I RANDOMLY GENERATED A RELIGION

…and here’s why, how, and what I ended up with…

This is part of what at this point is just kind of a fun exercise, exploring the idea of writing a randomly generated fantasy novel as part of an effort to maybe write something less dreary than my other writing WNRIPs*.

Before I can really get writing, I needed to randomly generate characters, which I have done using mostly old versions of D&D with a few other RPGs and some writing prompt-type stuff added in. Once those basic characters were more or less set (more less than more really at this point) I definitely need a world for them to live in, so I used mostly Traveller/MegaTraveller books for that, with some Judges Guild stuff from way, way back to add color. I even rolled for a number of religions and used some of those sources to describe them in basic terms. This is where I thought my random worldbuilding was yielding some interesting results, so let’s look at a religion called Ud exactly as it exists in my notes so far:

Ud / Uda (people who practice the Ud religion)

Dualism, fear of punishment, several days per week, loose hierarchy with most decisions left to individuals, emphasis on communal teaching with limited ritual, active among limited races, 22.12 million followers

based on Turkish fairy tale: The Creation (1)

pri peris – good spirits – sky underground /heaven  Bilenneoc

cevtsaeg  dews – evil spirits – underground sky/hell   Que

The path to Bilenneoc, the Halls of Udt, are through mines of copper to silver and finally through a gold mine. In the center of the planet is the earthly paradise.

The entrance to Que, water springs is up through the rain, cevtsaeg get to earth via people drinking rainwater. Thus, Cha, the cevtsaeg queen, entered Tsiv, the first man, but Kyshosoom (the creator god) pulled Cha out, creating the penis, and leaving the addle-minded Cha to take the form of woman. Then, having perfected all creation, Kyshosoom tore itself in half and created the Duality: Udt (good) and Uddu (evil) to struggle endlessly over the souls of all sentient creatures.

There it is, now here’s how I got there.

First, I rolled for a number of religions present in the world (I don’t remember the range I used) and ended up with four. Then I went to the MegaTraveller World Builder’s Handbook (Digest Group Publications, 1989), which I’ve written about here before, because I knew it had tables set up to randomly generate a religion.

Digest Group Publications’ World Builder’s Handbook, 1989

The first table is GOD VIEW, on which I probably just rolled 2d6, and in this case ended up with:

4. Dualism Two mutually antagonistic gods (probably with lingering animalistic associations or titles) exist, each of roughly the same importance.

The next table, SPIRITUAL AIM requires a roll of 2d6-2+(God View¸3), which would be 2d6-2+1 (dropping the fraction from 4¸3=1.333) and I guess I ended up with:

7. Worshippers will avoid being condemned to a place of eternal punishment (presumably, again, by going to paradise).

I shortened that to “fear of punishment,” and moved on to DEVOTION REQUIRED and rolled 2d6-7+Spiritual Aim and got:

5. Several days per week.

Moving on to ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE with the same dice formula but adding Devotion Required I ended up with:

9. Loose hierarchy with most decisions up to individual worshippers.

And, oh, you better believe it keeps going… welcome to Traveller!

LITURGICAL FORMALITY: 9. Emphasis is laid on communal teaching with limited ritual.

MISSIONARY FERVOR: 4. Active among a limited number of sophont races.

Then I had to do a little random math of my own to come up with the number of followers based on the total population of the world broken down into randomly generated percentages and tweaked here and there to add up to 100%.

All that left me with were some broad categories, but broad categories can be the perfect starting point for any part of fantasy/science fiction worldbuilding. Next, I needed a name, so I randomly generated that using a stripped-down version of the old Traveller word generators.

For a while that was all I had, but then I started reading the book Forty-Four Turkish Fairy Tales by Ignacz Kunos. The first story was called “The Creation” and when I got to the end of it I thought it could make for more raw material for one of my randomly generated religions, and the rest comes from that. I replaced the names of the spirits with more randomly generated words, then decided all on my own to flip the whole heaven/hell thing upside down and place the evil realm in the sky and the good realm underground—just to be a contrarian. I then gave them new names because most of worldbuilding is naming things. The creation story in the book was a little twee, basically a version of Adam and Eve, so I thought it would be fun to double down on the inherent sexism by making it even more ridiculous. In the fairy tale, the evil spirit is pulled out of the First Man, creating the belly button. I went in a weirder direction, so I can have a bit more fun with it in the story—because ultimately that’s what all this is about. Will this randomly generated religion make for a fun story? Will characters come into conflict over this creation myth, or any of the other randomly generated aspects of it? Well, that’ll be up to me in the writing of the thing, but here’s what I’m going to do next with the Ud religion:

Nothing.

This is all I need to get started, so this is all I’ll do until the story and most of all the characters, one of whom,

Opuch Amberverse

is a chaotic evil female human assassin

Revelation: What was forgotten is remembered. Comedy/romance. Literal. Utilitarian. Fear of failure. Mature, dirty. Servile/obsequious. Retiring. Even tempered. Vengeful. Very honorable. Craven coward. Normally energetic. Thrifty. Virtuous. Interested in politics.

Averagely pious Ud from Chiobo

…might demand more from Ud. 

—Philip Athans

*Works Not Really In Progress

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I should have ported in some of the World Builder’s Handbook stuff to…

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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1 Response to I RANDOMLY GENERATED A RELIGION

  1. Janetta Maclean says:

    Lol. The dark religion is based on Quebec, Canada. Currently ruled by a power crazed orc . Yup. Pretty good algorithm Munirah

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