I think we are thinking along the same lines. As a DM, I would require at least 30 minutes of prayer in order to make the Prayer check. (I'm going to stick with 'Prayer' for the skill name in order to avoid confusion in this discussion - but I definitely like 'Ritualist' better.) I'm trying to keep the 'definitions' as simple and abstract as possible for the sake of solo play.
I'm not partial to mixing things up and making the Prayer skill check 4/IQ instead of 3/IQ. I think we've worked it over enough by the time I finish this post that 3/IQ Prayer for karma will not be too powerful.
Recap: 20XP to join Cult. Ongoing cost of 10% of coinage gained. Get Prayer skill at level 1. Prayer skill costs 10XP to increase. Once per day, pass 3/IQ against Prayer to gain 1 karma point. If you fail, you lose 1 karma point. If you fail miserably (17 or 18), you lose all karma. Cult member can use 1 karma to Bless (give 1 karma away) and 2 karma to Curse (Curse already defined in rules: add 1 to all checks (die-result) and subtract 1 from all damage).
New questions: If you succeed spectacularly (3 or 4), do you get 2 karma points? Too generous? Wish - costs 10 karma points? (Current rules state 1 karma can be used as 1XP; Curses may be lifted by spending one wish, 3 karma points, or 10XP. This was the basis of the original 3 karma = 1 Wish but you can also extrapolate that 10 karma = 10XP = 1 Wish)
I'm reactivating this series, hoping you're still out there and thinking on this stuff, platimus.
I've spent the last year or so researching the whole idea of religion in RPGs and how various systems have tried to handle it. It's still an on-going process, but I've looked very hard (and done a heck of a lot of reading) into things like Ars Magica (far and away the most complicated methodology I've found, without a lot of applicability to TFT or LAW, but with tons of evocative atmosphere), and an old game that has recently been republished (alas, that that's not true for TFT), called Dragon Warriors, which has a system much closer to TFT and LAW than other systems do, and I feel that we were on a surprisingly good track back in 2014 when we were writing about this stuff. Still there are a few things I've learned.
One, Dragon Warriors has a system for "Fear" attacks. This is something we could use in TFT. It completely changes the way ghosties work, and is a real benefit to differentiating them from more mundane threats. (A modified version of this system is used for "Gaze" attacks, btw, allowing for a more interesting way to portray the way something like a Cockatrice of Basilisk works, but that's beside the point right now). "Fear" attacks, it seems to me, might be useful as a paradigm for certain effects of sorcery as well. Especially black magic types of things. I'm still up in the air somewhat, and I want to do more research into the Conan-style magic use system (Sorcery is always bad, and only evil people use it...) to get a feel for how something like that might be used to highlight how the common people probably feel about magic use in general, especially in a world that takes its religion seriously.
Which brings me to the main point of my research -- religion, and how it affects people. One of the problems, to my mind, with most traditional Fantasy RPGs, is that they splinter religion into neo-paganism, and that tends to trivialize religion into just another gaming trope, instead of something the players actually need to pay attention to. Which is why I delved deep into Ars Magica and Dragon Warriors. The one just extrapolates magic into Christian Europe (and the Islamic Middle East) in the middle ages, while the other translated Christianity (and Islam) into a fantasy world. Of the two, I actually found Dragon Warriors to be the more useful, since it provides insight into how religion might work with magic, and enormous atmosphere, in a Fantasy world instead of merely layering magic over our own world. Again, there are tangible benefits from religion (even relics!) in the DW world, and the mechanisms of the game allow one to translate those effects in terms other than "hits" on the player. Using things like Fright Attacks, insanity, disease and so on (all of which have actual game systems to support them, and which seem easy enough to translate into TFT terms) allow considerably more latitude in how the FM/GM can impose non-physical threats on the adventurers. It also provides opportunities for heroes to demonstrate their heroism by rising above mere physical threats and overcoming threats to their minds and spirits -- something that I think was missing from our earlier discussion, though I think we were both fumbling towards something like that.
If you're interested in resuming the discussion, I think it might be worthwhile -- we've both had a few years of thinking and experimenting to work through since this original chat petered out! ;-)
I'm still here. I don't stop by as often as I used to but I still stop by...maybe once a week? Also, I haven't really thought about this much since 2014. Just glancing at the last thing I posted, it still sounds like a good basic approach. I'm not familiar with AM or DW. Sounds interesting from your post, but for me, it sounds more interesting in a "window dressing" or "ideas for new spells" and "campaign/setting" sort of way. Of course, my humble Priest or Paladin or whatever they call themselves these days could use his karma points to cast these spells (or powers or whatever nomenclature one wishes to use).
Something to keep in mind as (or if) we resume discussing this: I'm not interested in fleshing out the specifics of a campaign setting when I think about rules/mechanics. I believe that's why I tended to be the oddball here. My goal was to use or re-use what we already have as much as possible while creating something new as little as possible...while providing a generalized mechanic that can be adapted to various campaigns, settings, "atmospheres", etc.
Don't get me wrong. I can and do enjoy fleshing out a campaign or setting with details and may enjoy collaborating on that. Previously though, that was not my goal. I look forward to seeing your ideas.
Hmm. I think I've been by about twice in the last year! So you have me beat.
Sorry if I somehow misled you, this isn't really about a campaign setting, for me. Im looking for basic concepts that let me game religion differently and let me apply those rules to any religious paradigm. You see, I always felt the classic RPG religious paradigm fell completely apart as soon as it's applied to monotheistic religions, and their interactions with one another and more pagan approaches. I'm looking for something that applies across the board, and can be used to "simulate" any kind of religion in any kind of campaign, without breaking the system. The problem with TFT really was Howard Thompson -- he's a raging atheist and simply didn't want religion in any game he published, so no useful rules were published to help do it. While I'm hardly likely to be described as "religious," I also recognize that religion plays an enormously important role in the human condition -- especially in pseudo-medieval roleplaying "milieus" (to steal a term I hate from Gary Gygax). Furthermore, if you're going to include Demons in a game, it seems a bit odd to not oppose them with...something... I'm also looking for imaginative ways to address non-physical attacks; Call of Cthulhu did this very well, with their insanity, shock and fright rules, but no one else has really even come close -- except, rather surprisingly, Dragon Warriors, which was originally published by some guys called Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson, about the same time that TFT was being published. (Of note, that's not OUR Steve Jackson, but the British one -- who is quite as famous over there as ours is over here).
Karma points may very well be the answer, of course, but I do like the fright attack and gaze attack methods (combined with a much clearer system for things like insanity, disease and poison -- you know, attacks that don't involve a sword point breaking skin as the primary damage mechanism), and I think what you were moving towards with the "prayer" concept, though it needs to be more structured in my opinion, is possbily the way to go in TFT terms.
I think a corollary of all of this is that magic, as currently written is in some ways too "loosy goosy" and in other ways too restrictive. While it remains simple, as written, I'm thinking there's a real difference between what we might call "battle magic" and "ritual magic" (things like enchantments, Demon summonings, Geases, and so on) that could be usefully made without turning the magic system into a repeat of D&D. The rules as written, make some of this distinction, but they fail to keep it simple, and really just more confuse most people than they do clarify. To my mind, battle magic is the basic Wizard magic system, but a lot of the extra spells added under Advanced Wizard would have been better handled under a different (but similar) "Ritual" (or possibly "ceremonial") system -- Magic Points still power the spells (whether you stick with ST, got with fatigue, or choose IQ-based mana as the prime generator), but now time and material enter into the equation as well, and the results are much more "powerful" in certain ways than classic battle magic is. "Religious spells" would fall much more under the "ritual" rubric, whereas clerics might not really be able to perform "battle magic." Ritual/Ceremonial magic would be used for things like healing, curing diseases, resurrections (if such a thing is even possible), blessings or curses, and so on. Cult priests ("evil" priests) could have a different set of rituals, perhaps mirror-imaging those of "good" priests, or perhaps different entirely (the mirror imaging approach is already common in TFT -- witness things like Lock/Knock). Certain summonings, for both sides, would be incredibly dangerous -- a "good" priest summoning an Angel (or, for a pagan, maybe one of the Gods?), might be treading perilously close to blasphemy, and the effort to do so should be immense, with commensurate risks to the prelates involved, perhaps not only physically, but including damage to sanity or some sort of "Fright" attack that the summoner would have to deal with. Likewise, and "evil" priest or Cult Leader, summoning a Demon (or whatever blasphemy they've chosen to give their allegiance to) should be at incredible risk as well. And as for a "good" priest summoning a Demon, or a Cultist summoning an Angel...well...
I'm not sure if I'm explaining this at all well, but what I'm looking for here is underlying mechanics that make it possible (and, indeed easy) to simulate this sort of magical and priestly manipulation of power for pretty much any sort of campaign one wants to look at. To take it to a more specific example, I want a set of mechanisms that will allow me to play the religious overtones of either the Belgariad, OR the Mallorean; of either Ancient Rome, OR the Medieval Church. Does that make it any clearer?
I mentioned Ars Magica because they went into this extremely wild level of detail to permit players to do exactly that. What is unpalatable is the fact that it requires 47 books and a PhD in medieval history (well, not really, but it sure felt like it at the time) to get there. They have four main "realms" of power -- Holy, Demonic, Faerie (closest to classical fantasy), and Magic itself, which allow the players to do this sort of thing; drawing on different sources of power, using different spells, and showing how the realms themselves compete with one another. This also allowed them the leeway to create different "types" of magic, such as "rune magic," or "shamanistic magic" with relative ease (at least once you memorized the rules required). There are thousands of rules governing every aspect of these realms, with all sorts of special exceptions and cases. That's not what I want. I want something Fantasy Trippy (concise and yet with the right feel to it) that does that. By contrast, DW handles it much more simply, but their rules are not our rules, and to use them as a template would require some work. If you're interested, and can send me a suitable e-mail, I can e-mail you some of the rules involved in DW. Reading them actually got me interested in looking into TFT again (something I'd laid aside for a while, as you are aware...).
One final note, if you haven't gotten one yet, I'd like to strongly recommend picking up a copy of Raedwald for Heroes and Other Worlds -- not because it's an interesting campaign idea (it is, but that's not my point here), but because the author strongly manipulates the way magic works to CREATE "Rune Magic" as well as a couple of other types -- and does a really excellent job of it. While he's tailored it for his particular campaign, just reading it over provides some food for thought on how the rules of magic can be changed just a bit and become something almost unrecognizable. It seems to me there might be some sort of "unified magical field theory" rules that we might just be on the lip of discovering for TFT that would solve everything. I haven't really slapped this against things like GURPS yet, mostly because I can never figure out which of the hundreds of splat books they've published that will get me where I want to go, but maybe you (or someone else reading this exchange) has done so at some point...or at least has some insight to share.
From my perspective the basic building blocks are already here. Spells. "Fright", "Gaze"...without a more detailed description of these "powers", they sound just like spells to me. From here, everything ventures into the campaign/setting territory. From my perspective, that's where you want to go whether or not you like using those words to describe it.
(1)Make up a deity.(2)Decide what sort of powers his followers would have.(3)Find existing spells that are the same or similar to those powers.(4)"Window-dress" the spells to fit the deity/priestly theme.[rename them, describe them etc.] (5)Decide on the mechanics for powering these "spells" and how they are obtained or improved with time.
I was always on Step 5. Everything else is campaign/setting specific. Of course, at Step 3, if you can't find an existing spell to morph into your "power", make up a new one.
I can be pretty dense sometimes. Maybe I'm completely off and missing what you are wanting or trying to do. I'm getting a sense of deja-vu though.