Friday, February 10, 2017

Gods of the Fall - You Are Not Alone



Unless your gaming group is HUGE you probably only have 3-6 players and therefore 3-6 emerging gods. That's not a lot. It's not nearly enough to fill the kinds of multitheistic pantheons that are implied within Gods of the Fall. Luckily there are always NPCs!

NPC gods are written into the book in spots but there is also plenty of room for your own creations. These NPC gods can be incredibly useful for a number of reasons.

  • They can be remnants of the past who have survived and act as patrons or antagonists. 
  • They could be new gods who are further along the road to godhood and can offer advice and aid to the PCs, or become bitter enemies who don't want to share the divine power gained from worship with other gods. 
  • They could be equals, gods to be who are following the same path and who act as allies or enemies. 
  • And lastly they can be up and coming gods who have not yet advanced as far as the PCs who need help and are potential friends, or who need help because they are a potential danger.

There's a lot of options there. Godly survivors of the prior age will have to wait for another column, that's just too much of a topic, but the rest are worth discussing here and now.

These NPCs, like any, may be freind, foe, or merely neutral. The important thing with these characters, as with most every NPC, is to give them enough detail and personality to stand out. These are gods and should have strong motivation tied to their godly journey and their dominions. They need to make sense.

They also need to not be cliché. Don't make your NPC antagonist gods all be gods of death, war, violence and the like. There's no reason why you can't twist a dominion into something antagonist by taking an extreme stance that would oppose the PCs. A god of nature who operates like the Afterworld's version of a militant Greenpeace would make for a great antagonist. So too would a god of health who euthanizes the sickly, or a god of hearth who refuses to allow people to leave their homes.

The opposite spin is also true. Player character gods may find unexpected allies in gods of their dominion's opposing force if those NPCs approach their domain in interesting non-cliché ways. A god of death who is not bloodthirsty but instead seeks to have death seen only a natural part of the cycle of life (as I got to watch +James Walls play in a game). A god of war who understands that without peace to stand counterpoint war becomes meaningless. A god of trickery who adheres to a strong code and deals fairly & honestly if you follow his ways (think of how traditional Faerie would act).

"Older Siblings"

Early on in your game the characters are more likely to meet gods who are closer to apotheosis than they are. As allies these NPCs can be invaluable, offering advice and guidance to the characters based on their own experience. If they come along early enough they may be able to provide a copy of the Seven Prophecies, or even guide the characters toward finding their dominions. The trick is to make sure that these NPCs provide assistance but don't monopolize the story or do the player's work for them.

Older god antagonists can be great. As enemies they can be terrible to behold and challenging to defeat, flush with power beyond that of the characters at that point. Defeating one may be able to fulfill a labor if they have fallen from their path and are working against the seven prophecies. They also may be ways that the GM can introduce artifacts to less exploration prone characters; relics that have been uncovered but are being used or abused can be taken as trophies. Defeating a more powerful NPC god may also provide a way for characters to gain followers or establish their own following from those that had been oppressed.

Peers

Allies and enemies. Peer gods can provide much needed help against powerful enemies like greater Ravers or even unique foes like the Hellmaw or the Nightwolf. They can also join the pantheon of the characters and provide plot hooks via their own quests.

Likewise, peer goods can, with assistance from monsters or followers, provide credible threats to the characters. More to the point antagonistic peer gods can often provide thematic contrast to the players, standing in opposition and acting as foils by using their dominions to hold the world back instead of redeeming it (or the opposite if running an evil game).

Those that Follow

Eventually the players will gain the chance to do for younger gods what they may have had done for them by providing guidance and aid to those who follow them. This allows the players and GMs a chance to show how their characters will welcome, or rebuke, upcoming gods who need their help far more than they are able to provide in return.

Regardless of how you use your NPC gods try to keep in mind their place in the world and how they will interact with the PCs as well as the world. These gods are movers and shakers in the world, regardless of their level of power and they may both shape the interactions of the players directly and indirectly. Similarly don't allow the PCs to be the only gods in the world, it's important both thematically and for game play and story to have peers, mentors, and neophytes to help populate the setting and make it as rich as possible.