Yesterday, I started to put together a scheme for codifying divine intervention in your campaign, trying to aim for a system that would make it impossible to keep the entire pantheon happy at once. I got as far as figuring out how to decide which gods care about which narrow set of behaviors, and put the rest off. Next step is figuring out A)how to keep track of the deities’ opinions and B)what sorts of blessings or curses they would use.
In the game Powder (the roguelike I’m swiping this whole concept from), the gods are constantly watching you and keeping a running tally of just how strongly they like or despise you, which normalizes over time if you do nothing. If you do enough good or bad shit (by that god’s standards) in a row, there is a blessing or curse. This is only okay if the referee is a computer.
Instead, the ref should just add divine interventions from each deity to their random encounter tables. When one comes up, the ref looks at each behavior that the deity cares about, and thinks about the party’s most recent actions only. The gods are fickle bastards and a track record counts for nothing.
So you could spend your whole life defending nature, but the gods of the forest will still smite the fuck out of you if the last thing you did before the intervention was start a forest fire. I’m finding myself to be strangely satisfied with that result. Moving on to B.
The boons and banes offered by Powder’s gods are also better suited to a CRPG than to tabletop play, but some of them are worth adapting. They include blessing and cursing items, for example, but that’s usually just a matter of adding a plus or minus one onto the end of it, which is obviously not a whole lot of fun.
Each god in that game has its own set of interventions, more or less tailored to its general concept, which is a good idea. So let’s take a look at the four that I rolled up (okay so I fudged like two die rolls sue me) yesterday.
- Rewards those who carry out justice. Which, to the deities, is killing bad guys. Judge Dredd.
- I was thinking St. Hubert before, but I’m looking at it again and seeing the lamest hippy there ever was. I dunno, Bob Ross?
- Imagine Swamp Thing, but as the driving force behind the Environmental Liberation Front.
- I’m gonna go with an ascended version of Queen Tiye to represent diplomacy, wealth and civilization.
Let’s just give them one blessing and curse each for now, and make them a little more interesting than the ones in Powder. I need to try and remember to make sure the blessings make PCs better at doing the sort of thing that deity likes, and the curses similarly get in the way of the sort of thing that deity hates. The effects of all these interventions persist until you get the same deity again and its opinion of you has reversed, so it’s impossible to have both the curse and the blessing from a single deity active at the same time.
Oh wait, actually— maybe if you roll a divine intervention from a deity that likes you, and you already have a curse active from a different deity, the one that likes you removes that curse instead? And there’s obviously no magic other than divine intervention that’s strong enough to get rid of a divine curse. OBVIOUSLY.
(Honestly I don't know about that last part. There could be situations where the PC feels ripped off and would have been perfectly happy to keep the curse and the blessing at the same time thank you very much, and that's not what I want. Whatever, that's what rule zero is for.)
Judge Dredd curse: Any evil you allow to go unpunished will befall you. This means that if you don’t follow up on a lead to hunt down some murderous highwaymen, you’ll end up their next target.
Judge Dredd blessing: You can smell lies on the breath of liars. You have to lean in really close and sniff the air they just lied with in a super creepy way that fucks up any further social interactions you have with that character. Except if you’re trying to make them think you’re dangerously insane, I suppose.
Bob Ross curse: Bad trips, all the time. Save to avoid nightmare hallucinations and projectile vomiting every time you’re in a stressful situation (such as combat). You often envision yourself being torn apart by madly gleeful animated trees.
Bob Ross blessing: You gain an uncanny knack for stumbling across naturally occurring narcotics. Once per day in a wilderness or underground area, you can stop to search for psychoactive plants or fungi, which always succeeds. Any hallucinations brought on by drugs found this way will contain some useful information, though the info is sometimes vague and open to interpretation. These drugs only maintain their potency for one day.
Swamp Thing curse: You become a powerful conduit for new plant life, which it turns out is incredibly annoying. Sure, walking around having flowers bloom wherever you tread looks good to the ladies at first, but if you stand in one spot to talk to them, they’ll be way too busy fighting off assassin vines to give a shit how many ogres you slew one handed just the other day. If you stay the night in town, the building you’re in will suffer massive structural damage and you probably won’t be allowed back.
Swamp Thing blessing: Lycanthropy (yeah I know but I’m not literally talking about Swamp Thing, I’m inventing a new divine being off the top of my head). Unlike most werewolves, you can transform at will, during which period you have to make periodic willpower checks to maintain control of your own actions. The light of the full moon causes you to transform involuntarily. If you spawn new werewolves, they have no control over the condition whatsoever, as usual. I guess that must be where regular werewolves come from.
Queen Tiye curse: In combat, take 1d2 points of damage for every regular die of damage (whatever that is for your character) you cause an opponent. This includes damage caused by melee & missile attacks, magic, dropping a safe on the bastard's head, etc. If you score a critical hit, you take 1d8 points of damage instead of 1d2. Better work on those people skills cause you don't wanna get in many fights for a while.
Queen Tiye blessing: You get an advantage to social interactions and a 150% value bonus to any treasure found. Sometimes you spend all day banging your head against a wall and don't get much good out of it. Such is life.
You know all those myths and modern stories where humans undertake some arduous journey or complete some complicated ritual to ask a favor of the gods? This should give players some pretty good reasons to do that.