Wednesday, 3 February 2021

A Gift from the Gods

Gifts of the Gods is the theme for this month's RPG Blog Carnival kindly hosted by the Sea of Stars RPG Design Journal.

A Clash of Titans

Whenever I think about divine artifacts I am reminded of Clash of the Titans (1981) where Perseus is gifted:

  • A helmet of invisibility - given to him by his father Zeus
  • A magic sword - gifted by Aphrodite
  • A magic shield - given by Hera

This trio of powerful magic items would make most PCs wet themselves, particularly if given to a relatively low level character as in Perseus case.  However, what we must also recognise is that Perseus is a demi-god.  I very much doubt that this sort of largess would be shown to a mere mortal so why should you do the same for your PCs?

Clash of the Titans (1981) - Release The Kraken
A Pawn of the Gods

The Gods play games from their lofty home of Olympus.  In the movie Zeus is bound to honour the laws of Olympus which means he must allow Andromeda to be sacrificed to the Kraken but he does not have to play the game fairly.  We mere mortals cannot fathom the machinations of Gods, but we do know that Perseus is his pawn in that game.

When contemplating granting a PCs a gift of the Gods, it should definitely come with strings attached.  A great evil must be defeated, a quest achieved which benefits the Gods in some way.  It could even be a wager between two Gods.  Whose champion will be first to succeed the trials and rescue the maiden?

Have a warlock in your party?  Well in order to receive their power they need to have made a compact with an eldritch power.  The PC is a manifestation of that power and must obey the whims of their master.  Power does not come without consequence so exercise some consequence now and then.  

These could all be great epic story arcs in themselves and would certainly add flavour to any mythical campaign.

Single use Deus Ex Machina

Another way to resolve the dilemma of giving PCs uber powerful magic items and turning them into OP Murder Hobos is to make them single use.  It is not unusual for an item to be crafted with a sole purpose in mind and once that purpose is achieved it is destroyed or loses its magical properties.    

The Gift of Information

Information can often be the most powerful weapon of all and having a God visit you in your dreams or answer your prayers with knowledge can be a blessing.  When faced with insurmountable odds or an impenetrable fortress, the knowledge of a secret entrance to the big bad guy's inner sanctum would be just as effective as hiding inside a wooden horse.

Blessings and Curses

Having a God backing your cause can be a real boost.  In fact why not give your PCs temporary stat increases or something visible to others like a glowing aura, a halo or give them perfect hair.  If your game is set in a quasi medieval world where everything is caked in a layer of grime, make your blessed PCs stand out from the crowd by mud literally not sticking to them.

"By The Gods..." is a popular invocation among PCs.  How about you actually give PCs the power of minor curse.  Alternatively, you could bestow the power of curse reflection upon your characters which could lead to some interesting interactions with local NPCs.   

By the Power of the Pantheon

Of course playing with Divine Items requires you to have at least one God or better still a Pantheon as part of your setting.  If your games are set in one of the many published settings like Forgotten Realms you have a cavalcade of Gods to choose from.

Otherwise treat this as an opportunity for some world building with your pious PCs.  If like me you are a fan of Terry Pratchett, you may have read Small Gods, a satire upon religion and politics.  The power of the Gods is directly related to the size of their congregation. In the book Om is a once powerful God stuck in the body of a small turtle and the novice acolyte Brutha is his one and only true believer.  What better personal mission for the party's Cleric than to spread the word of their God and convert believers as they move from town to town.

Plot and Personal Quests Breeds Engagement

I have always been a firm believer in incorporating elements of PC backgrounds into my plots to give every player around the table a real tangible reason to be engaged in the story.  If players include a deity in that background then why not use it.  Your players will feel rewarded when part of the background that they have created becomes a central motif to the weeks play. 

How Do you Deal with Divine Gifts in your Game?  

I don't have all the answers (that would be omniscience) and to the point of writing these blogs is to share ideas.  If you have any cool examples of how you gifted a player a divine artifact then please leave a comment in the box below.

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