Skill Focus: Religion

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on October 27, 2009

The most common use for knowledge skills is to identify monsters and perform rituals. The knowledge skills tend to take a back seat to social and physical skills during most skill challenges. The knowledge skills are so tightly focused that most players assume these skills have a limited scope. But this doesn’t mean that they have limited uses. It’s up to players to be imaginative and creative.

Religion, more than any of the other knowledge skills, has tremendous potential. After all, if the gods are listening then anything is possible. If your campaign world is strongly influenced by the gods (pre-4e Forgotten Realms, for example) then you can always try to use Religion to gain divine favour. The more active the beings of higher power are in your campaign the more likely this kind of check will provide benefit to a given situation. In campaign worlds where the gods are absent, silent or simply avoid interaction with mortals (Eberron) PCs are less likely to rely on a catch-all call for help from their god.

PCs trained in Religion (all divine classes) have undergone some sort of formal training. This is not just limited to prayers and blessings. Religious training will overlap with other skills such as Diplomacy and History. A Religion check may not be suitable in every circumstance, but it is applicable in more situations than you might think.

10 New Ways to Use Religion

  1. Spiritual leader

  2. Perform a marriage ceremony, officiate a baptism, give last rites during a funeral or lead fellow parishioners in some other important religious ceremony.

  3. Prayers

  4. Many religions have their own unique prayers. A successful check allows you to remember the basics of a foreign religion. This may allow you to bypass basic traps or glyphs.

  5. Know the hierarchy

  6. You know the appropriate religious titles and pecking order within the church’s hierarchy. This can provide +2 to a Diplomacy check made when dealing with senior clergy.

  7. Know your history

  8. You have extensive knowledge of religious history. The church often plays an important role in the rise and fall of civilizations. You can use Religion to assist on a History check.

  9. Know your tools

  10. You can identify religious artifacts and determine their significance.

  11. Know thy enemy

  12. You have considerable knowledge about immortals (including demons and devils). In additional to being able to identify them, you have a basic familiarity with rituals and materials required for their summoning. You also know the signs for identifying someone who’s been dominated or is acting under the influence of another power.

  13. Hitting the books

  14. You’ve spent considerable time studying the texts of your faith. You have an intimate familiarity with religious terminology. A successful Religion check provides a +2 bonus when conducting research.

  15. Disguise

  16. Your familiarity with other religions allows you to hide the true nature of your own faith by masking it in the dogma of another religion. Your allies can assist you with a Religion or Bluff check.

  17. Say grace

  18. The manner in which you perform the blessing before a meal provides a +2 bonus to your first Diplomacy check made during dinner.

  19. Appraise religious art

  20. The church often uses artistic imagery to teach the faith. Your extensive studies in religious art and iconography give you a unique insight when appraising works of art religious in nature.

Blessing in combat

These examples are very specific. They won’t be applicable very often, but when the right circumstances present themselves PCs trained in Religion are able to use the skill to gain an additional minor benefit. Work with your DM to create suitable blessings for your PC.

  • Intimidate during combat

  • A battle cry to a deity of combat provides all allies within 5 squares with a bonus to their next Intimidate check equal to your Charisma modifier.

  • Inspire you allies

  • During the first round you give up your standard action in order to bless your allies. A successful Religion check allows you to provide a number of allies equal to your Wisdom modifier with a bonus to their initiative equal to your Charisma modifier.

  • Defend the mind

  • As a minor action you can bless an ally who is under the effect of a charm, dominate or fear effect. A successful Religion check gives your ally +1 to his next save vs these effects.

  • Feel the divine light

  • As a minor action you can bless an ally who has ongoing necrotic damage. A successful Religion check gives your ally +1 to his next save vs this effect. If your ally is the same faith as you (i.e., worships the same deity) they can make an immediate save vs ongoing necrotic damage without any bonuses.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out all of our Skill Aides, including other entries in the Skill Focus series.

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1 The Last Rogue October 27, 2009 at 11:33 am

Good stuff . . . I especially like the combat functions.

2 Regina October 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

This is interesting for me, playing a cleric in 3ed. FR! Maybe a stupid question, but is this stuff ‘official’? I’ve never known there could be so much potential in the Knowledge Religion skill… Are these just possibilities for DMs to do something creative with the skill, or is this actually common practise to be found in the books?

3 Ameron October 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm

@The Last Rogue
The idea for blessings in combat came about after the guy playing a Cleric in our game was always calling on his faith to bless the party. In the spirit of “say yes” he and the DM came up with little things that he might be able to do with his exceptionally high Religion skill. It provided great role-playing and made more sense for the character then just using a basic attack all the time.

Welcome to Dungeon’s Master. Technically “official” content is anything produced by Wizards of the Coast. However, the Dungeon’s Master team does have considerable experience. We’ve played D&D for over 20 years and continue to play every week. We write at least five articles about D&D every week and we’re always scouring the blogs for what other people are writing about. We like to think that if the stuff we present works in our game it will work in yours. At the end of the day it’s up to the DM to allow or disallow any of our suggested uses for powers and abilities. We try to keep things balanced so that most DMs will say yes.

In 4e D&D skills have become a very important part of the game. It’s up to you as a player or a DM to determine what you can or cannot do with an appropriate skill check. The PHB provides some very basic ideas, but most skills have hundreds of uses. It’s up to you to be imaginative. Our skill focus series is designed to get you thinking beyond the normal uses of a skill.

4 Regina October 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Thanks for the welcome and thanks for such a great answer! I think the posts here are very inspiring to make the game work better and even more fun than it already is. Great! The creative element does come across on this site. I think I’ll try to poke my DM some day about this. You’re right, it’s up to him but it’s nice to do a bit more with skills. We don’t play 4e, but even so, the game has skills for a reason. Now I only use the Knowledge Religion skill when we walk into something that obviously has something to do with religion (e.g. an artifact) but there are so many options mentioned here that I didn’t think about. Maybe I’ll introduce some ideas myself in a session. Anyway, thanks!

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