Tag Archives: cleric magic

Trying out Glory from God: The Past Gods

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The goal is to make cleric magic weirder. To create a better counterpart to the Magic Words system used by Magic Users in my games.

So far we’ve established the broad stokes of how the system is going to work, and how spells will be created. We’ve also created a kind a template for how gods can be presented in a useful, gameable way, as well as a fun table of oddities to make casting a little less predictable. Now we need to work up some examples to turn all of that theory into a reality. I’ll probably write two or three of these so I can really start to get a sense of where the system’s strengths and weaknesses are.

I’m going to be playtesting this system in my ORWA campaign, where I have one cleric who is playing a techno priest.  (Unfortunately, this player had real life obligations, and had to leave the game after only three sessions. But I wrote all of this before that happened, sooo….) Given that, it only makes sense to write up The Past Gods, who are worshiped by that sect. They’re not a very traditional deity, given that they’re sort of a pantheon of nameless entities that are worshiped as a single deific force. But if the system can’t handle weird, then it’s not a very good system.

The Past Gods


Domains

  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Lost Knowledge

Mythology

The past gods were the normal men and women of an advanced age now past. They gave us all of the many technological wonders humanity once enjoyed, and which humanity lost when it descended into a sinful, ignorant subrace. The past gods still hope that we can return from our fall, and so they bless us with samples of the technological wonders that will await us if we follow them.

Laws / Taboos:

  • Technology should be acquired and preserved. Even broken technology is sacred. In other circumstances, property should be respected. However, all technology belongs to The Past Gods, and so taking it in their name is not theft.
  • Technology should be understood through The Technology Support Rituals. To try and understand technology on one’s own merit is to presume equality with the humans of old, and this is an insult to The Past Gods. (This is a stricture of the church, and not one imposed by the gods themselves.)

Spells (All 1st level)

For the purposes of all spells here, “Technology” refers only to devices which are now beyond common human understanding in the setting. So a flashlight, a gun, or a cellphone would be considered technology, but a spade or a crossbow would not.

Abjuration (1 round casting time)

“And the biting current was altered, and brought to rest in the right place.”

The next time the targeted character would suffer electrical damage, that damage is grounded and does them no harm. The effect lasts for 2 exploration turns per caster level, or until it has been expended.

“For mechanisms work only by the will of the Past Gods, and not against their servants.”

The target becomes completely incapable of activating mechanical devices, either intentionally or not. This includes tripwires and pressure plates which might cause a trap to be sprung on them. Similarly they cannot open a lock or fire a gun, as these are also mechanisms. The effect lasts for 2 combat rounds per caster level.

Command (1 round casting time)

“Cease your function, blessed tool. You are in the hands of the enemy.”

An indicated piece of technology within 30′ of the caster ceases to function. It cannot be repaired for 2 exploration turns per caster level.

“The hooting screech, guardian of the net’s bounty.”

To cast this spell the caster opens their mouth, and from their body comes an inhuman sound. A series of high pitched screeches, mixed simultaneously with beeps and white noise. The sound is so cacophonous that nothing requiring sound can function within a 30′ radius of the caster. No speech, nor any spell casting either. This effect also blocks any special effects that use sound to function, such as Hideous Laughter. The spell lasts for up to 1 round per caster level, though the caster must maintain the spell with their full attention if they wish for it to last longer than a single round, and thus cannot take further actions.

Blessing (1 exploration turn casting time)

“For the sinful man, answers remain always elusive.”

This curse prevents the target from discovering some specific piece of information by any means. Even if it is directly told to them, it will fall immediately out of their heads like the name of the 99th person you’re introduced to at a party. Even if they try to exert all of their effort to paying attention when they are told this information, they simply cannot learn it.

The spell is cast on some written example of the forbidden information. The first person to read the ensorcled text will become the spell’s target, and they will remain subject to it until Remove Curse is cast.

“She did rise, as though held aloft by a rotor of blades.”

With the cacophonous sound of helicopter blades, the target of the spell rises into the air. There are no physical rotors, merely the sound of them. The beneficiary of the spell can travel in any direction at a rate of 30′ per round, up to 100′ in the air. The effect lasts for 2 exploration turns per caster level.

Divination (1 exploration turn casting time)

“You will know them by their form and by their function, for they are blessed.”

So long as the caster does not move from their spot, they gain a sort of technology-detecting vision. They may turn round if they wish, but cannot take any steps away from where they are when the spell is cast. Any technology that falls within their field of view will glow a slight shade of red. The caster is also able to determine the function and condition of the technology from the shade and vibration of this red aura. This doesn’t aide so much in diagnosing what needs to be repaired about a broken piece, but does allow for quick determination of what is working and what is not.

“Of my companion I did ask: call my phone, so that its location shall be revealed unto me.”

When cast, the caster identifies a piece of technology. It must be a general type, rather than a specific item. “An xPhone Universe 6SS” is an acceptable identification. “My cell phone,” is not.

The caster then knows the precise location of the closest instance of the described device. So long as the caster does not move a muscle, they can track any movement of the device. Once the caster moves, the effect ends.

Prayer (1 watch casting time)

“Though beset by magnets, the machine did boot.”

The cleric can order any broken machine to work for 1 turn per caster level. The caster does not control the machine, nor does the machine necessarily have access to its full range of functions that might require additional working bits. (Guns may be forced to work, but they will not produce bullets. Computers may be forced to boot, but they will not necessarily be able to display the data you wanted.)

“That which transpires here must stay here for all time”

The cleric consecrates an area of a 30′ radius, which lasts for 1 day per caster level. Everything that transpires within this space will be forgotten by those within it when they leave. Even the caster will have no recollection of what they said or did while within the consecrated space.

Ritual (1 haven turn casting time)

“From the gods’ mind, creatures were given life who held no form.”

This ritual requires that the caster have access to a computational device, such as a computer, or cell phone. It also requires 300 credits of computational resources.

When the spell is complete, the caster will have created an artificial intelligence. This new AI is an NPC like any other, with its own will, personality, and traits. It is able to move throughout computer systems with greater flexibility and understanding than even the most adept human user could achieve.

In thanks for giving birth to it, the AI will perform any 3 tasks the cleric asks of it without question. After this, it considers its debt to be paid, and will not accept commands from the cleric any longer. However, unless it has been made to act contrary to its personality, the AI will remain friendly with the caster, and may be willing to provide favors or services like any other friendly NPC would.

“Man and machine became one when man first came to rely upon shelter and fire. We now take one further step on that most ancient of paths.”

This ritual requires the cleric to have access to a piece of technology that currently works, as well as a willing subject. The cleric can perform the ritual on themselves if they wish.

The working technology is merged into the character’s body in whatever way the caster describes. The device now draws energy directly from the person’s body, and no longer requires batteries or any other power source. Further, the subject is now able to use the technology via thought. Depending on where the technology is placed, its function may be limited as logic would dictate.

If the merged technology is a gun, ammunition is still required as normal.

 

Weird Cleric Magic: Gods

Weird Cleric Magic - GodsIn exploring the Glory from God system, we’ve outlined spellcasting, and discussed spell creation. Now we’ve got to talk about the stars of the show: the gods themselves. Since their individual flavor is so important to spell creation, we need an effective means of creating, recording, and communicating that flavor. We need a divine character sheet.

What we don’t need is any numbers. Whether or not the god is killable is immaterial*. The only purpose we’re concerned with here is preparing a creative aide for divine spell creation. If the referee is making a 1st level abjuration spell, what form will that spell take? Will the god bestow their protection by raising a wall of earth? Or will they temporarily turn the target incorporeal? Or will they place a shimmering shield of light that deflects attacks? These three spells could have dramatically different impacts on the game. So how do we decide which one to use?

I’m going to provide tables in this post, because it feels like a meatier contribution, and I like writing tables. But they’re just here if you need them. If you’d rather come up with this shit on your own, more power to you. It’s probably what I would do.

*Though, in point of fact, killable gods are awesome. I’m fully in support of the idea that most gods are terrestrial creatures. Perhaps they are beyond any means of death we understand, that’s part of what makes them divine. But there is some way to end their existence.

Domains

Domains are the most simplistic abstraction of a god. They are a single idea, often expressed with a single word, which indicate the god’s sphere of influence. When we say that Ares was the god of War, or that Eros was the god of Sex, we are referring to these god’s domains.

Each god should have between 1 and 3 domains. This is not a hard limit, and gods may have as many or as few domains as you wish. But, too many domains can create an unfocused divinity. If the goal here is to gain a strong sense of the god’s style, then it’s best to keep the list short.

If you want to keep the system light, domains could be the only thing on a divine character sheet. It provides plenty of information on its own, and you’d probably be able to use it to generate spells without too much difficulty.

d20 Domains (Even)

  1. Life
  2. Death
  3. Knowledge
  4. War
  5. Wisdom
  6. Love
  7. Trickery
  8. Lies
  9. Pain
  10. Light
  11. Darkness
  12. Stone
  13. Agriculture
  14. Winter
  15. Summer
  16. Sex
  17. Leadership
  18. Wealth
  19. Forgiveness
  20. Vengeance

D20 Domains (Odd)

  1. Nature
  2. Civilization
  3. Craftspeople
  4. Fear
  5. Snakes
  6. Bears
  7. Birds
  8. Sailors
  9. Fire
  10. Earth
  11. Wind
  12. Water
  13. Mathematics
  14. Strength
  15. Competition
  16. Law
  17. Chaos
  18. Neutrality
  19. Armageddon
  20. Revelry

 

Mythology

If you’re interested in adding a little more texture to your god than a sampling of individual words can offer, myths are a good second step. A myth is the god’s own story. It doesn’t need to be a fleshed out narrative–in fact if it is, I’d say you’re probably over-thinking things. Each myth should be a single sentence, maybe two.

There are three kinds of myths: Myths of Birth detail how the god came to exist. Myths of Events tell a short story that takes place in the past. Something which the god did, or something which happened to the god. Myths of Occupation refer to an ongoing phenomenon which the deity claims responsibility for.

No doubt a hundred deities claim responsibility for pulling the sun across the sky each day, this need not be a problem. Each could be a single aspect of the same deity. Perhaps all of the deities are lying, simply making grandiose claims to followers who don’t know any better. Or, it could be human error! 1,000 years ago some high priest of Yubbles the Sky Bear got into an argument with a cleric of Zandar the Memeist about whose god was better. Both of them started making shit up, and the gods aren’t petty enough to bother with correcting their misled followers.

Myths of Birth

  1. The god was born of a deity and (1. Another Deity, 2. A Mortal, 3. An Animal, 4. A Mythical Creature, 5. A Natural Object, 6. A Crafted Object.)
  2. The god was once mortal, and earned their divinity.
  3. The god emerged fully formed from (1. A Mountain/The Earth, 2. The Sea, 3. A Great Fire, 4. Another God, 5. The Sky, 6. A Tree)
  4. The god was created by another god by some means other than standard reproduction. Perhaps in a forge, or by weaving, or glass blowing, or pooping.
  5. The god emerged in response to some phenomena, such as the fury of a battle, or the fear of a refugee people.
  6. The god has always existed. There is nothing before them.

Myths of Events

  1. The god played some role in creating humans, or helping them advance.
  2. The god created some well known animal or monster.
  3. The god created some well known object with an unknown origin.
  4. The god was betrayed by a friend or servant.
  5. The god fought a great battle, and won, lost, or reached a stalemate.
  6. The god is the first to invent some artistic medium.
  7. The god is responsible for giving some order to the universe which did not previously exist -or- for removing order which once did exist.
  8. The god founded a kingdom.
  9. The god held a great revelry.
  10. The god established some important ritual. Like lunch. Lunch is an important ritual.

Myths of Occupation

  1. The god is responsible for something that happens constantly, like the passage of time, or the the air we breathe, or the flowing of water.
  2. The god is responsible for something that happens often, like the rising of the sun or moon, the coming of the tides, or the changing of the weather.
  3. The god is responsible for something that happens on a slow timescale, such as the changing of the seasons, or the movements of the heavens.
  4. The god is responsible for something that happens rarely, but unexpectedly. Like natural disasters, economic collapse, or invasion by a foreign enemy.
  5. The god is responsible for something that happens naturally, but on no fixed schedule, like birth or death, artistic inspiration, or the coming of the tax collector.
  6. The god is responsible for maintaining something that happened long ago, such as giving humans free will. Alternatively, the god is responsible for something that has not yet happened, but which will happen, such as the end of the world.

Laws, Proscriptions/Taboos

Most gods come with associated rules they expect you to follow. It’s a bummer, but hey, it’s a small price to pay for not getting smote, amirite?

I don’t imagine rules would have any particular impact on spell creation, but they would go some way towards making a god feel a little more real if they were enforced on clerics of that god. Like domains, I’d recommend between 1 and 3 to keep things simple and manageable.

The real key is to make rules which don’t affect the rest of the party. It’s better for a rule to be completely trivial than for it to become a hindrance for the party members who decided against rolling clerics.

  1. Cannot wear any knots in their clothing, including wrapping knotted rope around themselves.
  2. Must always spend some amount of money on sacrifices.
  3. Cannot initiate combat against someone who has done them no harm.
  4. Must always spend some amount of money helping the poor or improving the community.
  5. Cannot engage in any sexual relationship.
  6. Must always offer comfort to any who seek it, even those who have wronged them deeply.
  7. Cannot be seen naked by anyone.
  8. Must always defer to others in non-religious matters.
  9. Cannot speak their own god’s name.
  10. Must always remember to attribute all good things to their god.
  11. Cannot witness devotions being paid to any other god.
  12. Must always spend time praying on a frequent periodic schedule.
  13. Cannot tell a lie.
  14. Must always lie.
  15. Cannot look upon or touch a dead body.
  16. Must always perform specific funeral rites.
  17. Cannot eat any but a specific sort of food.
  18. Must always keep themselves clean, and wearing well maintained clothing.
  19. Cannot bathe.
  20. Must always announce when they fart–with neither pride nor shame.

Spells

Spells shouldn’t be recorded in advance, they are created one by one as the cleric prays for them. But these spells are not simply the gifts bestowed on a single cleric, they are the god’s repertoire of miracles. If ever another cleric chooses to worship this god and prays for a spell, there is an 80% chance they will learn a spell from the god’s already-existing repertoire. Otherwise the spell will be created as normal.

Evolution through Play

What I’d really like to emphasize about divine magic in my games is that there’s a second party involved in casting. An NPC that happens to be divine. Clerical magic isn’t like wizard magic, where the caster is manipulating the fabric of reality through the sheer power of their art. Clerical magic is done by drawing upon a personal relationship with an NPC. By petitioning that NPC for favors.

Clerics are not free agents, vaguely attached to an alignment. They have willingly subjugated themselves to a higher authority. In a sense, the cleric is a slave. A very high status slave whose master is beyond earthly concerns, but a slave none the less.

Given that, it is only natural that the god will grow and develop through play the way any other NPC does. Each time some new interesting facet of the god is discovered through play, it can be added to the character sheet, and later be drawn upon when creating new spells.

Next week, we’ll explore the divine character sheet by writing up a sample, complete with a few spells. If you enjoyed this post, consider checking out my Patreon campaign, and helping me produce more posts like it!

Making Cleric Magic Weirder: Glory from God

Pope Julius II in Armor

This may be a controversial thing to say in the OSR right now, but I don’t hate clerics. I’ll happily grant that healing magic is bullshit, but I’d rather rehabilitate the class than remove it altogether.  Glory from God is an attempt to create a clerical counterpart to the Magic Words system, drawing on the Petitions of Brendan S., and the spell casting dice pools of Courtney Campbell.

The first step in accessing clerical magic is to choose a god to worship.  The god may be selected from the existing pantheon of the referee’s world, or may be created by the player.

To learn a new spell, a cleric must spend time in meditation, prayer, and study. They pour all of their energy into gaining a deeper understanding of god’s will. Only after time and sacrifice will a spell be revealed unto them. One month and 1000 money should be a sufficient amount of devotion to earn a new spell.

The player of the cleric has no role whatsoever in determining the nature of their spells. Divine spells are not created by the clerics who cast them. These spells are gifts from god, presented fully formed to the clergy which earned them. Even if the player was allowed to create their own god before play began, they cannot now exert any influence over the way that god functions. The player is like a meta-divine-watchmaker in this respect.

Clerics may attempt to cast any of the spells they know at any time. There is no need to memorize specific spells in the morning, nor is there any strict limit on how often a cleric may cast each day. Theoretically they could continue to cast indefinitely if the dice (by which I mean god) continue to favor them.

The cleric’s favor with their god is represented by a pool of six sided dice. The size of their pool is equal to 2d6, plus an additional d6 for each cleric level. So, 3d6 at first level, 4d6 at second level, and so on. Possessing powerful relics, or a richly appointed holy symbol may allow the cleric to expand their die pool slightly.

To cast a spell, the cleric rolls as many dice from their pool as they wish. The results are added together, and the total is compared to the chart below. Then, any individual dice which show a number that is less than or equal to the level of the spell being cast are removed from the die pool until the next day. Thus, casting higher level spells will exhaust a cleric’s favor more quickly. There is also a risk/reward element to choosing how many dice to roll for each spell. More dice means a greater likelihood of success, but it also creates more opportunities for dice to end up removed from the dice pool.

How God Responds to Your Petition:
1-2:
God is not listening. The spell fails.
3-5: God is disinterested. The spell goes off at the end of the next round, after all parties have acted.
6-11: God acknowledges your faithful service. The spell goes off immediately
12+: God is pleased with you. The spell goes off immediately, and any variable effects are maximized.

Optionally, the referee may allow clerics to purchase consumable items such as holy water or incense to assist in their spellcasting. A single use worth of these items is encumbering. When used as part of casting a spell, these consumables allow the cleric to “fudge” one of their dice by 1. Using this method, dice may even be raised above their maximum face value. So a 6 rolled on a d6 may become a 7, allowing the cleric to retain that die in their pool even if a 6th level spell was cast.

That covers everything that the player need worry about directly. While the system may seem daunting, it is worth pointing out that players will only need access to 3 pieces of information at the table:

  • Their spell list. Presumably they would already have this anyway.
  • The size of their dice pool, which would be a very simple thing to record on the character sheet, or to recalculate if it is forgotten.
  • The 4-entry table for interpreting the results of a spell casting check.

If this is all that interests you, then this is all you need. Referees can use any means they prefer to create their spells, giving clerics whatever flavor suits their campaign world the best. For my own purposes, though, I would like to see cleric magic relegated to a very specific niche, distinct from the magic user. A niche without any healing in it whatsoever.

I’ll detail more thoughts on clerical spell creation in my next post.

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