CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Deus Ex Machina - Why and When Do We Use Divine Intervention

In worlds like Golarion, where gods undoubtedly exist, the divine is a part of everyday life. Spells and abilities are granted to those who dedicate their lives to a divine being. In some cases the gods themselves have touched the material plane and directly caused or changed events in the world. Although some gods give their devout followers a little nudge here and there, for the most part a power struggle amongst the divine powers stops them from taking too much direct action.

These gods can be used as a platform for deep storytelling. Many of my characters, even those not given direct divine powers, have a patron being to whom they dedicate themselves. Factions among a deity’s follower like the ones I outline for Mahathallah can be a great starting point for some characters. Even the gods themselves may instigate the quest that the players undertake. I’m still waiting to read the description of Kofusachi’s Tea House to a group of players and have them start out in that mystical place.

With summoning spells many divine characters can even call down servitors of the gods to aid them in times of need. Divination spells can be given as visions from a deity trying to guide their chosen’s hand. Aid from those dedicated to your chosen patron – Clerics, Oracles, Warpriests, Inquisitors – can be considered divine aid as well.

In this realm where we can see, hear, and in some cases even touch the beings that may grant us divine power, how much interaction is too much? When do we move from a divine nudge to full on Deus Ex Machina? What personal lines do you draw for how much intervention a god can give?

There are some who don’t mind a little god meddling here and there. I think I fall into this camp, especially if a character has been very intent on furthering the goals of her deity. I think Fizban the avatar of Paladine in the Dragonlance novels straddles this fine line. On the one hand he is physically present to guide and safeguard the party, on the other his aid often comes in the form of bumbling over hints and clues, rather than outright telling them what to do and how to do it.

My biggest issue with divine intervention comes toward the end of a campaign, or sometimes in a novel. When the players meet the final bad guy, the ultimate enemy, and it doesn’t matter what the adventurers do if it takes a divine being to stop the threat. The player’s actions mean nothing if a god's divine intervention was necessary all along; and then what’s the point in the characters even going on this adventure? Even if at the end a player or two must sacrifice their lives to attain success, there is a certain kind of heroism in that. But when you give your life and a god still has to step in to finish the job, to me at least, the sacrifice seems pointless.

I’m sure not everyone feels that way and mine is not the only opinion on the subject. How do you use the divine in your games? When building your own worlds, how important do you make them? Do you let your gods solve problems of your player or characters?

This is the last post of the year and it’s been a fun five month ride. Don’t forget you can subscribe to get an email whenever there is a new post. And here’s to a new year full fun gaming and expanding our horizons.

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