Funny Dice

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Myth-making

Despite my disdain for overly-specific rules, they still exert a strange power. I spent a good half-hour after my last post working out a table for precisely how many worshippers a deity would need to achieve each rank of power, with a smoothly-scaling rate of increase from 250 to 5 million over 20 ranks. It was immensely satisfying. (True gaming geeks who desire a copy of this table may request it via comment.)

But we'll never get anywhere that way. What's needed is a way to describe deities that is entirely separate from the regular system for mortals -- a way that focuses on how players actually interact with them. Robin's reference to Greek mythology made me think: what are the truly salient facts about a deity? Never mind its combat statistics; the outcome of a fight involving one or more gods should be determined by what's dramatically appropriate, not by who has more pluses. Here's the Funny Dice-approved Alternate Deity Reckoning System:

First, decide what the god cares about, i.e. what it is the god of. Let's use Poseidon as an example. Poseidon is the god of the sea, and also the god of earthquakes and horses. List these in order of their significance.

Second, decide the god's attitude toward mortals. Choose a few adjectives and the groups to which they apply, or a general description (or both). Poseidon is Lustful towards Beautiful Women, Angry towards the people of Athens, and generally Prone to Violent Mood Swings.

Third, decide how often the god interacts with mortals. Does the god act in the mortal world every day, week, month, year, decade, or century? Or practically never? What is the god's typical interaction? Does it dispense wisdom or strength in battle, or does it skip right to the fire and brimstone?

Fourth, decide the god's relationship with the other gods and whether it is superior, inferior, or equal. You don't need to chart this connection to every god in the pantheon; in Greek mythology, Poseidon and Hera don't interact much, so don't worry about whether they're equal or not.

So far, we have:

Poseidon
God of:
  1. The Sea
  2. Earthquakes
  3. Horses
Lustful towards Beautiful Women
Angry towards Odysseus
Enemy of the Trojans
Prone to Violent Mood Swings

Interacts Daily by:
  • Causing and Calming Storms
  • Pursuing Women
  • Aiding Soldiers (sometimes)
Brother of Zeus (inferior)
Brother of Hades (equal)
Rival of Athena (equal)
Lover of Demeter (superior)
Father of Polyphemus the Cyclops (superior)


32 Comments:

  • I like your idea of systemizing a deity (within an RPG) for the purpose of ease of use by the GM and interaction by the player. You've danced around a central point, however, without ever stating it explicitly: there's really not much point in fighting a god (at least not on the draw-your-sword level).

    As you more-or-less point out, there's really not much precedent in just about any religious tradition for the idea that one could physically oppose a god and bend him/her to one's will. And the thought of giving a god hit points really seems to trvialize their status as a god.

    Perhaps the best one could do would be to shake one's fist at the heavens, and hope for the intercession of a benevolent GM. :-)

    By Blogger Gavin, at 2:53 PM  

  • In more than a decade of roleplaying and DMing, I've never had any need to reduce gods to statistics. I agree with Gavin. Placing a deity in a campaign with measurable limits (however vast they may be compared to players) diminishes the wonder and awe that they are meant to inspire.

    P.S. I think this is a great blog. I've added a link to you in my roleplaying blog, the Den of Dice and Drama.

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