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    Cuthbert, Verbobonc, and Heresy
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Sep 20, 2001
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    Tue Dec 13, 2022 11:17 am  
    Cuthbert, Verbobonc, and Heresy

    According to the Greyhawk Wiki: "The Stars, whose symbol is a starburst, seek to enforce doctrinal purity among those already dedicated to the saint. Most are lawful neutral, and they do not shy from using mind-reading magic in order to ensure that even the private thoughts of their flock are pure."

    So I had a PC "go rogue" during the last downtime. She accepted a marriage proposal from the young lord of a remote village in the Kron Hills of Verbobonc, and then "revealed" to him and the local cleric that she was a prophet sent by Saint Cuthbert to bring them a new revelation. Very charismatic, she persuaded her husband and the cleric entirely, and they brought along the entirety of the local congregation (which was everyone in town except for a secret druidic group). This was all bogus, of course, and really she just wanted to remake the local faith as more social-justice-oriented (social & economic equality, tolerance, basically modern day liberal Western values). So, by the end of last downtime, when she departed with the rest of the party for new adventures, she'd converted this one remote village in Verbobonc into worshipping Saint Cuthbert in this radical, Progressive, Bernie Sanders sort of way, and added a new holy book to the faith.

    Obviously, this is going to have some consequences from the orthodox Church of Saint Cuthbert, and possibly the government of Verbobonc.

    What I don't want, and I don't think is particularly interesting, is the classical "burn the heretics" approach, for a few reasons: Verbobonc isn't a theocracy, and even though the Church of Saint Cuthbert is dominant there, other religions (esp Old Faith) seem to be tolerated. Also, burning the heretics just feels so very Pholtus, and I'd like to "preserve that brand" as it were, and handle this Cuthbert heresy in a different way.

    So when the Order of the Stars inevitably visits this little village and understands the well-meaning mess this PC left behind her—what do think should happen?
    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Mar 12, 2008
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    Tue Dec 13, 2022 6:20 pm  

    Well... that depends in at least some part what St. Cuthbert thinks about it.

    Remember, D&D religions are not like real-world religions. In D&D the gods talk back to the clergy. They give guidance and visions and are generally not secretive about sharing their opinion of the latest thing their followers have come up with. So if St. Cuthbert himself decides he likes the direction this new sect is going, it could well become the new orthodox, or at least another deity-approved sect. Given the existence of three sects within the faith of St. Cuthbert, this isn't outside the realm of possibility so long as the core precepts of this sect are not in conflict with the overall faith of St. Cuthbert.

    Of course, the flip side of this is that St. Cuthbert might NOT approve of this new sect. The FIRST thing that would happen in that case - and should already have happened - is that St. Cuthbert withdraws his divine support from the heretical clergy. This probably manifests in loss of spells, and quite possibly loss of other granted powers. If he's sufficiently annoyed with the heresy, he may well disavow the heretics entirely.

    (Which brings up an interesting possibility if the heretics still get spells; someone or something else has stepped into the void. I can see Iuz doing it strictly to mess with St. Cuthbert, and he'd slowly pervert the heresy further to bring them more into line with HIS portfolio. Or some other deity or entity more appropriate to this new doctrine might have stepped in.)

    At any rate, barring orders from St. Cuthbert himself, the Order of the Stars is going to want to totally remove the local clergy and send them off to a monastery run by the Stars for re-doctrinization. They would want to replace them with more strict members of the Order of Stars to try to bring the congregation back into line, or at least redeem the ones who can be brought back and 'excommunicate' the unrepentant.

    Whether the other sects of St. Cuthbert allow them free reign to do so will depend on if they've heard of the 'problem', and what they think of it.

    So it depends on where you, as the DM, wants to take things. St. Cuthbert can give his official stamp of approval or disapproval to the new sect. The other sects can try to reign the Stars in, or give them free reign to deal with it. And if Cuthbert has cut the new sect loose, then there's the question of what other entities have gotten involved...
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 14, 2022 9:05 am  

    Cuthbert definitely won't be okay with this, as much of her "revisions" to the creed undermined authority and hierarchy in the name of equality.

    My sense is that the Church of Saint Cuthbert would view this situation as very dangerous to the purity of the faith and want to take immediate action to stamp out this heresy before it takes root.

    But what action can they legally take?

    I agree that the Stars' intention would be to remove and redoctrinate the clergy, but what if he refuses? Can they force him, legally, in Verbobonc? True, he might go willingly, if he's being denied spells.

    And what are the consequences for the young lord and the flock?

    I think where I'm unsure is I don't have a good sense of how closely allied the Verbobonc political/governmental forces are with the Church of Saint Cuthbert—I mean, it's close to a state church but not a theocracy or anything. Can the Church leverage state power to achieve its goals?

    Can anyone be arrested for this situation? Does the Church of Saint Cuthbert have the right to swoop in and force anyone to do anything?
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 14, 2022 9:59 am  

    If the PC is a priest if St. Cuthbert, then I would think her standing with her god would demonstrate whether she acted rightly.

    Either way, I agree with edmundscott that the Church will have a real problem with the situation. I would expect the Stars to send a group after the PC, bring her back to the village and demonstrate that she is a false prophet. The young lord and local cleric (and any other duped followers of Cuthbert) would then have to atone for their folly.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 14, 2022 10:46 am  

    Let's look at it from the perspective of the town.

    Replacing feudalism with a modern, progressive Western-style democracy in a few weeks to couple of months isn't going to go last. What happens when there are questions or setbacks that only the PC can answer? To pull this off realistically, the PC would need to remain and be that leader. From what you've said, I am under the impression that the PC won't return and she is not a cleric of St. Cuthbert, is that correct? Is she a follower of St. Cuthbert at all?

    So, we have the Viscount of Verbobonc who has a village that's spouting dangerous ideas (and to the Viscount, they are dangerous ideas), and St. Cuthbert the god whom you've decided is not okay with this. There's no reason why they wouldn't work together, so you don't need to come up with legal reasons for it.

    For the cleric, if St. Cuthbert is against it, his spells would start failing. That should give him an idea that something is up, so when the Church comes in, he should be willing to go along either to a) spread the new word or b) find out what's going on.

    For the lord and town, it comes down to how merciful you want to be. If they are told that they were deceived and they believe it, the lord can throw himself on the mercy of the Viscount. Depending on what his wife told him, he might be relatively easy to convince that he was tricked. If he's still going to be a true believer, then he's probably jailed by the Viscount and replaced with someone else.

    If this took place in the Forgotten Realms with its lack of depth, then, sure, the modern government might stick. This is Greyhawk though, and it takes more than what you've described to make a revolution.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 14, 2022 6:54 pm  

    Yes, the PC is neither a cleric nor a follower of Saint Cuthbert, but studied the faith in great detail as part of her backstory.

    I think my hesitation about direct action by the Viscount has been that there seems to be some degree of religious tolerance for a swath of non-evil faiths in Verbobonc, and I wasn't sure to what extent the Viscount would want to insert his power into a local religious matter.

    On the other hand, without the military backing of the Viscount, I don't think the Church of Saint Cuthbert would be able to (legally) take any action at all.

    But I suspect you're correct that the Viscount's sympathy to the Church would essentially make this a government matter, and involve the military.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 15, 2022 11:18 am  
    Re: Cuthbert, Verbobonc, and Heresy

    edmundscott wrote:
    ... I suspect you're correct that the Viscount's sympathy to the Church would essentially make this a government matter, and involve the military.

    -Whoa, whoa, whoa!

    One thing to remember is that once it's been demonstrated to the villagers (including the clergy) that they got suckered by a con artist (which should be easy for any investigators to demonstrate) almost everyone would immediately repent. There'd be a lot of embarrassment to go around (PARTICULARLY for any clergy), but everything would calm down after a while. I can't imagine why the viscount would have to be seriously involved (other than to be informed of the situation) and I really don't see the need for military or law enforcement action. The deceived lord might be relieved of his duties (at least temporarily) as a proven fool, and the clergy would be in for quite a bit of retraining, but that's about it.

    edmundscott wrote:
    ... burning the heretics just feels so very Pholtus, and I'd like to "preserve that brand" as it were, and handle this Cuthbert heresy in a different way...

    Even in the Pale, I doubt that any of this would require action by guys with swords, at least for the villagers, just a lot of a$$-chewing.

    That PC con artist, on the other hand...
    Evil Grin
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