In the real world, we have a notion of jus cogens, crimes so bad that every nation condemns them; no matter how much you want to, you cannot make an agreement between nations that embraces such a crime. In our world, these crimes include genocide, slavery, piracy, and attacking a diplomat.
Below is the established set of laws for the world of SHIMMERINGKINGDOMS. Essentially, the gods have a set of taboos that everyone religious knows they must not violate. You, as players, find it handy to know what is considered unquestionably evil. This way, when you encounter someone committing such a crime, you don’t have to ask “is that evil in our world?”
This is a list of behaviors that all people who worship the gods of the Pantheist League acknowledge as evil by definition:
• Genocide of one of the five mortal races
• Attacking an anointed member of the clergy of one of the gods of the tree unprovoked
• Killing a member of your own family
• Consorting with demon
• Consorting with devils
• Creating the undead
• Destroying a soul
• Imprisoning a soul
• Desecrating a temple to one of the gods of the Pantheon
• Denying the existence of one or more of the gods of the Pantheon
Note that no actual laws are included – acts that are commonly understood as wrong, like murder or theft – as some of the gods and their faithful might argue that people commit these crimes without being pure evil (the church of Atros might find some murders justified, while a Xylor wayfarer may argue that many thefts are acceptable). The above crimes are ones that any of the faithful would agree mark a person as willfully evil. How the various followers of the gods respond to the discovery that a person is willfully evil is another matter entirely.
Note that torture and the use of poison are not universally considered evil, but most cultures disdain them and may have laws forbidding their use. Then again, perhaps the Kwyrthers, Ambians, and many Xylorites have no problem with these behaviors (which is why they are not included on the list). In making such a list of “universal evil,” the moral outlook of the world is codified, something that you may find extremely useful.
It is particularly useful to define which humanoids are, by definition, evil. In the world of SHIMMERINGKINGDOMS, all savage humanoids (orcs, goblins, bugbears, hobgoblins, etc. – commonly called Brutes) are evil by definition, and are the types of creatures that characters may morally kill “guilt free.” The mortal humanoid races (Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes and Halflings) are sacrosanct, and are morally protected by the gods. For instance, a lawful good holy warrior happening upon a hut with goblin infants may kill them without moral repercussion, but would be considered a murderer by society if he were to barge into a den of human thieves and wantonly attack them, even if they were known to have committed evil acts. The righteous thing to do would be to capture them and bring them to justice.
Heretical Teachings and Blasphemy
In the world of SHIMMERINGKINGDOMS heresy is a touchy issue. While heresy has been a major issue in many real-world cultures, it is not a necessary assumption of a religion. The difference between heresy and the list of evil acts above is that heresy is a belief or pronouncement counter to the establishment’s teachings about the religion. The list of evil acts above are just as likely to be punished in the afterlife or by a celestial servant of a god as they are by a mortal servant to the gods. Heresy, on the other hand, may not offend the god it pertains to at all.
For example, a cult may rise that professes that Atros is actually a lion. They may believe that his core form is not like that of men at all, and when he came to the cosmos, he was like a lion standing on its hind legs. They might represent Atros as a lion-headed figure in statues and paintings. In this fantasy world, views about such proclamations depend upon the sect involved. To some, such as common, less religiously strict folk, this wouldn’t matter at all. Some people might find it an interesting belief and agree to live and let live. There are others, usually staunch traditionalist members of established churches, who believe such a teaching may be decreed heretical, and the members of this cult that sees Atros as more animal than man rounded up and burnt at the stake. In either instance, we can’t see Atros minding the idea of his appearing as a lion because, at the end of the day, he is beyond mortal comprehension – whatever physical image they wish to see him in is fine, as long as they pay him the proper respect. In other words, heresy is established by the churches, on a case by case basis. Feel free to inquire from the DM about which acts might be considered heretical.
One commonly known case of heresy is Gaea and the Sect of the Earth, the faith of the Caelic Peoples. The The Inquisition zealously continues its long-established campaign to eradicate these “unfaithful” sinners from the face of the land, which has caused the cult to go underground, hiding their true natures lest they be persecuted. In this case, the heretics are not evil in any way. It is their practices that conflict with those of the Pantheist League.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between blasphemy and heresy. Heresy is a crime against the earthly establishment that bears the name of the god, disagreeing with their beliefs about the god, but doing so out of faith in the god. Blasphemy is actually insulting, defaming, or slurring the god in question. The two biggest examples of blasphemy made their way onto the cavalcade of evil above: destroying or desecrating a temple and denying the existence of a god. All religious characters should agree that blasphemy is evil (remembering that in a world with multiple pantheons, you need not deny the existence of the other pantheon, or try to destroy its works, in order to worship your own).
Unfortunately, it is now common practice for many conservative factions in the Pantheist League to do just that, and they send the Inquisition to destroy any who stand against the ‘true word’ of the gods. This practice is not limited only to the Caels or worshippers of other pantheons or gods. Arcane adepts such as witches, oracles and other more ‘common’ practitioners have been included in the campaign to purify the lands agains ‘evil’.