Friday, May 5, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Owning Your Dominion


I seldom speak negatively about the works of the MCG crew. I truly enjoy the Cypher System on multiple levels, and have made it one of my small handful of go to systems. However there are always places where even the best game, best setting book, best supplement can miss the mark, for a lone reader, or a whole community.

I think it's clear I love Gods of the Fall. As a setting it have really caught in the way that even Numenera didn't (and that's saying something). But if there's a fault to be found it's the limited support of dominion powers. There's not many in the book and they tend toward very broad (some may say generic) application. It's hard to fault this approach because the other end of the spectrum is an exhaustively comprehensive list that bloats the book with abilities and generally doesn't add a lot that players and GMs couldn't do with a little work.

Unfortunately not all players and GMs feel empowered to expand the game with new abilities to fit their need and their game. This is nothing to be ashamed of, it can be scary trying to build a new ability or power, especially as GM, for fear that you may throw your game a curveball it cannot recover from. Earlier this week I posted about the answer: Improv Powers.

Reader Tony Love pointed out that Improv Powers could help expand on a character's dominion in Gods of the Fall, and I agree wholeheartedly! In addition to helping to expand the utility of type and focus powers the "Modifying Abilities on the Fly" rules can be used to expand on Dominion Abilities. Even the simple Divine Aura could become a source of power within the purview of your Dominion.

Let's consider what a difficult modification of the Divine Aura could do. Difficult is defined as "modifying an ability to do something within the spirit and general idea of the ability." For Divine Aura this would be minor influence over the purview of their dominion such as:
  • Generating light equal to a torch - dominions of fire, light, sun, and possibly others
  • Generating enough warmth/heat to warm the immediate area around the god - dominions of fire, fun, hearth, etc
  • Providing an asset to attempts to calm an enraged lynch mob bent on vengeance - dominion of justice, law, order, etc
  • Providing an asset to attempts to stir a gathering into a rowdy mob and inciting violence - dominion of chaos, war, vengeance
As you can see showing your aura and making a difficult (level 4) roll can allow for some useful dominion themed uses of power that may not normally be in a character's repertoire.

How about  formidable (level 7) uses of a divine aura? Formidable is defined as "modifying an ability to do

something similar to the description or intent, but changing its nature". That's going to need a little more interpretation, so let's consider that we're probably going an order of magnitude beyond a difficult task.
  • Generating a fiery aura sufficient to set items ablaze and deal minor environmental damage to those nearby - dominions of fire and sun
  • Creating an area of health and beneficence that eases suffering and may aid in recover from injury and disease - dominions of health, hearth, life, etc
  • Providing an asset (or two) to incite a peaceful man to violence - dominions of war, chaos, etc
  • Pacifying enemy combatants of level less than or equal to your tier - dominion of war, peace, power, etc
These abilities really start to show the god-like power that these characters can possess. Even at Tier 2 a character with a good roll and some effort may be able to occasionally "stunt" abilities of this level of power. 

Lastly we have the "impossible" (I still prefer improbable) difficulty modifications (level 10). These are uses that "[modify] an ability to accomplish an effect that has nothing to do with its description or intent". At this level we're talking gods doing god things. This could literally be anything, though the farther (or is it further) from their purview the less power they will have. At this level we could have:
  • A god of war single-handedly carving a path through an opposing army to slay the enemy general.
  • A god of life raising the dead or curing even the most tenacious or deadly disease or poison.
  • A god of the sun bringing day to the night, or causing night during the day.
  • A god of chaos inciting civil war.
  • A god of winter bringing summer to an early end, or breaking winter's hold months early. 
As you can see, these are some considerable effects. GMs always have the power to say no, but should be encouraged to allow players to use these rules, and instead of saying no they should instead offer a more reasonable (to their mind) option. RPGs are a "team sport" and working together with your players or GM is always the better option when it comes to use of these kinds of improvisational rules.

More to the point though, by using these rules you can expand the Cypher System in such a way as to truly allow a game like Gods of the Fall to blossom. Better still, if a player uses the same improvisational ability multiple times without breaking the game they and the GM may just codify the ability into a Dominion, Type, or Focus power (as appropriate) with an easier use thereafter (after all, they did practice!). Empower yourself and your players and allow them to empower their gods to greatness. I don't think you'll be disappointed.