Gods of the Fall: GMing Divinity

Today, I’ll be heading over into the mechanics section of the book, starting with the chapter on GMing for divine characters. It starts off by noting that mechanically, a divine character simply chooses a special ability from their dominion rather than a type ability and gains a divine shift, making them little different than, say, a superhero-genre Cypher System character. On the story side, however, whether or not a character regards themselves as a fledgling god, their story is going to be one that is larger than life by the nature of it.

Gods of the Fall adds to the basic Cypher character structure; in addition to “I am a [Descriptor] [Type] who [Focus]” it appends “, god of [Dominion]” to the description. Characters don’t have to choose their dominions right away; you don’t get divine powers right away, so it can help new players to take in the world before deciding what kind of god their character is. Alternately, you can surprise your players by having them build characters straight out of a fantasy genre Cypher System core book and now mention any divinity until they unlock it in the story. That can lead to some players feeling a little betrayed, however, as they’ve been sold a different bill of goods than what they’ve received.

Much of the plot of the Afterworld’s stories are driven by what’s called the Seven Prophecies; through the Setting section they tend to cap things off with plot hooks connected to one or more of the prophecies. I haven’t discussed those previous for the same reasons I haven’t tried discussing dominions – we’re not there in the books yet – so be sure to check those out when you pick up a copy.

The Prophecies were all written by the God of Destiny before the Fall, and at the time they seemed irrelevant to the world; after the Fall, no one was in a position to fulfill them. It had to wait for the rise of new gods, powerful enough to do what needs to be done, before they could begin to be realized. As such, players are encouraged to consider the prophecies and to incorporate them into their characters if any really speak to them.

The first of the Prophecies is that of Law; without quoting it, the phrase essentially describes individuals like Nulumriel and her ilk as those who will be cast down when the rule of true law returns. Members of the Adherence, in particular, tend to regard it as a prophecy that the gods will return and get rid of Nulumriel, bringing stability and order to the Nightland.

The Prophect of Liberation speaks about enslavement, imprisonment, and freedom of the mind; while this can certainly refer to the slaver organizations of the Afterworld and the many unjust cases of imprisonment, it could also refer to Nod, which holds the mind of the Afterworld in thrall each time they dream. The bit about ‘hidden truth’ certainly seems to indicate the King of Nod’s little secret that he fears the Guild of Sleep is after.

The Prophecy of Understanding suggests that to fulfill it, the dark age of fear, lies, and the supression of knowledge needs to be ended, replaced with an open pursuit of knowledge. One easy suggestion here is the Order of Reconciliation, which actively attempts to keep information about the old gods from emerging, much less anything about the rise of new ones. In this respect, it dovetails neatly with the Prophecy of Law.

The Prophecy of Salvation is an easy one; it promises that the dead will be honored and their rest protected from disruption, while those beyond hope will be granted a second chance. This can cover a wide range, from the animate corpsefolk of the Nightland being granted a new chance at life to going to Soulrest and dethroning the Lords of Hell to organize the afterlife and deal with the hunger of the Hellmaw.

The Prophecy of Restoration is probably the one the Adherence most relies on, as it promises the restoration of everything destroyed or lost. It’s a clear prophecy that the heavens will be rebuilt, the gods restored, and the lost peace and properity of the prior age found again in a restored world. Of course, it may require resurrecting dead gods – or having them be born anew as new beings with old powers.

The Prophecy of Love can either be simple or obnoxious, depending on the GM and players. It promises solace, healing, and love in the process of fulfilling it, and that can cover a lot of ground. Two gods with domains along these lines being married might be a fulfillment of the prophecy in a simple fashion – or it might require binding the raver of a dead god and reuniting them with the living, loving spirit once housed within.

Then there’s the odd Prophecy out: that of Ruin. Some hold it already fulfilled, as it declares that the things that seek destruction shall have their day, and that there can be no light without darkness. In one sense, it certainly can be considered fulfilled; in another, it can be regarded as an ever-potential warning prophecy, that the true End of Days may yet come and destroy even what little is left of the Afterworld’s former glory.

Fulfilling aspects of prophecy can be good for XP, the same as many other things in the Cypher System; fulfilling a minor aspect, such as freeing a single group of slaves, might be worth one XP from the Prophecy of Liberation, while casting down a major leader of the Reconciliators might be worth 4 XP from Understanding. It’s suggested that the XP award be accompanied by a divine omen; a Book of Fate in their hands updates itself, showing their deeds, or the appearance of a being associated with the prophecy to cry out praise of the ones who fulfilled it.

We then get a small section of possible campaign goals for players to strive for, as a way to give the campaign a goal and direction. These include fulfilling one or more Prophecies as fully as the group can envision, with ideas such as freeing all slaves, striking down Nulumriel, or restoring the heavens (or replacing them). Getting rid of Nod is another, whether they destroy the moon, change its orbit, or simply turn it into a place of peaceful dreams by killing the King of Nod and purging the nightmares from it.

Next is a section on story arc suggestions; I’ll skip over it, as it comes with some rather specific details. Suffice that it covers all six tiers and starts off with the Rite of Spring adventure from the back of the book.

After that, a section on how NPCs might react to PCs; most, understandably, are likely to express disbelief. After all, it’s been 42 years and the gods have been dead the whole time. Some are likely to be hostile – members of the Reconciliators and those who fear them will be particularly hostile. Some will find it a reason to feel hope, particularly if the PCs demonstrate divine powers. After all, a return of the gods might mean a return of the old peace and former prosperity of the world. And then, perhaps even more worrying than the outright hostile ones, there are those who will celebrate declarations of the gods returning or new ones arising. Not only does that paint a large target on those being celebrated, it means that if they fail and fall, those who celebrated them may well be crushed forever.

And then we get a section on divine shifts; it’s mostly a section on how divine shifts impact things that aren’t players, and how the GM should adjust the difficulty of tasks to ensure the players remain properly challenged by things. We’ll get there soon enough, but shifts are essentially free levels of Effort for things related to whatever grants them.

And that wraps up this chapter; I’ll be back next week to start delving into the new character Types for Gods of the Fall! Check back then and let’s see what the Champion, Shaper, Destroyer, and Savior have to make them interesting and fun.

Gods of the Fall: GMing Divinity

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