredations of Chaos and his twin symbols of Gal Maraz the dwarven warhammer and the twin-tailed comet stand vigil. A man’s man’s deity.
A very useful addition to the Religion section is a section on the church of each deity. Details on the centre of worship, most prominent priest, different Holy Orders and sample holy days. Most cults have both a day-to-day and an adventuring Order, thereby giving you an excuse to walk around and murder the shit out of things. When I say adventuring I mean an Order that is likely to travel frequently, and engage in tasks that are not without risk, and thus could plausibly come to have an adventure, though the Order of the Silver Hammer beholden to Sigmar quite literally consist of travelling warrior priests devoted to fighting Evil.
Although most cults seem to be doing, alright (with the odd mover and shaker/internal rivalry stirring the pot every once in a while), it should come as no suprise that Sigmar’s Cult, invested with vast temporal as well as spiritual power, is a complete fucking mess, it’s Lectors (high-priests) having grown corrupt and reluctant to do his bidding and a growing slap-fest with the Cult of Ulric over a faux-pas at Karl Franz’s place threatening to provoke open violence. The addition of a rumor of the heretical Sons of Ulric cult, a secret society claiming direct blood linkeage to the deity, was a nice touch, I find it lamentable that such hooks are all too rare in this fluff fest. Overall, this section helps to firmly embedd one in the world of Warhammer Fantasy but it should be pointed out most of this is fluff and not very many adventure seeds are generated. The firmament is laid out but we have yet to see the engine (e.g the good fantasy shit that makes the GM’s brain explode with ideas for awesome adventures).
Non-human deities are still covered, but the section on them is even sparser then the one in Warhammer Fantasy 1e. All non-human deities are given a sentence, 2 at max of description. The Elven deities are identical to those of the Eldar in 40k (go figure right?) and are all very Celtic-inspired. The maiden, mother and the Crone (Isha, Morag-Hai and Lileath), the Hunter, the Blood-handed God of War and Murder (Khaine!), the Supreme deity Asuryan, the blind knowledge God Hoeth and so on and so forth. All of them sound awesome but we don’t know much about them which is for the best. The Dwarves are given an axe-fighting god for the Trollslayers to worship next to the Smithing God and token female dwarf god. Halflings are notoriously reticent about their faith and any attempt to categorize it has been met with deliberate deception and failure. Nice.
Topping off the section on religion, again with a page that is maddiningly short and cryptic, is a section on the forbidden or Chaos Gods. Worship of these nightmarish horrors is forbidden in all civilised nations, but like maggots burrowing in a corpse, they permeate every layer of the Empire. From desperate plague-victims to mutants, blood-thirsty killers to power-hungry aristocrats, Chaos touches the hearts of all men. The Pantheon stands complete now. No Malal blights the gathering of the Four. Khorne and Nurgle have been joined by Tzeentch, twister of fate and Lord of Change and Slaanesh, Dark Prince of Excess. Glory to Chaos!
There are no gods of Law. No counterweight. No mention thereof. The gods of mankind stand like tiny torches, protecting mankind from a vast, onrushing darkness. But ultimately, it is man that will have to do the fighting, not gods.
I really dig the religion section. It serves to deepen and flesh out the world of warhammer and save the game from becoming just hack and slash with beastmen and the holy roman empire. The different religions and holy days make the world feel lived in and alive. Excellent.
Join us next time as we cover the noble art of GMing the world of Warhammer Fantasy and…if we have time, might delve into some of the lore. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!