Development Diary 2: religion overview
This second Dev Diary is about the most popular religion among the Zaharian Empire, because we believe this to be an important element for creating a realistic world, with its own specific people. History shows us how religion has always shaped peoples and societies, so much that we can’t possibly give it a minor role in what we are realizing. We can’t forget the impact that spirituality has over the material world.
The Azhanit religion
The Azhanism, the cult of Azhan, can count on a millenary history. In the course of time, besides its own inner evolution, it has deeply characterized the Zaharian cultural system, giving birth to a strong Oriental context.
Religion, in these cases, is the starting point to give a philosophical and cultural setup to one population. The values estabilished by a cult generally mark out its worshippers and, as time goes by, change their world views. In order to create this religion, not only did we draw inspiration from Islamism, as one can think at first sight, but we also considered aspects from Zoroastrianism and also a bit from Buddhism.
The cult of Azhan is really unusual, and it differs from the majority of the occidental doctrines since it bestows a great dignity on human condition. Material world is the paradise Azhan created to host humanity, not a punishment for the original sin. He spread his mark of benevolence all over the world he created, a constant revelation of the divine will that would make humans tell good from evil. In this way humanity could fight chaos and slowly build an order that would allow humans to free themselves from every pain.
The great Azhan’s plan for humanity is that of an earthly paradise, where eternal permanence is granted to humans, thanks to an endless cycle of reincarnation that invests all human souls.
From a theological and moral point of view, the Azhanism is characterized by a series of values that allowed the birth of a social and political system that, in our opinion, may seem almost enlightened. It allowed the rebirth of the country and its cultural and economical expansion.
In Zaharia there is no gender discrimination, and there aren’t signs of an aristocracy that could demand inheritance privileges. In addiction to this, tolerance for diversity is preached in the holy books. All this allowed a better integration and a cultural evolution, also thanks to the positive contamination of ideas from the different populations that settled down in the area. Finally, the man doesn’t see his condition as a period of transition after which he will enjoy an eternal life in an endless shining heaven. Instead, only material life counts for him, being the only one where he can live in an appropriate way. The man is born as an ethereal soul, static and incapable of experience, but when this soul join a material body the man can live, be happy, and evolve.
All these aspects don’t mean that Zaharia is free from superficiality, intolerance and all the negative behaviors that exist in human nature. They’re just expressed in different ways compared to the European man of the present and the past.
History of the cult
The Azhanit religion is born in Zaharia, about a millennium before the beginning of the game. It propagated fast over the Zaharian territory, once hosting only a lot of different little and local cults.
The history of this religion is rather calm in the first centuries of its existence. Even if the politic situation of Zaharia was always quite fragmented, there weren’t many conflicts in the course of time: thanks to the wide diffusion of the cult, some religious sects originated in the country, and their supranational-oriented nature managed to soften general tensions.
The major crisis of the Azhanism, corresponding to a period of unstableness for the entire Zaharia, is relatively recent. Outside the Zaharian territory takes place the beginning of the Idath-Hain, a religion which expanded rather quickly thanks to the fanaticism and the aggressiveness of its devotees. In about a hundred years the Idathi (those who follow the Idath-Hain) conquer, submit or convert almost all the territories bordering Zaharia. This is the moment when the different Azhanit sects manage to increase their political power. This happens not only thanks to the agreement over common purposes and theological principles, but also to the attempt of forming a common front against the Idathi menace. The idea is to make a huge theocratic structure capable of joining the whole Zaharia. However, the religious order don’t manage to realize its purpose in time and the Idathi nations invade, conquer and divide Zaharia. Thus for 150 years Zaharia is under the control of these invaders who take advantage of territory and people, persecuting the Azhanit followers one way or another.
The real turning point comes when a new figure emerges, Zhartost Azhanai, the Prophet. He succeeds in organizing a rebellion’s movement which manages in a few years to make all the Idathi nations fall, and to reconquer Zaharia. This is the way the Zaharian Empire comes into existence, under the shelter of a central government led by the Prophet. He then becomes the first Emperor and also the first man able to reunite under the same flag all those territories that remained separated for thousands of years.
We hope that, reading this Dev Diary, our intention may be clear. We aim to realize a religion carefully crafted, since this aspect is too often underestimated while building a setting. We frequently see that in many fantasy settings there are cults and divinities of any sort, but these never really have a real impact on the world. All the cultures seem essentially European-like, although this has no explanation from a religious point of view. The creation of a religion can’t be carried out by just giving a name to a divinity, creating some ceremonies or some particular figures. We should instead lay the theological and philosophical foundations for what will be the moral and cultural behaviors of all its followers, all things that the player will notice during the game when interacting with the Zaharian native people.