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ATHATH
2017-09-23, 08:01 PM
I mean, they have unholy water instead of holy water, but I don't remember if the same thing applies to holy symbols.

Does it vary by edition?

To clarify, I'm talking about D&D in the above two sentences.

USS Sorceror
2017-09-23, 08:04 PM
Fairly certain the terminology swaps based on alignment, with holy symbol as a neutral term for symbols of all gods (including neutral ones).

ATHATH
2017-09-23, 09:12 PM
Fairly certain the terminology swaps based on alignment, with holy symbol as a neutral term for symbols of all gods (including neutral ones).
So Evil deities can have their holy symbols referred to as either "holy symbols" or "unholy symbols"?

Mark Hall
2017-09-23, 10:31 PM
So Evil deities can have their holy symbols referred to as either "holy symbols" or "unholy symbols"?

Pretty much. Depends on author, edition, and degree of editorial oversight. Personally, I would go with "Holy symbols" covering the symbol of every deity, and "unholy symbols" being restricted for perversions of legit holy symbols.

KillianHawkeye
2017-09-24, 03:23 AM
I suppose there's probably some variance based on what Edition you're playing, but for example 3.5 is very consistent in calling them unholy symbols when they're for an Evil deity. Off the top of my head, I can't recall how other Editions handle the terminology, but I view it as more of a personal preference kind of thing (like a lot of alignment issues, funnily enough).

Zarrgon
2017-09-24, 01:40 PM
, I can't recall how other Editions handle the terminology, but I view it as more of a personal preference kind of thing (like a lot of alignment issues, funnily enough).

3E started the whole idea of Holy=Good and UnHoly=Evil, mostly because of the damage types.

Lots of evil stuff was ''holy'' in 2E, though that is just using ''holy'' as ''divine''.

In 1E, Gygax was big on ''alignment words'' and often had Unholy Clerics of the dark god, for example.

Lo'Tek
2017-09-24, 11:01 PM
Classical D&D was not meant to be played on team evil, so this question was mostly avoided: an unholy symbol is an item you find on the corpse of a slain enemy and the name itself implies very much that you might not want to have it, or at least be very careful with it.

Given how many places of cult worship, how many temples of evil deities a typical D&D group raids the good/evil split applied in this way is a gameplay mechanic. Splitting in "holy/unholy" makes a lot of looted valuables worthless. Make sure to raise paranoia levels by demanding that your players write it down as an "unholy" on the loot sheet if they ever collect such items.
Also, as already said, Gygax and Co liked to describe their antagonists in such words.

Yet the question exists at least since the first player decided to play an evil priest, so i would not wonder if there are comments about this in very old works, for both sides of the argument.

I am a strong supporter of the "relativism" branch: When i played for team evil this question came up, too, and for me it is a bit... too cheesy to use the evil versions of the words. It makes it so hard to play an evil character seriously, and everyone around hearing such words should notice and be worried about them. So my evil characters, both as a player and a DM, will call their own rites and objects "holy" and those of their enemies "unholy" or "heretic".
Sure some cults are perfectly aware that what they do is "unholy" in the sense of the dominant religion in their area, yet even they will avoid using such words. It would just provoke the cult members to stop and think about what they are doing and if it could be wrong. It is most likely called "Lazarus secret ritual of bonding" and not "unholy ritual of sacrificing a boy to the devil".
Words that are clearly negative are used to describe others, or when someone is having doubts. But not in the "hey can you fetch me some unholy candles for the demon summoning" kind of way.

In general almost all instances of the word "unholy" can be replaced by a less generic description:
- Myrrhe scented candles with strange runes engraved on one side
- Silver amulette showing a hand with an eyeball in its palm, radiating both magic and evil

But players often prefer brevity:
- unholy candles (valuable?)
- unholy symbol (magic!)

Words of warning: if the water is murky and smells of formaldehyde, don't splash it on the undeads, even if you are sure the priest of Vecna blessed it, and we all know unholy water is cursed, not blessed.

So to answer your question:
Yes evil deities have unholy symbols.
But mostly in the context of "dangerous or otherwise unsellable or useless magic item".


And then there is the whole "positive/negative energy" thing, which was, i think, important for turning undeads, and gives a more arcane explanation how they differ.

halfeye
2017-09-25, 10:07 AM
Do Evil Deities Have Holy Symbols or Unholy Symbols?

Yes :smallbiggrin:

90sMusic
2017-09-25, 01:11 PM
A holy symbol can be applied to any deity, even an evil one.

An UNholy symbol would have to be something that is directly counter to a deity.

So you could have a holy symbol to asmodeus if you were a follower of his. But if you were, say, a follower of bahamut, it would instead be an unholy symbol to you because it represents just about everything you're opposed to.

But with that in mind, they're all technically holy symbols, unholy symbol is just a title you can place on them based on your own beliefs.

Red Fel
2017-09-25, 02:25 PM
I have all sorts of symbols, thanks for asking.

Generally speaking, in D&D, unholy doesn't mean "against the gods," but rather "divine and Evil." So, yeah, generally speaking an Evil deity gets an unholy symbol. That said, the term "holy symbol" is more of a blanket term; it can mean holy symbols, as in those symbols specifically associated with a Good deity, or holy symbols, as in those symbols generally associated with any deity (including Evil or Neutral deities).

So, yeah. Technically, an Evil Cleric might have an unholy symbol of her deity, but it could also be referred to under the blanket term of "holy symbols," in the same way that I could refer to my car as "a car" or "a fiery red hotmobile not fully of this world." Either term works, although one is more specific and technically accurate.

Jay R
2017-09-26, 10:04 PM
This a is a linguistics question, not a gaming question.

You could run a game in which "Holy" meant "associated with your god", or one in which it meant "associated with a god that is objectively Good". Either way works, just as you can define an elf to fit the Tolkien model, the Pini model, the Pratchett model, or one of several traditional versions.

ATHATH
2017-09-27, 09:37 PM
I have all sorts of symbols, thanks for asking.
I'm interested. Please, do tell me more.

Spore
2017-09-27, 10:51 PM
I have all sorts of symbols, thanks for asking.

Generally speaking, in D&D, unholy doesn't mean "against the gods," but rather "divine and Evil." So, yeah, generally speaking an Evil deity gets an unholy symbol. That said, the term "holy symbol" is more of a blan

Personally I have always felt the organized following of evil entities should not be called religion or faith but peruse terminology of cults, cultists or sects. Because it just makes no damn sense to revere evil gods and actually say they are evil.

I know D&D has objective Good and Evil but that doesn't mean you'd have to use the terms ingame. You would describe the burned orphanage as a gigantic ritualistic sacrifice - you sending off these kids' souls to your (evil) deity for various reasons. But you would not say: "I am unholy. I burned the orphanage because my evil-o-meter was still in the yellow gauge."

a_flemish_guy
2017-09-28, 01:23 AM
Classical D&D was not meant to be played on team evil, so this question was mostly avoided: an unholy symbol is an item you find on the corpse of a slain enemy and the name itself implies very much that you might not want to have it, or at least be very careful with it.

Given how many places of cult worship, how many temples of evil deities a typical D&D group raids the good/evil split applied in this way is a gameplay mechanic. Splitting in "holy/unholy" makes a lot of looted valuables worthless. Make sure to raise paranoia levels by demanding that your players write it down as an "unholy" on the loot sheet if they ever collect such items.
Also, as already said, Gygax and Co liked to describe their antagonists in such words.

Yet the question exists at least since the first player decided to play an evil priest, so i would not wonder if there are comments about this in very old works, for both sides of the argument.

I am a strong supporter of the "relativism" branch: When i played for team evil this question came up, too, and for me it is a bit... too cheesy to use the evil versions of the words. It makes it so hard to play an evil character seriously, and everyone around hearing such words should notice and be worried about them. So my evil characters, both as a player and a DM, will call their own rites and objects "holy" and those of their enemies "unholy" or "heretic".
Sure some cults are perfectly aware that what they do is "unholy" in the sense of the dominant religion in their area, yet even they will avoid using such words. It would just provoke the cult members to stop and think about what they are doing and if it could be wrong. It is most likely called "Lazarus secret ritual of bonding" and not "unholy ritual of sacrificing a boy to the devil".
Words that are clearly negative are used to describe others, or when someone is having doubts. But not in the "hey can you fetch me some unholy candles for the demon summoning" kind of way.

In general almost all instances of the word "unholy" can be replaced by a less generic description:
- Myrrhe scented candles with strange runes engraved on one side
- Silver amulette showing a hand with an eyeball in its palm, radiating both magic and evil

But players often prefer brevity:
- unholy candles (valuable?)
- unholy symbol (magic!)

Words of warning: if the water is murky and smells of formaldehyde, don't splash it on the undeads, even if you are sure the priest of Vecna blessed it, and we all know unholy water is cursed, not blessed.

So to answer your question:
Yes evil deities have unholy symbols.
But mostly in the context of "dangerous or otherwise unsellable or useless magic item".


And then there is the whole "positive/negative energy" thing, which was, i think, important for turning undeads, and gives a more arcane explanation how they differ.

I don't know where I saw it but there was a cult that insisted that what they were summoning was "a spirit", they never used the word demon