Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Divine Intervention and the Nature of Dieties

How do you do divine intervention in your games?

Following up on the post about Clerics I have thought about how Gods interact with mortals.  Typically I give any character a base 1% chance to get divine intervention when they ask for it.  This is modified by how well they adhere to the tenets of their faith, the nature of their god, and even level (higher level characters can do more).  Of course nothing comes without a price.

In my 4e game coming up I am thinking that that the players will be visited often by the Raven Queen's avatar, in the form of a young girl ala Death from DC's Vertigo line and borrowing heavily from Amber Benson's "Death's Daughter" books.   I might even introduce her in the current adventure arc.

Presently the Dragonslayers are going after Tiamat. While they acknowledge that she is the "Goddess of Evil Dragons"  to them that just makes her bigger and more powerful to kill.  I am thinking I am ok with that for the most part.  It could be that Gods in my game are beings that just got really, really powerful.

If that is the case why do they need worshipers?  What purpose then is divine intervention for?

I had a character once who I took briefly into the Planescape setting.  Basically he was a jerk and didn't think that gods were anything special (sound familiar?), just powerful humans (or humanoids).  I later expanded his belief into an entire Plansescape faction, The Hermetic Order of Sigil, though he was not a member.

Interesting that all these years later I am still going back to the basic assumptions of my games and trying to figure out the underlying realities.


EKB said...

Re-examination is useful and occasionally interesting. My personal thesis is that the entire OSR-thang is a re-examination of some of the design choices of older games (including outright updating and streamlining of rules). /end rant

Which comes back to the main topic. I'm working out how my spiritual warrior stunt/power works for an example in ToT. What if clerical "magic" doesn't work like divine intervention at all but more like psionics? The power comes from their conviction in their beliefs, regardless of actual divinity of the entity that they worship. They can draw on X amount of "conviction" to power their miracles and tell themselves that it's {Deity}'s Will. Kind of fun, but possibly a bit too much of a tweak to the nose of tradition.

Another approach - what I'm thinking works best for what I'm doing - is that a miracle is petition-based. Want an apex spell effect even at 1st level? Ask for it, but expect to pay for it through mana burn, karmic backlash, divine mandate, geasa, or some other bit of character-driving nastiness. The big twist is that I'm testing it as a framework of effects as opposed to "fixed form" spells - the spellbook is simply a set of examples and target difficulties.

There's no reason why both couldn't be combined. Just saying...

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Personally, I tend not to. Probably the closest I get is the Alliances for the Witch class I made, and those require that the person do something to gain whatever powers they get (See here: http://lunchingonlamias.blogspot.com/2011/03/witch-class-alliances.html).

But, if someone playing a cleric were to ask about it, I'd probably give them roughly a base 10% chance at level 1, and then a 20% chance t level 2, etc.* Then I'd see if there was a spell for the effect, and, if there was, subtract 10% per level above theirs. If not, I'd do roughly the same thing, except that I'd be improvising. They'd also get s 1% per month (or whatever is a reasonable time rate for the campaign) bonus for adhering to their faith well, and a 5% penalty for each major rule that they break, until they atone.

*I'd end that rate right around level 7, and raise it by 1% a level thereafter, up to a maximum of 90% for level alone.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

*At level 2

Woodclaw said...

In my games Divine Intervention almost never happened. Simply put gods aren't uninterested in the affairs of mortals, but they rarely take the direct and personal route.
Also I don't like the whole idea that a clearic (or any other kind of priest character) is just a conduit for divine power, if this was the case any poor bastard could become a cleric and/or lose those powers on daily basis according to the whin of his/hers god. I usually define that the god might provide the power source, but it's the faith of the cleric that allows him to perform miracles.

EKB said...

Hacking the d20 SRD a bit: http://anaithnidgames.com/post/5670967368/spontaneous-divine-casters

The main form of "divine intervention" is in granting/teaching spells, so treating it more as a very occasional/rare endowment of power/investment changes the dynamics a bit. Deity doesn't need to intervene and yet the divine casters don't get nerfed to much.

The rest is color text.

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