alternate history

Strictly opinion because the game doesn't even come close to addressing this-
if you had a game set in an alternate history where Christianity did not rise as quickly and was not the predominant religion, would the divine/dominion still be as powerful as it is in the regular game? Or would it reflect non-monotheistic predominant beliefs as well?

I would say no, it would not be as powerful without a dominant monotheistic religion. By their very nature Divine Aura are counter to everything outside of themselves. The non-monotheistic faiths are all better served by Magic or Faerie Aura, since even ones that are hostile to each other share their foundation of belief.

Also I would drop Infernal Aura by roughly the same amount as the drop in Divine Aura, since they represent the "Great Enemy" or antithesis.

I would have the divine/dominion just as powerful as it is in the standard game, but far less widespread and common. So unless a settlement was predominantly Christian it wouldn't have a divine aura at all, but those few places that have been Christianized would have just as strong a divine aura as in the standard game.
Infernal auras and creatures would likewise be far less widespread and less likely to be encountered, but just as powerful as normal when you do run into one.

This question really has two interpretations and I am not 100% sure which you mean. Either you are asking "would you keep the realm interaction table as it is?" or you are asking "would divine auras be as common as they are in the canonical setting?" (assuming that the power of the divine in the canonical setting derives from the frequency and potency of its auras).

to answer both:
I would probably keep the realm interaction table, meaning that divine auras, when they occur, trump other auras. Unless I wouldnt. The main reason I have for keeping the table is that restructuring it is a lot of work, and I mostly wouldnt waste effort on rebuilding things that dont need rebuilding. But the core assumption of your question is that I would already be willing to rewrite the setting so that christianity never becomes the almost universal religion that it is, which is itself a massive effort. So all assumptions about putting in effort are kind of void. So to re-answer: I would rewrite the realm interaction table if I felt like I needed to in order to fit the new setting.

As for the second question: Yes I would certainly make divine auras less frequent if christianity was not the dominant religion. Again assuming that another divine religion hadnt just taken over. For example if I had replaced christianity with judaism or islam then the divine would be about equally common. If the setting's premise was that paganism never declined in europe then certainly I would treat most cities as having either no aura, or magic/faerie auras, probably a whole patchwork of auras for the larger ones.

But this hypothetical setting has so many unknowns that the precise outcome is very hard to predict. I would almost certainly end up discarding a lot of the canonical material on pagan religion in the game world in order to create something that would fit my specific needs for the setting.

To briefly comment on the infernal, I would most likely implement reduce the frequency of the infernal proportionately to how much i would reduce the divine.

So the common thread between the replies so far is that:

  1. The reduction in a dominant monotheistic religion would result in a reduction in the number and size of Divine Auras.
  2. Infernal Auras would suffer the same reduction in size and frequency as Divine Auras.

This is a really interesting question, and I think considering we’re talking about a Eurocentric setting then the question you really need to establish an answer to is “what direction does Late Roman religion take in a world where Christianity does not become dominant in the empire?”.

The likely answer, imo, depends on how you remove Christianity from the picture. Here’s a few (non-comprehensive) scenarios in that regard with different points of divergence:

  1. Julian the Apostate lives longer and his religious reforms have a long term impact. In this scenario Christianity is still a large religion but not an official or dominant one. Christianity is possibly more schismatic than in the original timeline, maybe Arianism doesn’t die out or at least lasts longer. The Eastern empire is heavily Christianised, but the West retains a varied mix of Christians, dominion oriented pagans (Sol Invictus cult, neo-platonists, etc.), and faerie and magic aligned pagans. Dominion auras are overall very slightly less common in the East, and moderately less common in the West. Dominion auras have more varied flavours especially in the West.

  2. Aurelian somehow manages to kill or slow the momentum of Christianity with an official Sol Invictus cult as the state religion of Rome but does not ban the worship of other gods. Let’s assume this is a dominion aligned religion. This state cult is more socially acceptable but also offers many of the things that attracted people to Christianity to some degree. This is perhaps the most similar to our timeline, as while Christianity declines in the Empire (but maybe keeping a foothold in the East, or surviving outside the Empire) the state cult of Sol Invictus takes on many of the characteristics that lead to Christian dominance. Dominion auras are almost as common as in the original timeline and faeries thrive as the faerie aligned cults survive, albeit as simply tolerated additions to the universal Sol Invictus cult.

  3. Aurelian establishes the Sol Invictus cult and gradually bans the worship of other gods entirely (as some writers implied he intended to). This is almost identical to the original timeline in terms of dominion aura prevalence – they’re just Sol Invictus dominion auras instead of Christian ones! Faerie gods suffer a comparable decline to the original timeline.

These are the most obvious points of divergence I can think of, but if you go so far as to have Christianity never exist, or die out early, then I could easily see scenarios where the dominion is far rarer than in the original timeline. Those scenarios would be a lot more complex though as the point of divergence is further back and more significant (and there’s already a lot of complexity I’ve skimmed over in the three I’ve written about).

I can see outcomes ranging from “Europe has no, or almost no, dominion auras” to “The dominion is just as widespread and powerful, just of a different flavour” depending on the point of divergence and how you trace the changes forward.

edit: Also there are possibilities where you have religions like the Sol Invictus cult or some kind of unified neo-platonic interpretation of Roman religion where the religion is both dominion aligned but with faerie/magical elements. Maybe you end up with magical and faerie beings who are touched by the dominion (like the inverse of dark faeries and cthonic spirits). Or maybe this type of dominion instead of destroying the faerie/magic gods subsumes them and transforms them into dominion aligned beings? Lots of possibilities.


That is an interesting take, though I have always felt Sol Invictus falls more in line with the Magic rather than Divine Realm. It is after all a distant (and uncaring) Sun god at one end of the scale and just worship of the Sun (actual, not a god) at the other.

The Cristian and Jewish interpretations are mostly unsupported.

In 5e canon the solar cult of Elegebalus and Aurelian was definitively dominion aligned and survives into the 13th century where they practice holy magic (it's in RoP:tD). Not all solar cults are dominion aligned though just that specific one. That's why I went with dominion aligned as an assumption in this case.

Seeing as this is an alternate setting I think a magical or faerie version of the Sol cult is also perfectly possible (and arguably truer to the actual nature of Sol Invictus worship in real life), although I'm less confident it would be able to supplant Christianity.

I don't agree with characterising all solar worship as having a "distant and uncaring" god. There are plenty of solar deities which don't fit that pattern - just off the top of my head there are definitely deities with solar aspects in both Egyptian and various Celtic mythologies who don't fit the bill.

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You make some very fine points.

However I think that this still applies mostly to the former roman empire.

Would a state cult of sol invictus have the same appeal to germanic, celtic and slavic peoples as christianity did? Whatever answer you end up giving to that question will determine a lot about how the supernatural landscape of modern day germany, the british isles, scandinavia and eastern europe looks like.

Filling in the remaining 9 centuries can do whatever you wish to the countries in Europe. No need to fiddle with the historical Sol Invictus, or with history at all. Make up your fantasy world and play with it.

If you tear out an important part of history somewhere, you cannot just posit that it develops in the following centuries transparently and mechanically without further input by you.

If I do this I would indeed need to make some severe changes to history- Charlemagne forcibly converted the saxons, for example. I'm actually debating exactly which changes would be made- shortening the reign of Constantine and lengthening the reign of Julius the Apostate would be pretty much essential but deciding how much to do so and how it should influence the development of the eastern empire is another issue (also depending on whether stories of Licinius moving back towards paganism were true) . The trick would be to do this in a way that does not affect the fall of the Roman empire (or at least not significantly, a few years one way or the other are relatively inconsequential). Ideally it would result in a world where Christianity is gaining ground but still struggling against paganism. Charlemagne's father Pepin was still trying to stamp out idolatry in the 8th century, so it shouldn't need to be too great of a shift... I figure if Charlemagne hadn't been educated by Christian clerics (I forget whether they were priests or monks) that would have a radical shift, comparatively speaking, on the levels of influence of religion.
Cosmologically I guess the question is whether the Dominion is powered by an objective force (God) or a subjective force (faith). If the latter I would think that the dominion would be in a weaker position on the realm interaction tables if the spread of Christianity had been stunted (I consider it a foregone conclusion to potentially be revisited that the development of Islam was in large part a reaction to the spread of Christianity) Sol Invectus and Mithraism could potentially be organizations which exist straddling multiple realms (magic and or faerie with divine) the same way Merinita are both magical and faerie- holy magic is one possibility, divine which invites in certain faeries another...
this is at this point far from a fully developed idea.

I think if you wanted to make the smallest changes (so as to keep the timeline as close to the real events as possible) then you're 100% right that Christianity still needs to be prominent enough that Christian ideas are propagated forward in some way, even if Christianity itself declines or never becomes the dominant religion in Europe.

Here's my pitch for a minimal changes timeline:

  1. Aurelian is not assassinated as in the OT. His planned war against the Sassanids takes place and is moderately successful but ultimately cut short by the Frankish invasion of Gaul, forcing him to abandon his gains in the east (and conveniently not changing subsequent events significantly). He spends the next 6 years engaged in campaigns in the west going from victory to victory.

  2. Aurelian continues his religious reforms and institutes an official state cult focused on the worship of Sol Invictus. With 9 years more to establish this he is able to go further than in the OT. Public practice of Sol Invictus worship becomes a legal requirement for citizens, but only in addition to and not in place of existing religious practices. However, for those seeking promotion it becomes increasingly necessary to at least feign to exclusively practice Sol Invictus worship so as to curry favour with Aurelian.

  3. After returning to the east for another campaign against the Sassanids. Aurelian dies (of natural causes) while on campaign. In total he ruled for 9 years longer than in the original timeline. After a brief power struggle Diocletian assumes power as in the OT and institutes the tetrarchy.

  4. Diocletian, Maximian, and Constantius all adopted the Sol Invictus cult to advance under Aurelian and continue to practice Sol Invictus worship in varying degrees. Galerian also publicly practiced Sol worship under Aurelian but throws off this practice and opposes both it and Christianity. Diocletian's persecution of Christianity still happens. Crucially, the future Constantine the Great is also a convert to the Solar cult.

  5. Events transpire similarly to OT until the reign of Constantine.

  6. Constantine does not convert to Christianity. Instead he incorporates some Christian ideas into the Solar cult, and reorganises it. The Edict of Milan is issued as in the OT, but it does not fully restore the previous position of the Christian faith. Christianity is legal and tolerated, but the reorganised Sol Invictus cult is affirmed as the religion of the state.

  7. Events transpire similarly as in the OT. The Christian faith slows in growth and begins to lose ground to the Solar cult, which has incorporated many of the ideas that make Christianity appealing to converts while also allowing for greater societal advancement. Christianity remains legal and accepted by the state, but being a Christian is an impediment to social climbing. Christianity retains a strong base of support in the lower classes, however.

  8. During the reign of Julian the Apostate he once again reorganises the Solar cult. He incorporates some elements of neo-platonic thought, incorporates more Christian ideas regarding religious organisation and priesthood as an office (as he attempted in the OT), and attempts to incorporate other pagan cults as part of a wider state religion under the governance of the Solar cult (to mixed success).

  9. As in the OT Julian supports schismatic Christian bishops, withdraws what Christian privileges remain, issues edicts of religious tolerance, and generally tries to undermine Christianity without overtly persecuting them. His School Edict is issued as in the OT, severely hampering Christian scholarship and education. Unlike in the OT it also gives the Solar cult effective control over state sponsored education and gives Solar cultists an essential monopoly on scholarship.

  10. As part of his reorganisation Julian institutes a model of the priesthood within the Solar cult (which is now forcibly incorporating other 'pagan' cults) which draws heavily on Christian ideas, including high priests with a role somewhat inspired by Christian bishops. Due to his reforms the hierarchy of the solar cult becomes more like the Christian church and begins to accrue power independent of that of the emperor.

  11. From Julian onwards the Solar cult increases in independent power and grows in numbers. The idea that the cults of individual gods should be forcibly incorporated into the Solar cult (complete with acknowledgement of Sol Invictus as supreme deity) becomes a key aspect of Solar theology. This forms a sort of parallel to Christian proselytising but focused on incorporation and syncretism of pagan practices. Interpretatio Romana by force!

This all leads to a timeline in which Rome is politically in much the same situation as it was in the OT, but with the Solar cult taking the place of Christianity as a state religion. Christianity will continue as a religion within the lower classes of Roman society but the ruling classes firmly convert to the Solar cult. The Solar cult also ends up in a similar position in regards to education and scholarship as the Christian churches would have in the OT. The Solar cult has reason to send out missionaries and convert 'pagans' but unlike with Christianity in the OT this at least partially preserves the religious practices of converted peoples.

Essentially the Solar cult fully replaces Christianity and acts similar enough to OT Christianity that the timeline remains roughly the same up to and beyond Charlemagne. The only difference is that pagan cults are preserved within the Solar cult rather than supplanted by Christianity.

My thought was to not mess with Aurelian, but rather assume that Constantine dies in 323, assassinated under the orders of Licinius who realized that Constantine would defeat him on the battlefield if he did not take other actions. Constantine II had already been named ceasar, and took the throne at the age of 8, but Licinius would have rapidly overcome the young emperor and been sole leader of Rome until 355, when Julian the Apostate took power, giving him an extra 6 years to counter Constantine's establishment of Christianity. Future emperors retained the pagan systems that Julian had returned them to, and secular education remained an institution of significant power, but the secular charity which Julian used to undermine the message of Christianity gave way allowing Christianity to again begin growing, though from a much lower threshold than it had had even at the beginning of Constantine's reign, it's legalization meaning it did not draw the attention in the arena that it had during the time of martyrs.
When we get to the period of Charlemagnes the rulers of the franks would have been more secularly educated and thus the Germanies were not evangelized. There is no longer state support for the Roman pagansim, but at the same time the old temples were never shuttered by royal edict...

I can see that as a plausible series of events and it would certainly impede the growth of Christianity, but wouldn't a weaker Christian church without any similar organisation to take its place have a pretty substantial impact?

Would the secular education system be able to survive the fall of the west when there is no longer a state to finance it? In our timeline the church was financially independent and therefore this wasn't an issue. I feel like this vacuum would cause a much worse loss of learning in the west than happened in the original timeline and that would have a massive ripple effect.

I think you need some explanation for how secular education outlasts the empire in the west but that's a tricky one.

If you were willing to really mess with the setting you could attribute the survival of classical education to wizards, and tie the Carolingian renaissance to the founding of the Order of Hermes (some dates may need fudged for that to work). Now there's an interesting alternate setting.

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The main thing is that simply replacing the church with a similar organization is counter to my goals. The church of the early medieval period was very dependent on political support, so the fact that the same holds true for an educational system doesn't necessarily argue against it, so long as it had enough momentum as an institution to survive through the 8th century. It could in fact continue to be supported by the Byzantine empire for that period without significant impact to the fundamentals of the development of civilization. Of course on that end the development of Islam is likely to be significantly reduced without Christianity driving western development, and the crusades clearly would not have happened, even with an invasion of Byzantium from the middle east, so it may be necessary to put the setting before 1100 CE... also whether the HRE (obviously would have a different name) would develop differently without an authoritative Church would be a second issue to address...

This comes down to the nature of Auras. Would any Pantheon that was widely believed have an aura like a Dominion Aura?

My knowledge of Roman Emperors and prominent Senators is not great, however, all you need is a big believer in Jupiter to get annoyed with "There is only 1 god" to go after the Monotheists. If that happens before 0 AD, Saul, Jesus, etc, would have a challenging time getting Christinaity a big enough foothold, that it doesn't die out.

What would a Roman Pantheon aura be like? Would Scandanavia have a Norse Pantheon Aura?

Norse and Roman Pantheons love weird monsters, strange beings not of the gods making, so I would think it wouldn't be inimicable to Magic. Like fairy with the extra botch chance. I accept that's a bit dull.

With no big bad in Satan and hell, I would think you could still have tainted auras where atrocities, massacres, etc have occurred. Those auras would make it easier for malignant spirits and entities to act.

There is the option of just less and weaker auras,however, I feel Dominion has an all or nothing flavour. Dominion does what it does because it's powered by so much belief. Remove that widespread belief, does it do anything?

In Ars Magica most of the old pagan gods are just powerful faeries, so most human settlements where the inhabitants believe in one of polytheistic pantheons would likely have a faerie aura. Or possibly a magical aura in some cases where the gods in question happen to be magical rather than faerie. (Or infernal if it is a False God.)

The Dominion is as powerful as it is not because of the sheer number of believers, but because it is backed by the omnipotent God.

And nearly everyone in Mythic Europe knows that is true.

A heretical Bonisagus might ask why does this all powerful god who is everywhere not apply his power equally everywhere. Is it the people, more than God which matters, as otherwise why would the auras be of a different strength?

In an alternate history setting with Monotheism weaker, one can go wild and do auras differently.

Maybe secular education survives because the setting needs it to, and does so via the amazing power of plot?

Another interesting option for the preservation of knowledge is a secular monastic movement.

An interesting thought= there are those who believe that celibacy for priests became doctrine primarily to prevent the dilution of church assets in providing for spouses and inheritance to children. Certainly there were pre-christian sects (Vestal virgins for example) which promoted a spiritual abstinence, though those did not need to be lifetime decisions (I knew someone with the last name Vestal of Greek heritage who claimed one of their ancestors had the name from having served in the sect, way way back..). Additionally a sect of largely homosexual academics could have a similar financial structure without the need to provide for children. Which gets to the question of what relationship Christianity had with homosexuality at what time period and why to get into how those factions would inter-relate...