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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Why do people worship evil gods?

    In an evil region or country, what is the motivation for people to follow evil gods? I get the whole worshiping-out-of-fear thing and the idea of appeasement, but are there any other models of society where the general population follow evil gods willingly?

    So in this instance I'm playing 3.5 D&D but this could apply to any RPG. My campaign is based on medieval Britain in the late 14th Century. I'm using the specific aristocracy who were around at the time with the country divided up into counties. (There is a massive amount of information on Wikipedia for this and using the names of the actual Duke of Watsit really gives flavour to the campaign. With the turmoil that happens in this time just before the Wars of the Roses it's a great setting.) I've divided the counties into three alignments, most are neutrally aligned with some specifically good and some specifically evil (75% of the country is neutral so there are just small pockets of good and evil). The players havn't been told this. The cathedrals and churches are then allocated to gods taken from the 3.5 PHB.

    So here's the thing... Some evil gods, such as Nerull, only seem to lend themselves to secret cults. If you look through the list of gods in 3.5 PHB none of them seem to be the sort of gods any population would openly worship. For example Hextor is all very well as a god if you are warrior, but what does everyone else do? The same can be said of Vecna and Erythnul. Who is going to worship Gruumsh apart from orcs?

    The idea of secret cults seems okay, but if you want to have your world divided up into regions where good gods hold sway in one place and evil gods hold sway in another place (with an uneasy peace between the three alignments - no evil areas border directly onto good areas so the neutral regions are the buffer) who are the general (non-secret) temples that people pray to and why? Of course, this question could apply to different alignment regions of World of Greyhawk or Faerűn or wherever.
    Last edited by Kotch; 2018-07-12 at 09:23 AM.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    At the end of the day, it all would come back to power. Power over your enemies, your friends, your subjects, coworkers, life, death, whatever. Fundamentally, you want something, and you believe that this evil deity will give it to you or help you get it if you worship them.

    I remember in one story I read, a thief worshipped the goddess of bad luck, and her prayers were all about turning her attention onto the people who would get in her way and away from herself. And sometimes it would work for her. Torches would go out unexpectedly, animals would start causing a ruckus somewhere else, things like that.

    So pick a god who's portfolio would be beneficial to your group of people, either helping them directly or hindering people they don't get along with, and figure that even if they aren't doing anything directly, the people who worship them will be likely to attribute anything going the way they want it to go to that deity.
    “Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling, it's all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I'm not a pious hermit, I haven't done only good in my life. But if I'm to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    At the end of the day, it all would come back to power. Power over your enemies, your friends, your subjects, coworkers, life, death, whatever. Fundamentally, you want something, and you believe that this evil deity will give it to you or help you get it if you worship them.

    I remember in one story I read, a thief worshipped the goddess of bad luck, and her prayers were all about turning her attention onto the people who would get in her way and away from herself. And sometimes it would work for her. Torches would go out unexpectedly, animals would start causing a ruckus somewhere else, things like that.
    Sounds like Tymora's Luck. They were only a "one chapter minor character" but everything fits:


    "Lady Doom, pass me by, kiss my enemies."
    Last edited by hamishspence; 2018-07-12 at 09:46 AM.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    Sounds like Tymora's Luck. They were only a "one chapter minor character" but everything fits:


    "Lady Doom, pass me by, kiss my enemies."
    That would be it, yes!
    “Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling, it's all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I'm not a pious hermit, I haven't done only good in my life. But if I'm to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    The other option is just people convincing themselves that the gods are just fine. I'm thinking a nice splash of Divine Command Morality - good is whatever the god says it is, therefore the god can't be evil. Done and done.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Why do people join gangs, or tyrannical regimes in countries ruled by such?

    Power. Protection. Power. Money. Power. Indulgence in vices. Power. Enabling vices. Power.

    Did I mention power?

    People worship evil gods because those gods promise them rewards. Power over their enemies. Power to take what they want. Some also provide justification (usually a "might makes right" deal, but there's also racism and other tools for justifying why you deserve what the god promises more than those the god directs you to take it from).

    Evil gods tend to promise temporal rewards, which are ultimately more tangible than the hypothetical "wonderful afterlife" that good gods promise (and more tangible than the "afterlife of torment" that the good gods insist the evil gods have in store for their followers). Not to mention that followers of evil gods who are concerned with the afterlife have a "better to rule in hell" attitude, and convince themselves that they'll be high up the hierarchy, abusing their power over other foolish souls, not low down on it being tormented.

    Evil gods also promise those temporal rewards and justify and encourage taking it from others, which is always easier than producing it for oneself. And if your desires aren't something you can get at all - perhaps that beautiful woman spurns you, or the estate you want belongs to somebody who will not sell at any price - then the evil god will be more than happy to let you (and may well help you) TAKE it for yourself, regardless of the wishes or rights of anybody else.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    If I join a good cult, I have to be a good person. I have to be kind, compassionate, and charitable. I have to be willing to defend my fellows, be it legally, financially or physically. A part of my time would have to be spent working to improve life for others.

    However, the evil god down the street is willing to get me a good afterlife and no harassment in exchange for a baby! That's a pretty good deal.

    A bit exaggerated, but I imagine that reaping some of the rewards of some evil religions would either be seen as being easier or faster than trying to be morally good...Especially when you can measure goodness and realize that your life hasn't really tipped you over to the good side of the scale. I can see many evil gods being far more results focused than worried about the state of your soul.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Getting back to your main question, you're right. The followings of most evil gods do not scale well up to organized religion status. Then again, many nonevil faiths also scale poorly. Ehlonna is the matron of sylvan creatures, and people who live in the forest won't have the population density or coordination that makes cities and citydwellers into bigger fish.

    Many evil D&D faiths are designed to provide cults that the heroes can root out, instead of being massive religious organizations. You can create evil faiths that people still pray to because they cover important nonevil domains as well. (The sea may be capricious and selfish, but sailors are still going to hedge their bets and offer a few prayers before a voyage anyways.) You can create evil versions of good faiths by having people appreciate the darker sides of neutral gods. (A god of commerce could have followers from all across the alignment spectrum, but good-dominant churches would look very different from evil-dominant areas.) And there's room for a few justifiable "I do bad things because the alternative is worse" evil deities*. But the greyhawk deities don't mesh well with trying to make organized religion a major force in your campaign.

    *(One day when I feel like creating my own faiths, I really need an archdevil fallen paladin who to this day insists that he's one of those "greater good/I do bad things so that worse things don't happen" types.)

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    *(One day when I feel like creating my own faiths, I really need an archdevil fallen paladin who to this day insists that he's one of those "greater good/I do bad things so that worse things don't happen" types.)
    Not going to name examples, but some real life religions did some...Questionable...Things in the name of the greater good. If the archdevil has a VERY good argument for why only they can hold back the hoards of the Abyss, you could easily give him a very genuine reason for his belief.

    For a while I was toying with a goddess of the sea that was very much inclined to destroy sailors who didn't worship her, but also upkept the afterlife and a peaceful journey for the dead. So few paladins would be inclined to smite her temples without good reason, both from fear of her wrath and because she did keep undead from appearing. he got followers as they either saw the benefit of making sure souls didn't get lost, or because her temples had power due to said concern.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    On Faerun because one is evil and the alternative (Wall) is much worse. THe best of all reasons, really. If you ARE evil, good gods wont accept you (and most neutrals neither), and to avoid the Wall doing just about anything is worth it in some way.


    D&D in general: because the "Bad" Afterlife is something appealing to you.
    because you like the power they give you.
    Because they primised you revenge on "enter X", wo is protected by Good Gods.


    In General Fantasy:

    Power.







    Power. (^^)
    Revenge.
    Cool Toys.
    Dominion over others.


    Fun.
    A neutron walks into a bar and says, “How much for a beer?” The bartender says, “For you? No charge.”


    Later: An atom walks into a bar an asks the bartender “Have you seen an electron? I left it in here last night.” The bartender says, “Are you sure?” The atom says, “I’m positive.”

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrayDeath View Post
    The best of all reasons, really. If you ARE evil, good gods wont accept you (and most neutrals neither), and to avoid the Wall doing just about anything is worth it in some way.
    Yeah, and I imagine those neutrals (like Silvanus) who have accepted evil worshipers in certain editions are going to be expecting some serious life changes in order to take you away from painful torture and then oblivion. Lots of neutral gods probably aren't big on letting you do your own thing especially with Ao breathing down their necks about 'true' followers.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not going to name examples, but some real life religions did some...Questionable...Things in the name of the greater good. If the archdevil has a VERY good argument for why only they can hold back the hoards of the Abyss, you could easily give him a very genuine reason for his belief.
    The Miko who thinks that doing things in the name of Good gives them moral carte blanche has been done before. It's an option. But I do have a particular soft spot for the "I willingly accept my fall, even my damnation, if it allows innocents to maintain their lives, happiness, and virtue" archetype.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    People worship evil gods because they are evil and believe in the gods religious views. Really, the same reason anyone worships any god.

    As you can see in any society, there is a mix of good and evil and neutral.

    Nerull has secret cults in good societies, he likes to be the 'secret darkness' at the heart of such societies. AND has no problem finding worshipers in such a place: A powerful attractant for those seeking might and influence without scruples. Politicians, businesspersons, merchants, con men, thugs, killers and murderers all worship Nerull. Take a list of evil fictional folks that could follow Nerull: Gordon Gekko(Wall Street), Obadiah Stane (Iron Man), or Godfather(any, pick one). The Klingon society is a good Nerull society: they approve of death (we'd say murder) at the drop of a eye.
    Hextor is very much focused on warriors, and again would make a great god for a Klingon like society.

    Everyone does not worship just one evil god, the same way no everyone in a good society worships only one good god.
    Evil fictional societies:
    The Empire and the First Order and the Sith (Star Wars), e Klingons as orcs,the Cardassians and the Romulans(Star Trek), Ori and the Goa'uld (Stargate),

    Stargate, with the Ori in seasons 9 and 10, area a great fictional example of an evil society. There are a couple good episodes that show a ''normal life of folks", in an evil society.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    The Miko who thinks that doing things in the name of Good gives them moral carte blanche has been done before. It's an option. But I do have a particular soft spot for the "I willingly accept my fall, even my damnation, if it allows innocents to maintain their lives, happiness, and virtue" archetype.
    I was speaking more of a god who does evil because they have seen plenty of reason to perform such acts, not that they are genuinely deluded or crazy. There might be alternatives, but when you have issues like the Far Realm or the Abyss hanging around, I imagine some might decide to sacrifice a few people here and there to get things done.

    I haven't seen that approach with the standard DnD settings, but I would be curious if there was a campaign setting with gods of necessary evil, not jerk-evil or deluded-evil.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    On Faerun because one is evil and the alternative (Wall) is much worse.
    And even without the wall - if you're evil, and going to hell either way, it is much better to go there as an eternal slave to Set (with a chance to climb in the pecking order as new souls arrive) than to go there as an anonymous soul ripe for the picking by whichever devil finds it first.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Keep in mind that Zarus, the first man and creator of humankind is a Lawful Evil deity. Of course, he's basically D&D's Hitler, but I could see people following him just because he's the creator of their race.
    I've made a few guides and whatnot for 5E.

    Here's my Seafaring Rulebook

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Pazuzu is evil, right? You worship it to become Pun-Pun.

    I'm guessing that many people who are evil find it pretty cool to have a god that not only is OK with your actions, but will also endorse them and reward you for them.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Because if you deny them the worship they think they're due they'll go all Maleficent and curse your whole kingdom.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    Because if you deny them the worship they think they're due they'll go all Maleficent and curse your whole kingdom.
    <Maleficent> Everybody always says they want "a fairy-tale wedding," but when I show up to curse their firstborn, suddenly I'm the bad guy.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotch View Post
    In an evil region or country, what is the motivation for people to follow evil gods? I get the whole worshiping-out-of-fear thing and the idea of appeasement, but are there any other models of society where the general population follow evil gods willingly?
    Because those evil gods have the same sense of morality as the evil people do.

    "Kill all the people who aren't like us," says the evil god.

    "That sounds like a good idea," says the evil population.

    "Make up excuses to kill any woman who is ever seen near a cat," says the god. "You can call her a witch. And obviously witches need to die."

    "Yeah, that sounds like fun," says the evil population. "Being misogynistic to the point of murder is pretty cool."

    "Also, anyone who wears a head scarf? Kill them. Unless you like wearing a head scarf, in which case, kill anybody who does NOT wear a head scarf," says the god.

    "What a great idea," says the evil population. "But can we go further? I'm suspicious and scared of people who live in a country to the south."

    "I have an idea," says the evil god. "Why don't you, oh, I don't know... kill them?"

    "Yes, yes, what a great idea!" says the evil population. "You are the best god ever. You have the best words."

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    I forget where, but I remember RAW stating somewhere that evil deities are sometimes worshipped to placate them.

    So true followers, yeah, they're insane and power hungry and their association with the evil god will more likely ruin them than profit.

    But some more neutral to goodish creatures might give *just enough* reverence to keep themselves out of the deity's crosshairs (this works better with some deities than others).

    I kind of am reminded of Batman Arkham Asylum, where batman can overhear some of Joker's goons talking about their experience with Joker. One of the goons said Joker told him to kill his sister, so he did to avoid angering Joker. Another goon said he had the same experience, but he didn't have a sister. He tried to explain to Joker, but Joker kept repeating the command, so the goon just killed the next random woman he saw. It seemed to satisfy Joker.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    So true followers, yeah, they're insane and power hungry and their association with the evil god will more likely ruin them than profit.

    But some more neutral to goodish creatures might give *just enough* reverence to keep themselves out of the deity's crosshairs (this works better with some deities than others).
    “Most of the members of the convent were old-fashioned Satanists, like their parents and grandparents before them. They'd been brought up to it, and weren't, when you got right down to it, particularly evil. Human beings mostly aren't. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow. Anyway, being brought up as a Satanist tended to take the edge off it. It was something you did on Saturday nights.

    And the rest of the time you simply got on with life as best you could, just like everyone else.”

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Many people on here are saying power: I would say self-interest. The path to power can be considered easier through evil. No morality to follow, others have no rights (unless a lawful evil society. The general population can be considered cattle to be bartered, traded, sacrificed, or just trampled into extinction for the sheer joy of it.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Soooo...part of this is an issue of misunderstanding polytheism and how a cosmology with many gods works. Based on the way they are described, as having domain over certain specific things -activities-regions- in the universe, the D&D gods do not represent a series of different competing religions. In this interpretation, all of them are necessary and integral to the functioning of the universe. Different times of year and different activities demand calling on different gods - everyone might worship almost every god at the appropriate time. So a temple and clerics are there to make sure the god's rituals are performed appropriately and to pass on things the god wants people to know. But you don't have people who only worship the god of the sea - they worship at the sea god's temple before they go on a sea voyage, and during the god's particular holy day. When someone is sick, they go to the healing god's temple. On the day when it is appointed for the uneasy dead to wander, they go to the temple of the death god, and pray that he not harm them, and when someone dies they make offerings to him so the dead person may stay at rest. You can have a special connection or a favorite god that you pray to the most, but there aren't religions for each different god - it is all one religion that believes in all the gods. Evil people will tend to ask favors of the evil gods the most, because those gods rule over the sort of things they like - getting power at other's expense, getting revenge, bloody slaughter, etc.

    However, you could envision the set-up as one of Good vs Evil, but then you should picture two (or three) competing pantheons. Maybe the neutral gods are those of natural things, like the sea and the harvest and death, and they are going to be around no matter what and don't take sides. But the good gods and evil gods are equal and opposite counterparts to one another, who are fighting to determine the destiny of sentient beings. The evil gods would likely promise their followers positions of power and wealth in return for helping them win the divine war. Kingdoms that are ruled by someone who has aligned with the evil gods will probably have a brutal or oppressive regime - a small number of the most powerful people are the ones getting the benefits from worshipping the evil gods, and they force everyone under their power to worship as well, through force and fear and coercive legal practices.
    Kingdoms aligned with the good gods will have kindly rulers that seek the benefit of all, and the gods will have their representatives helping and being charitable and healing the people to encourage them to worship. The rulers give the good gods credit for the benefits that come from their beneficent style of rule, and encourage everyone to worship them so the benefits can increase.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Okay, if you're just asking why people would make signs and offerings to evil gods in the "please spare me your wrath" sort of respectful obeisance, that works.

    But I get the feeling the question was more along the lines of why people join their particular cults, sects, clergy, etc.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMoon6 View Post
    Because those evil gods have the same sense of morality as the evil people do.

    "Kill all the people who aren't like us," says the evil god.

    "That sounds like a good idea," says the evil population.

    "Make up excuses to kill any woman who is ever seen near a cat," says the god. "You can call her a witch. And obviously witches need to die."

    "Yeah, that sounds like fun," says the evil population. "Being misogynistic to the point of murder is pretty cool."

    "Also, anyone who wears a head scarf? Kill them. Unless you like wearing a head scarf, in which case, kill anybody who does NOT wear a head scarf," says the god.

    "What a great idea," says the evil population. "But can we go further? I'm suspicious and scared of people who live in a country to the south."

    "I have an idea," says the evil god. "Why don't you, oh, I don't know... kill them?"

    "Yes, yes, what a great idea!" says the evil population. "You are the best god ever. You have the best words."
    I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not, but history does show that when certain groups of people undergo extreme hardship, violence against minorities increases, sometimes...To a rather large extent. Having someone to blame for all of your misfortunes is a very tempting offer it would seem. Or just an excuse to take their stuff.
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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    But I get the feeling the question was more along the lines of why people join their particular cults, sects, clergy, etc.
    Simply put, half of the world is evil and half of the world is good.

    A typical ''good'' society, is full of evil: half the society is evil.

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    If you ask me - and why would you, but let's assume you did - I'd answer: They don't.

    No one in the whole wide world wakes up one morning and decides 'what the world needs is just more murder all around'. Nerull doesn't have a single faithful believer ... anywhere.

    There are two ways evil gods work:

    Either their followers think they're good. Harsh circumstances breed harsh gods, and even if say Thor and Odin weren't super good by the standards of today, they were the gods of the vikings none the less (not that the vikings were super good by the standards of today either). Their followers would have said that they're the bestest gods.

    Or, as someone said, you pay homage because it's a bad idea not to. You're crossing the ocean, and the god of the oceans is a cantankerous old bastard who'll sink your ship if you don't - you may not like him, but you pay the fee of passage because you like living more than pride.

    So, coming back around, if you want to get away with murder, maybe you pay homage to Nerull. You're not a faithful believer, but it so happens you're someone who's decided someone else's life needs to end. Possibly you're an assassin, and you do this on a regular basis. But, remember - praying for more murder is not sane. Praying to get away with murder is (well, kind of - being an assassin isn't really a statement of perfect mental health either).

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    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    Because the good ones don't listen, or can't listen. Or can listen but not act.

    Either way, you've offered a prayer and worship to Pelor and your lot in life hasn't gotten any better. Famine, thirst, disease are all prevalent ills. Bandits raid the weakened regularly and beasts run off with livestock.

    Then comes to town a well-dressed man who smiles and offers a better life for you, your family and your loved ones. A small cost must be paid of course, but delivery of payment can wait. Just offer a prayer every now and then and we'll square off in, oh... 60 years or so.

    Pretty good deal, eh? After all, I'm here to help when and where they refused to...

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Sporeegg's Avatar

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    Oct 2013

    Default Re: Why do people worship evil gods?

    If it would appease a Kraken god whose magic I have seen before when I pray to him for a safe voyage, I'd do it, heck I'd throw in a fiver to pay his clerics too. I think intimidation plays a bit part.
    Wilfred Springgauge - Tinker Gnome Wizard - Henchmen!
    Siodhachan 'Siod' Glunmar - Shoanti (Half-Orc) Slayer - Curse of the Crimson Throne

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