Sunday 27 April 2014

Diggers and Ranters

Religion in the DCC English Civil War

The English Civil War was not primarily a war of religion, though religious rhetoric was universally deployed to bolster the political cases made by each side and one of the prizes for the victorious faction was the chance to remake the Church of England in their own image.

Religious innovation was rife throughout the period. The 1640s saw the start of any number of religious sects, many quite bizarre in their beliefs and many attached to extreme (for the 17th century) political agendas. I am only going to make a few distinctions here between primarily spiritual sects like the Quakers and primarily political ones like the Levellers; if historically they thought they had God on their side then for game purposes they have.

I have not yet finished this document, which details what sects are available to a beginning character as yet, writing the huge tables for DCC spells is pain in the arse, but it is here for your perusal and hopefully enjoyment.

Player character Clerics will be able to use the 'Found Sect' spell which I haven't written up properly yet. They can concoct their own sect de novo, or found one of the historical sects detailed here pre-empting the historical founder.

Standard DCC Divine Intervention is not allowed, and the spells available to each sect may vary. In addition Divine Disapproval does not go away overnight, you are stuck with it until you make amends for your sins. But you do get a special ability and spells associated with your sect.

The list of available sects given here is not quite historical for the planned campiagn start point in 1642, but I want to give the players the chance to experience the joys of being a Muggletonian or Digger from the beginning; even if the sect did not emerge from the fog of history until a later date there were assuredly people who had similar beliefs years before but kept them quiet. The death of Charles, the apparent end of Anglicanism and the heady revolutionary atmosphere of the Commonwealth encouraged any number of radical oddballs to openly preach their own off-brand of salvation.

An example sect:


Alignment: Cavalier
Likes: Tobacco, Drinking, Free Love, Spirituality
Dislikes: Bishops, Priests, 'The Demiurge', Property Laws, Materialism

The Ranters were extreme Antinomians – they believed that the laws and codes of 'godly' behaviour were irrelevant to one who had been truly saved and had become one with the holy spirit through their program of prayer and meditation. Once you had been saved you could fornicate, drink, smoke and even take other people's stuff – property was man's law, not God's – with impunity. A Ranter was one with God, he had experienced the enlightenment Jesus himself had gone through, nothing could be sinful to such a person. Having your worldly goods liberated and consumed by a Ranter was actually a divine favour, reminding you that material things are what keep us from true enlightenment. Once everyone has been saved the world will be perfect and everyone will follow the one useful commandment discovered by the Ranter prophets William Preston and Theodore Logan; ‘Be excellent to each other’.

Needless to say they were not in least bit popular with anyone. One of their noted thinkers, Abiezer Coppe, was continually in and out of jail, breaking all oaths to keep the peace out of principle, since oaths were man's law and an invention of a Satanic Demiurge to limit the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

They got away with their anarchist hi-jinks for a while during the Civil War, but inevitably the dour Puritans caught up with them and they eventually all got jailed, transported to the colonies or converted to less demented spiritual sects like the Quakers. But who knows? Perhaps in the fantasy ECW Ranterism will take off, though who knows what lunacy that would lead to.

Ranters, like the Seekers, are an anti-clerical sect, and may combine Cleric levels with another class. Being spiritual anarchists they gain Divine Disapproval for not behaving badly; if there is a chance of cadging a free meal they must, they are obliged to indulge in casual sex, and if an opportunity to pilfer from a non-believer crops up they must take it - the Ranter must reaffrim his spiritual freedom and transcendence of the mundane. Ranters are generous to a fault as well, they will happily blow all their cash on a party for all comers and give away any possession on a whim to prove their indifference to materialism; this is their chief way of reducing Disapproval.

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