Obscene Serpent Religion is evidence that Rafael Chandler can time travel. He travelled forwards in time to the point where everything I've been thinking about clerics met a logical conclusion and made it into a little death metal CD insert book.
Accusations of time travel aside, this book is eerily timely. For those that haven't read it yet, it's about a snake cult in the vein of the (good) Conan film and describes them almost entirely through random tables. Simple stuff.
It opens on what I feel is its strongest table, letting you roll for one of six possible weird requirements or beliefs of the cult. These are excellent and stay clear or D&Disms and the same old boring "snake cult" nonsense. Instead, Chandler treats them as a real religion that people who aren't completely insane might follow. Crazy! True, they are strange. True, they do kill people. But who hasn't killed someone? They're three dimensional, they defend artistic expression (except for clowns), revere victims of umbilical strangulation as saints, are evangelical in a non-hostile manner, hate ophiophages and don't get me started on St.Siavacia. Through all this they aren't complete anathema to life, their followers aren't just Evil™. It demonstrates some good thinking.
These strangely specific details are what make religions. Traditional D&D supplements paint gods in the blandest, most vanilla way imaginable. Real spiritual traditions have symptoms of organic growth, they aren't tidy and thematically focused on being the God of fucking War/Healing/Eeeeeeevil/Wizards. The baby thing is probably the best example: it's weird, doesn't serve any real purpose, but oozes flavour. It speaks volumes and echoes the strange traditions that current religious traditions follow without aping them (how many fantasy religions make a habit of eating their god once a week?). Why do they think that way? Where did it start? There's a hinted at history with a minimal amount of space or waffle.
Okay, back on the time travelling thing: the bestowed powers section near the back of the book is totally what I've been doing with clerics. And it's great. The powers are weird and specific and anyone, not only clerics, can have access to them if the snakes dig them. In fact the book barely mentions the Cleric.
My only possible criticism is that not all the tables or entries are mind blowing. But that's fine by me, it's a grab bag. A bloody good one. So good that I think that the random table element really wasn't necessary, it's a waste not to use everything in here since they can all fit alongside each other without trouble. Just crab it and throw it into your campaign in all it's weird and bloody glory. I most certainly intend on doing so. The citizens of Lokossa have just found their new religion and I've found a new book to steal from. Thanks +Rafael Chandler.
You can get it from Lulu and RPGNow