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D&D 3E
Touched by the Gods 
17th-Feb-2005 10:01 am
geometry, roleplaying, random numbers, games, 3e
It occurs to me that, unlike other classes, becoming a Cleric or a Paladin isn't really a choice made by the player, but rather by the deity.

This means that I ought to be able to tell a player, when they get enough XP to go up a level, that they have to take a level in on of those classes. Obviously, it would be something that would need to be carefully handled, but if you choose the right player with the right character (i.e. one who is already upholding the ideals of the god in question), it ought to be interesting. Especially if you throw in a sweetener, like having one of their weapons gain an appropriate magical ability...

What do people think?
Comments 
17th-Feb-2005 03:09 pm (UTC)
Telling players they have to develop their characters along your wishes is always, always, always a bad idea. It's their character.

If you can convince the player that he should take a level or two of cleric, that's a differnt story.

I have done something like this in my campaign:
One of the current characters in my campaign picked up a custom PrC called "Burning Champion"- a sort of elemental divine champion with some fire abilities. He did so after about 10 levels of being a barbarian/fighter worshipper of the campaign fire-god. So when confronted by a divine fire-spirit in a lost temple dungeon, he was offered the chance to "take up the True Mantle of Rahiti" at the conclusion of a big dramatic scene. And then OOC- I let the player know- "if you say yes, this means you have to pick up your next level as this Burning Champion PrC". The player really picked up on this and developed the full PRC with me, but I really expected it to go either way, or even have the payer take a single level of Burning Champion and continue on his own path.
17th-Feb-2005 03:17 pm (UTC)
I agree in principle, and I certainly wouldn't do this often (maybe even never), but I'm not talking about forcing them to develop along my wishes, but rather about them being touched by a force beyond their understanding. Or, to put it another way, having them affected by events and beings in the world.

I don't see it as being too far different from having a character's parents killed off camera; some things happen that the players can't control. Especially where gods are concerned. Gods don't always ask permission before bestowing their munificience on people.

This is why I stress the importance of choosing the right player, who would be willing to roll with the punches.

Also, I'd be quite prepared (if this happened) that that first level of Cleric or Paladin was the only one they ever got.
17th-Feb-2005 03:35 pm (UTC)
If your'e talking about telling a character "your next level will be Cleric" your "force beyond their understanding" will actually be perfectly understood as "the GM decided my next level had to be cleric." It's bad GMing, and it's very likely to make for an unhappy campaign.

We're talking about character development here. The covenant of roleplaying is very clear: players get to make decisions for how their characters develop and act. GM's make decisions for the campaign setting and how adventures develop. Otherwise, why would they even bother showing up to play?

17th-Feb-2005 03:38 pm (UTC)
The difference is this. The character's parents are NPCs. They are yours to control and you may do with them what you will. The PC is the PLAYER'S character, and you should not, EVER, tell the player how that character should develop. Approving a feat, combination of feats, skill, or prestige class...that is your prerogative as DM. Telling the player how he or she must level his or her character is a really, really good way to get that player to leave your campaign.

It's true that it might be more "realistic" to have a god or gods step in and bestow these things without the character really having a whole lot to say about it. However, this is a game, and doesn't always conform to reality. What I'd suggest instead, if you want to do this, is have the character have a dream or vision or something in which he or she is approached by the deity in question and offered the opportunity to do what you're suggesting (in an appropriate in-character way, of course). Then (as someone else suggested) tell the player out of game that if they accept, they must take their next level as cleric or paladin or whatever. Offer them a choice, don't dictate to them.

In the interests of full disclosure, I once left a campaign over this very issue. I'm willing to accomodate the DM's needs and wishes up to a point - but when he started telling me how MY character would react in a given situation, and what my next levels would be in - without so much as consulting me - that was the last straw. Honestly, don't do it without offering the characters a choice.
17th-Feb-2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Taking character development away from the player like that is just wrong.

I could see offering the opportunity to do something like that, and even going so far as to say that it's now or never and you won't have another chance to do it. But just deciding for the player how his character is going to grow is one of those things you just don't do.

Unless of course you WANT pissed off players being railroaded into your own idea.
17th-Feb-2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
Maybe. I mean it seems like only certain deities would want an unwilling cleric. I think it might work better for the deity to charge the character with a mission of some kind.
17th-Feb-2005 03:15 pm (UTC)
Bad idea. For one thing, the character can always run away from this calling. For another, forcing a player to play something he doesn't want to play is likely to upset him. You can offer the opportunity, but whether the character accepts it should be up to the player.

A better way of handling things like class changes is asking the players a few levels in advance if they plan some sort of career change anytime soon, and adjusting the campaign accordingly.
17th-Feb-2005 03:30 pm (UTC)
Free Will. Characters can only acquire divine powers (Paladin, Cleric, or anything else, really) with divine favor, but most cosmologies are pretty clear about Free Will.

If you want the deity to grant someone powers and they don't take up the cleric or paladin class, just grant them weird divine powers outside of the general mechanics of the rules. And, of course, retain control over those powers, so the PCs never know if/when they're going to work.
17th-Feb-2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
A _player_ chooses a divine path. The character is _assumed_ to have earned it.

There are reasons that the DM is allowed to pull divine bonuses from characters who do not act appropriately in their role, but forcing it on a PC is just a bad idea.

If you want to have a PC show aspects of divine favor, you can grant them abilities. Without the players knowledge, you can let the other PCs know that the character is showing aspects of the Celestial/Infernal template, and slowly add that to the character. Or spontaneously give them some of the abilities of a low-level Favored Soul (spontaneously casting divine caster). Or similar. You need to be careful not to show favoritism, and if you give this PC benefits, you need to either add restrictions (and preferably, a way for the PC to opt out, if they don't think the restriction is offset by the benefit), or allow other PCs to get some similar boost.

But that is STILL a significantly better option than saying 'you have to take a level of x.'
17th-Feb-2005 03:52 pm (UTC)
In general, this is a bad idea.

However, it can be fun and work out well with the right player at the right time. For example, if I had a character I was playing as a fighter but the storyline was that the gods were talking to me and I might be called to be a paladin, I would be cool with the DM telling me, "Now, take your first paladin level" at the appropriate time in the story.

I think this is a crappy idea as a general policy, though. Most of these sorts of decisions (if a god is going to grant powers, if a warrior is in fact a paladin, etc) will have been made in the character's earlier life, pre-1st level.
17th-Feb-2005 03:58 pm (UTC)
That's exactly the kind of situation I was thinking of. It would certainly be a very rare event, but with the right player at the right time in the right campaign, it could be interesting.

I'll probably never use it, but it was an interesting idea.
17th-Feb-2005 04:04 pm (UTC)
As everyone else said, dictating to a player what they have to do is a BAD IDEA.

But I question your very assumption. How is the choice of becoming a Cleric/Paladin the god's rather than the players? It seems to me more that a player would decide "I worship this deity and will do whatever I can for him" and THEN the deity grants them powers. But the initial choice is still the player's. In fact, some cosmologies may have the God's hands be tied: the player goes through some ceremony and proclaims to worship the god, the God HAS to grant them powers because they've gone through the proceedure. Then the player may go about doing something the God doesn't intend. This uses a fallible view of the God's (which I happen to like and is present in a lot of polytheistic societies).

In any case, I in no way see how a God can command a player to worship him. That almost totally defeats the point: couldn't every god just command everything to worship him, and then you have all kinds of chaos and don't actually have different clerics? Or something? As someone else said, Free Will does exist. And by dictating stuff as the DM, you're taking that away, which is very very bad.
17th-Feb-2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
This is true.

In the cosmology (theology might be a better term) I'm using, there are Priests, who worship a deity and form the heirachy of a church but don't neccessarily have god-granted powers; and Clerics who have such powers, but don't neccessarily have any formal sanction by the church. In some religions there's a huge overlap between the two groups, but in others they're almost entirely separate.

Those who choose to worship a god become priests. Those who are chosen to do so become clerics. Often clerics become priests, or vice versa, but it's certainly not automatic.

I wasn't thinking of commanding a character to worship a specific god, but rather having a god grant powers to someone who already worships him, either as a priest or simply as a member of the congregation; someone who embodies the god's aims or philosophies.

In terms of free will, I wasn't thinking of forcing a player to change anything about the way they play their character, but simply giving them a new set of special abilities in the form of 1st level in a new class; if becoming a cleric would entail any change in behaviour or thought, then I would certainly not consider this at all.
17th-Feb-2005 04:30 pm (UTC)
the GM in a game I played (Rolemaster actually), developed a storyline with myself and another character where we kept having dreams of a golden haired and bearded man laughing at our exploits (this specific character tended to be a bit of a joker)... these kept on for a while and i even did a halfhearted search for whom the person was.

I found out later (out of game) that it was a hook he had thrown in with a new god arising into the pantheon (where all of the deities, the good ones anyhow, were aspects of a single goddess)... this new aspect was of the god of mirth, trickery and jokes... and I could have been one of the first clerics of this newly realized aspect of the goddess...

however i missed out on the opportunity.

I think that was an excellent way of handling something of the type. where a god takes a special interest in you and if you follow that course you can become a cleric... but if you miss the opportunity or don't follow through (all player's choices) nothing changes.

He's doing the same thing with a character that is showing sorcerous talent now in one of our online games (on Rpol.net), come to think of it.

Hope this helps.

:o)
Dan
17th-Feb-2005 05:03 pm (UTC) - No way, no how
Keep in mind that at the level above the character is a person playing a game. Forcing even one level of a class on someone is something that is a clear abuse of DM/Player trust.

Having the deity send the players visons urging them to take up the calling is fine, even having some NPCs pressure them is ok, but if it's clear that that's not where the player wants to take the character, it's time to let it go.

Verisimilitude is all fine and great, but this is just ruining someone's fun and that's why most people play this game
17th-Feb-2005 05:30 pm (UTC)
i think it's a bloody awful idea.
17th-Feb-2005 05:55 pm (UTC)
I thought that such divine paths were ones the players felt some manner of calling to? That being the case, I'd say that as the DM you're perfectly welcome to give the player dreams and soforth relating to joining the service of their god, even give them negative consequences for not pursuing such (as in Mama Lola- an excellent ethnography, should anyone choose to read it- where one of the women gets sick, has terrible luck, etc. and interprets it as Ezili telling her to join her service). But making the decision for them? Absolutely not.
17th-Feb-2005 05:58 pm (UTC)
I've never had it that way. Clerics and paladins choose to follow the path of righteousness. They go to Churches of that god, ask them to teach them in the ways of the god. The god doesn't choose them, they choose the god.

On that note, don't ever control a player's character, in any shape, way, or form. All the stuff said above. Pisses players off.
17th-Feb-2005 06:02 pm (UTC)
In exactly the right situation it could work, but the general consensus is also true.

I've been involved in one game where it went a bit like that and it worked pretty well, but we had warned the players in advance and there had been some RP leading up to it. They started off as commoners, then did a sort of 1/2 class thing as if they were starting multiclasses but only with one of the classes. During that period they grew in certain directions.
That game is/was very limited though, they only level up after some training, skills could only be spent on things the gms thought were appropriate etc. It sounds bloody awful, but the players love it.
18th-Feb-2005 12:04 am (UTC)
This means that I ought to be able to tell a player, when they get enough XP to go up a level, that they have to take a level in on of those classes.

You can. But you *should* only do so after they've have a divine experience, and agreed to serve the guy.

You could also make both Paladin and Cleric ("priest") a Prestige class. Just make a way to have a "healing wizard", and you've got a nice seperation of healing and holiness.

(It's always struck me as odd that there are no effective atheist doctors in D&D...)
18th-Feb-2005 12:14 am (UTC)
I think I get what you're saying, but you still have to talk to the player first. Hell, if I was a player and you wanted to do that and ok it with me, I'd play it and have fun with it. I mean, come on, how often do you get to play the unwilling prophet? I just watched Angels in America, and that kind of character would be awesome. Still, make sure the player is cool with it first, otherwise you just have a very irked player with a character he doesn't even necessarily want or like. I mean, think about it from their angle. If your DM told you that you had to take a level of cleric as part of his story line, with no ok from you or any kind of input from you, you'd tell him where to go stick his DMG and his story line. The idea is cool, but you just have to approach it differently.
18th-Feb-2005 01:25 am (UTC)
A man or woman on the divine path and chosen by his/her deity isn't a champion, he/she is a martyr/avatar or other self-less shell. Not a bad idea for a character, but deities can rarely (if ever) directly intervene in the lives of mortals to such an extent such as to say "You MUST worship me and follow my path."

It might be in the best interest of Clerics or Paladins to continue along their chosen paths, but a lot of PC's, just as in real life, say "Fuck this, I'm doing something else."


You should also take into account the whole "deities draw their power from those that worship them" thing. There would be a drastic drop in followers for any deity that starts -conscripting- clergy members.

So, when you think about it, it's a bad business deal.
18th-Feb-2005 01:40 am (UTC)
Once again, I'm not talking about forcing anyone to worship a particular god, but rather giving clerical powers to someone who already worships, either as a priest or as a member of the congregation; someone who is already following that path pretty closely.
18th-Feb-2005 06:11 am (UTC)
That's fine, but no deity can force you to CONTINUE to worship them either.
18th-Feb-2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
Of course. A cleric appointed in this way would be as free to renounce his faith as any other.
18th-Feb-2005 01:38 am (UTC)
I could perhaps understand having your players ask you whether they can level up in cleric & paladin any more..or take it as a new class. in case you thought that perhaps they weren't doing the job properly ( although i guess paladin would just lose his abilities ).

There is nothign more annoying from a my perspective players, not even acting remotely religious when there powers are divine in origin.
18th-Feb-2005 04:54 am (UTC) - Since you're asking,...
Suggested text:

DM: Your fighter gets 2910 experience points.
Player: That's enough to get me to eighth level!
DM: You know that sense you've been having, of somebody watching over your shoulder? It's back. And you get the feeling that it's a divine herald of Ramptha, the God of Snack Foods.
Player: What does it seem to want?
DM: It seems to be offering you a deal. You've impressed Ramptha. If you choose to take a level in cleric, it will empower your spell-casting so that you'll have an effective Wisdom of 16 for purposes of spells. You'll also receive a meta-magic feat this level, as an additional bonus.
Player: Wow. That would ro -- * What's the catch?
DM: So far as you can tell, no catch. You've impressed Ramptha, and the god wants to encourage you to follow the path you've already chosen, as it serves his purposes. So you are faced with a choice: Do you take up the cheddar-impregnated mantle of Ramptha?
Player: Yes. I do.
DM: Do you pledge to continue in the way of Ramptha?
Player: (a little confused) Yeah, sure.
DM: Do you pledge to continue past the Third Sacred Bowl of Doritos?
Player: I guess so. I -- wait a minute. What have I just promised?
DM: Why, to take your next three levels as cleric, of course.
Player: Oh. Of course. Am I bound by that?
DM: As in, a quest or compulsion? Nah. You just gave your word to your god, that's all.
18th-Feb-2005 08:48 am (UTC)
We had sort of a similar situation in a campaign we were playing with my buddy Rich as GM. Think Spycraft meets The Order, and it was really, really fun. The leadership of the original group changed hands, and once I got to be the priest, there were alot of limitations and boons that I had. There were alot of PC/GM private discussions such as the ethic liabilities of resurrecting a dead teammate, i.e. Would it be right to call her away from the embrace and rest of Heaven and bring her back to the world of the living?

All that to say, the kind of limitations and bonuses that a player can get from playing a paladin will determine whether or not they're going to be receptive to playing a religious character. Also, you gotta think of the player's maturity level. If they play a religious character, can they pull it off? If not, if they get the streak of irreverance and turn their backs on the chosen path of their god, can they play the irreligious-ness in such a way that it's plausible and enriching to the story? I think it's a wonderful idea, though, touching a PC with a call to the cleric or paladin class.
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