Has anyone experimented with any rules that allow the characters in your 5th edition game to play as gods? If not, how would you go about allowing the players to be involved with your game world as gods?
Some defining questions:
What would a god in your world become, other than just a more powerful PC? Do they command the winds and sea? How do they transcend their mortal form?
Where does the power of a god begin and end? What would their limits be?
Why would you want to have your players play gods?
The gods are always mysterious entities. How would you maintain their elusiveness for the mortal world?
Do you have examples of games/systems where the PCs play as gods?
Even if you don't intend to have your PCs play as gods, this is still an interesting exercise, because there are most likely gods in your Campaign. So thinking about how they can exist and what they can specifically do helps define the terms of their existence.
Here are my answers to the above questions:
A god in my world would become a powerful entity, that existed in a variety of forms. Some would be abstract and related to their power portfolio (life, death, knowledge, etc.). The player would be given a choice of several avatars to use while adeventuring. There would be powers that made them into a super powered mortal, and also more abstract powers that would play out on a more broad level, having to do with the mortal world and the cosmos.
The power of gods in my game, while appearing limitless to the mortals of the world, would not be. I would probably approach a tiered power system, like the rules for the D&D Immortals Set, but with 5th edition rules tweaks. I would also allow the character to have a persistent presence in the mortal world, such as through an element, like the wind. They would have control over this element, but would suffer consequences if the power was abused. The consequences would mainly revolve around an unraveling of the fragility of the mortal world and perhaps the loss of followers. Gods would need followers for certain power, but they wouldn't die without followers. So maybe a reputation system would help this.
In my game, the gods of the world have been mysteriously destroyed by two new entities who are trying to take control of the world now, by force. The players may want to don the mantle of godhood as they rise in power to defeat the new Demi-god tyrants, and take their seat amongst the stars to become the new rulers and protectors of the realm. A new pantheon. They also know that there are other individuals in their world, vying for the seat of godhood, and they don't know that those individuals would be any better suited to rule the world than the current tyrants. Necessity.
You've become a god and have all the power you could want and more! But by many accounts, gods do not seem to exist at all. Your blood is now the river, the wind, the rocks. And you share this blood with others in the god pantheon, like a family. Gods need a mortal world, like people need bodies. If their world is destroyed, so are they. Things in the mortal world must operate as they normally would, like a person's body should. An imbalance in the world, is like a sickness for the gods. Fixing it may be a matter of using a bandaid (sending adventures on mission), or performing surgery (playing out an adventure as gods, whilst trying to maintain a low profile in the mortal world). So a god must be subtle. For the world to maintain its normal rhythms, a god must remain mysterious, elusive and secretive. Also, a god must maintain the secrets of her power. Only a gods chosen may know her secrets. For a gods secrets give the one who knows them an advantage over the god to varying degrees. Those who watch for the signs will know when you are speaking. The rest of the worlds mortals are like cows chewing grass.
i definitely have a huge weakness for awesome god-like characters, but that's because i love doing crazy-amazing stuff with a party of similarly awesome characters, so pantheonic stuff sounds great! me answering these questions is probably gonna sound like a straight summarization of godbound, but i'm gonna take a shot at it anyway. :'D
1. i do like gods that present as simply more powerful pcs, and i think d&d supports that, considering the lore of adventurers who did ascend to godhood. of course, those powers would extend far beyond 20th level, which would require either more powerful spells and/or more vague spells and/or unlimited spellcasting, etc. i think all gods would be capable of instantaneous travel, dematerialization, etc., though for purposes of combat there should be at least some restrictions on disengage or no one would ever be able to beat anyone. but then... they are gods. i think the hardest part would be balancing limits, and i'm definitely unqualified to come up with a whole new system for that when god systems already exist. i do like that the gods can present in mortal form, though, and i really like the idea that they need to maintain their mortality while interacting with the world in order to keep things stable. that's a super cool world mechanic.
2. tiers are def a cool way to go, esp because greater and lesser gods already exist in d&d, and in many other real world pantheons. limits could exist either as how many abilities can be used per day, or how many powers a god has available to them, potentially limited by what specific thing they have dominion over. the whole "fragility of the mortal world" thing is awesome, and i do like the idea of followers, though i think they could take many different forms -- one or a select few prophets/saints, or a small secret cult, or public shrines/churches, etc. my husband and i were discussing a line in moana where the demigod comments that he doesn't need prayers, he just is what he is, and i really like that concept, too, that some gods just ARE, operating without the aid or need of worshipers. personally, i don't like trying to manage groups of people (though i know some players really enjoy that), so i would probably go the solo route, but dumping points/skills/whatever into gaining worshipers could potentially buy a god a lot more power. so the trade-off would be either static moderate powers that never fail, or powers that are very weak without worshipers and very strong the more prayers/sacrifices a god collects. obviously limits are a must, and the easiest way is to limit powers to whatever they're the god OF, such as water, air, war, luck, love, etc., a la godbound. i've always enjoyed constant/at-will powers way more than powers that only work once per short/long rest, though i don't mind concentration spells all that much if the spell slots are unlimited, which is something godbound does that i like way better than d&d. but, again, that's because i like to be really powerful. x: a points system would probably be easiest any way you slice it, so at least everyone in the party would have a balance with each other.
3. while i don't mind the idea of all the old gods being destroyed and new gods have to take their place, i think i'd much prefer just a group of slightly lesser up-and-coming deities that are suddenly playing alongside the already existing gods of d&d. but that's just personal preference. mostly i want to play gods because i want to do cool stuff and be freakishly amazing and powerful without also being overpowered or powergaming -- which basically necessitates that the whole party is equally kick-ass lol.
4. one hundred percent agree with everything you said here! the "cows chewing grass" thing made me both laugh and then feel mean for laughing, but it's very accurate. not necessarily in terms of intelligence, but in terms of interaction. it's like in every comic book, as soon as the main character gets his superpower, an equally super badguy or bad situation appears equal to challenge him. it's a universal balance thing or whatever. the gods are so busy dealing with huge problems -- either because the problems sought them out or because of universal balance or because they feel a responsibility to correct bigger problems because they can and with great power comes great responsibility -- so the common people, or even mortal adventurers, are just not really on their radar anymore. again, i like the idea that they HAVE to be mysterious in order to not rip holes in the fabric of space and time or whatever, but i also think it's just the nature of the beast that the gods would be existing in a much bigger arena on a much bigger scale of things that even if they did show up to do something crazy, it would go from "i saw a miracle!" to rumour/legend in no time at all. because mundane people are usually busy with their own stuff and most of them don't particularly care what the gods are up to, either because it's way above their comprehension or because they can't do anything about it anyway so who cares? unless a god enjoys mingling with the gentry (in which case they're going to be presenting as mortal anyway) or is recruiting followers, there's not a whole lot of reason to interact with people. and excepting basically the magic that already exists, it's still just not possible to change the laws of the universe without everything unraveling and destroying the gods along with everything else.
5. i think i've only had experience with godbound, but now i'm curious to check out the others you listed!
Godbound seems like a really cool system. I want to try it out sometimes. Maybe you could let me know more about it. I have been looking into it to get some ideas on how to have the PCs become godlike beings in my D&D campaign and still operate within some sort of system that keeps a control over the game. Story takes precedence, but rules balance of course. When i think gods, I think of the Silmarillion, Lord Dunsany's gods, the Greek gods. They are all imbued with fables that let them break the rules of the mortal world. To me that its the most magical thing. So that's the feeling I am going for I guess, "fabled" power for lack of a better way to describe it. More... operatic, epic story?
As for a new system to expand powers beyond 20th level, there is actually a guy who publish a product on DMs Guild called, Epic Character. I just bought it and started looking through it. It is looks like it allows for less power than we might be thinking about, but it is a good start and keeps things balanced. The powers introduced to add to the classes are pretty cool and they suggest using Epic Boons from the Dungeon Master's Guide (which I completely forgot about). There aren't any extra spells... but I think the old 3rd edition D&D Epic players guide might have had some epic level spells. The problem I think it had was that it just started stacking on too many modifiers for power that made things slow.
I like your idea of having up and coming gods in a world that already has gods. Makes me wonder how the established gods might react to the up and coming ones. Would they help, hinder or ignore? Could make some interesting god drama theater. I also like that you point out how power is neutralized in comic books. Fun to think about what types of things might challenge god like characters. I think the challenge with coming up with challenges for gods would be in separating it from being similar to your standard PC challenges. Hard to do in a fantasy game world. Having just a bigger version of the last challenge seems anticlimactic. What do they do in comics?
I was thinking about what you said about having a god that had no followers too. While it could be fun to play around with a reputation system, it could be interesting to see a god who did not need that at all, one who transcended the need for all others. Maybe its the god of the final tier haha.
I was thinking more about the tiers too. In D&D Basic, there were 4: Celestial, Empyreal, Eternal, and Hierarch. Contemplating things a little, I thought it might be fun to have the final tier in my game bring an unbridled level of power for the characters. It would basically mean the campaign was over, but what I was thinking I could do is have the final "Hierarch" tier be the time where the players are now supposed to make their own worlds. After that maybe the players become the new DMs and we adventure in their worlds. Just a thought haha
All this is speculative since I don't even know if my players would be interested in this, but its fun to "chew grass" and think about.
i haven't actually played godbound, just made characters in it, so i can't really comment on actual gameplay or even leveling up, but the basic premise is that (most of all of) the old gods are dead and their power has been manifesting in humans as a sort of first law of thermodynamics "it has to go somewhere" idea. the characters are much more like demigods working to make their way to godhood, still trapped in mortal form, still capable of being killed, and with a limited pool of mana/points/spell slots/whatever you want to call it. but they're still pretty powerful. i hesitate to say more powerful than any d&d character, because i don't think i've ever even made a character higher than twelfth level, much less leveled one up to twenty, but the powers start off pretty awesome and extreme. leveling up naturally increases the number of powers and number of points you can spend per day to activate those powers. so they're more like demigods on their way to godhood, which would also work in d&d, especially if players enjoy a level-up system. i do like the idea of static gods/demigods too, the sort that don't care about followers, and don't really experience character development because they are the literal embodiment of their particular sphere of influence, but not everyone finds static characters fun to play.
breaking the laws of the universe is definitely what makes it fun. i've read a lot about the outer planes in d&d, and some of it might be outdated, but most of how i imagine gods comes from that, especially celestia, with rao's realm and bahamut's palace and the crystal heaven of solania ruled by pistis sophia, who travels around her layer of heaven in monklike robes helping everyone who greets her. and most of the greek myths i've heard have them behaving in very humanlike ways and frequently assuming physical form, so i tend to imagine gods as mostly being corporal unless there's a reason not to be, even in their own respective realms. i also love the idea of visiting the outer planes, which is probably a campaign/setting more suited to demigods.
i'm getting better at organizing character sheets and keeping powers straight in my head, but i still get a little overwhelmed when there are too many options, and d&d tends to just pile on the abilities at higher levels, which can be... a little taxing for me. so i would be slightly wary of a system that just added more levels on top of d&d's normal level cap, but again, that's just me. one of the reasons i liked godbound was because it seemed like a very simplistic system to me, apart from spellcasting which is always a lot to handle and there's no good way around that, lol. i would be interested in checking it out, though, definitely. the boons are pretty cool, but most of them aren't quite to the level of a demigod.
i haven't read too much into the godbound combat system, but every pc has "fray dice" that automatically do damage to any normal basic enemies, and the rules straight up say you don't need to roll skill checks for basic tasks that you might have to roll for in d&d, because it's assumed that you're able to do everything a mortal could do. so i really like that, the idea that you're not gonna fail at something really dumb, and you really only have to start rolling saves or checks when you try to do something actually difficult or amazing.
i def think how preexisting gods would react is very dependent on their alignments and personalities, which actually puts the alignment system back as something very important for a pc to have and stick to if they want to maintain any sort of alliance or friendship with similarly aligned gods. and yeah, it definitely would be cooler to have adventures that are different than adventures for adventurers, though i don't think i would mind just having a basic adventure on a larger scale. it can be a lot of work for a gm to come up with a huge overarching plotline that has to somehow feel more dramatic than a normal campaign, and i think just having bigger badder enemies and cooler more powerful powers and the ability to travel to multiple planes of existence would make it badass enough that the plot wouldn't have to necessarily be any more complicated than it would normally be.
i'm not SUPER familiar with comics unfortunately, but in the percy jackson book series, whenever a demigod comes of age, they start attracting monsters that try to kill them, the idea being that opposites attract (and try to kill each other) and that monsters can sense powerful beings and want to test their strength against them. it's not a particularly clearly defined concept, but assuming the pcs are good-aligned, it's not very much of a stretch to think that evil-aligned creatures of similar strength would be attracted to them. or that monsters/demons/devils/etc would sense the rise of a power other than their own and seek to destroy it. having a preexisting pantheon works in a lot of ways, both in providing plots (complete a quest to earn a friendship with a similarly aligned god, accidentally get in the middle of a rivalry between two gods, etc) and providing appropriately powered villains (more than likely evil-aligned deities, demigods, etc).
from what i've seen (which is admittedly very little lol), it's usually the lesser or demigods that don't require/care about worshipers, and the greater gods that do (with the exception of chaos gods, who tend not to care), which would suggest that there's more power to be had in amassing followers. though, of course, there may be gods/demigods who don't really care about gaining more power than they already have.
(this is perhaps a bit too religiousy/theology-y, but i also like the concept of there being "the one god" that created all other gods and is all-knowing and never seen and mysterious, who has dominion over literally everything but also never directly interferes, as it does fill in that "how did everything get started" question, but that's very christiany and i wouldn't be surprised if other people hated it. x3)
i love the idea of characters ascending to create their own worlds ahhhhhhhh it's so fourth wall breaky I LOVE IT. but then it plays perfectly into the multiverse theory of blackholes and the big bang and i love all that so. xD
oh yes, all hypothetical, of course, all academic. x)
I haven't read Godbound RPG, but I will. In the mean time, I would suggest using the D&D Immortals as a template for any type of Gods or god like monster creations.
Unless you are a DM or play for DM who are of the mindset that they can homebrew anything and Gods are all powerful and have no stats. Then it becomes irrelevant.
IMO anything in a campaign has stats and is "fightable". The game balance must also extend to the DM's.
Call them gods or call them Immortals. It doesn't really matter, they are technically the same especially if we are talking about ascending mortals.
In any case, if using gods, all heroes ascend to the most lowest of godlings: Demigods. Not to be confused with mythical demigods like Hercules, Perseus, Orpheus etc. who had special abilities, but no godly powers.
I will read the Godbound and report back if my mind changes.
For those of you unfamiliar with D&D immortals, here's a sample of their powers and abilities from the last revised edition (Wrath of the Immortals):
-Begin as 15 HD (1st level Temporal) as a "Monster" to a max 50HD (36th level Hierarch)
-Immune all mortal magics (spells and spell like effects to include dragon breath)
-Can only be harmed by mortal weapons no less than +5 enchantment, and even then only take the minimum damage (eg. a 1d6 sword would do 1pt of damage, plus 5 for the sword's enchantment plus any strength modifiers). Artifacts do normal damage.
-Immune aging, level draining and mortal poisons (natural and mortal made).
-Has a constant anti-magic shield (50% for Temporal up to 90% for Hierarch), that doesn't affect its own magic.
- Has Aura attack power to affect most mortals seeing them, causing fear, paralysis or charm at the Immortals discretion
- Can use any spell from any spell caster group or subgroup, any number of times a day, once per round, by expending Power Points.
- Although its true form is the manifestation form, it can non-magically change to Incorporeal or into a mortal form, of any class, race, level or magic items (not Artifact).
That's just a sample. They can also create heavenly bodies like moons and planets, as well as entire galaxies or even planes by expending Power Points.
I've been toying around with the idea of PC's becoming God's for quite some time now. I've enjoyed reading the responses here, and thought I would contribute a few of the concepts I've been developing for these epic quest types.
God's are not dependant on worshipers for their Divine power, but that is not to say they can't be bolstered/hampered by it. I include hampered as a sudden loss of followers due to death/war could halt the flow of extra Divine energy. This could also mean an influx of negative energy in the case of a mass conversion of followers and the emotional betrayal they exude, which would/could sap some/all/more of the benefit gained by the remaining faithful.
Players can quest to achieve greater benefits from their worshipers, or to undermine the benefits of a rival God, but only if they specifically want to. Otherwise, they simply gain a set amount of additional Divine energy that increases over time and is not dependant on their Divine level. This is simply an additional source of Divine energy, and they are in no way dependant upon it for their Divine ranking.
Deity's instead draw their power from cosmic sources by tapping into them, depending on their ability to attune to them. In essence, questing to create links to different planes or domains that fuel their Divine power/ranking.
God's cannot be truly killed. However, their avatars can be defeated, their power/influence subdued for a time, and they themselves can become a link for another deity, or a questing PC, to tap into. The death of a God is only a perception of the creatures inhabiting the prime material plane. What happens to them in a broader sense can lead to many interesting campaigning ideas, but the godspark cannot be extinguished.
New deity's transcend their class structures and gain innate Divine power based on their class(es), how they gained their godspark, and any links they knowingly/unknowingly forged when they transcended. Skill checks, initiative, attack/damage rolls, saving throws, etc., etc., etc.... no longer apply in the prime material plane and/or when dealing with mortals. In their own realms, and in planes beyond, they do not fail at tasks, unless interrupted, because success is only a measure of time.
A brief aside on the words "innate" and "spell like"... Arcane or Divine spells affect the fabric, or weave, of reality when cast, but mortals are very aware of these abilities, and must be if they wish those spells to be cast correctly. Deity's simply alter the weave to suit their purpose, which onlookers might describe as "spell like. For example: mortals breathe air, eat food, drink water, become tired, sleep, etc., but while they can recall these needs, or be aware of them in the moment, and even remember a number of specific circumstances regarding them, these are simply "innate" actions of mortals. By extension, Deity's don't often contemplate the multitude of "innate" actions, "spell like abilities", they use on a regular basis, and it's probably a fair assumption of why they rarely, if ever, visit the prime material plane in their true form. To conclude this deviation, I simply wanted to reinforce the power of deity. A mage casting the fireball spell at you, and a god glancing in your direction and a fireball is almost instantly flying at you.
They just aren't the same...
The conversion may, or may not, be somewhat complicated, but once completed gameplay can speed past many of the usual time wasting rolls. I particularly enjoy the conversion process myself. By making it a bit more complicated for the player at the time, it can tend to lead to less frustrations over missed opportunities, or generally being sullen because they think you are being unfair...
Demigods do not have a full godspark and can be killed. They do not convert to Divine character profiles. They simply gain immunities, resistances, some class abilities or spells become innate abilities, and their partial godspark can remove per day/rest restrictions, and the like. They are a Paragon of their class, but have yet to attune their partial godspark to a primordial force or plane of power which facilitates their Transcendence and seals the godspark to them eternally.
Transcended deity's immediately gain a permanent Avatar. A mortal will never interact with the true deity, only their Avatar. Divine characters will only interact with other Divine beings, or forces of immense power. Their Avatar acts on their behalf in the mortal realms, but is clearly not limited to the mortal realms. A deity can project more Avatars, but the original Avatar is unique in several ways. For example, it doesn't disappear when in close proximity to the deity that created it, and both gain benefits when working together in the deity's realm.
Once Divinity is achieved by the player they must work with their Avatar to create their realm and secure the links that forged their Divinity. A God's realm is where all links of power are tethered to, and also acts to amplify the influx of power. The time a God spends in his realm affects the realms amplification of linked power sources, but the amplified power is only accessible within the realm. This power can bestow significant benefits to their acolytes and champions in the mortal realm, empower their Avatar, assist in the creation of magical items or artifacts, and defend the realm from intrusion.
Primary questing is done through the God's Avatar as a deity will be busy in their realm for centuries, and only venturing out briefly to forge new links of power. In this way, a player can quest with their Avatar to advance their influence in the mortal realms, scout for new power sources to link to, or mingle amongst other God's.
Advancement: A deity's Divine rank is often dictated by circumstance (in/out of their realm), extra Divine energy from followers, and the forged links of power to their realms.
Circumstance: a lesser deity has vastly more power inside their realm. This also acts to dampen access to any power source from an intruder.
Followers: a deity can channel this extra Divine power at will, and it serves as an extra link for the deity and their realm. This Divine power can be stored within the deity equal to it's natural flow. A deity can also choose to draw upon the life force of their followers, but risks losing many of them by doing so.
Forged links: not all links provide the same amount of Divine energy. A deity must spend a large amount of time when forging a link, they must be present for the duration of the forging, and they must defend against any attack from creatures, and the very force of the plane/cosmic entity to which they are linking. The amount of time spent forging the link determines the flow of power from that source, but a deity is slowly drained during the process. This makes it increasingly more dangerous as time passes to forge a greater link. If a deity is defeated during a forging they are instantly transported back to their realm to regenerate their Divine power.
As a starting point for this adventure, I've decided on a concept that a few of the most powerful God's have begun to sense a growing destructive force intent on devouring all things, even the power of the God's themselves. This force is as of yet unable to breach the cosmic expanses separating it, but the God's fear that they have little time to act, 100-200 years at most, and they fear their combined strength will not be enough. To combat this force they have agreed that they must gather as much power as they can for the coming battle, each in their own way...
...A greater deity of chaotic good alignment decides to choose 2 of the most renowned, good aligned, adventurers in the world to offer a portion of his Divinity to. He aims his acolytes at creating 2 branches within his churches to accommodate the new twin God's as subsets of church with him as the patron God.
The players are presented with the offer to not only be given the godspark, but to have access to a large swath of followers, and assistance in attuning their initial links to a place of immense power. He then sends the players on a quest to solidify their stature amongst his followers, and then once more to obtaining 2 relics of ancient origins. These relics assist the players in bestowing extraordinary benefits to their faction acolytes, and create 2 new prestige classes.
If the players are successful in completing the quests, the god bestows the needed godspark to the players and takes them to a place of unfathomable power to forge their links. He protects the players from the immense forces, allowing them to forge the strongest of links.
Once transcended, both must begin the creation of their realms, but they can still quest with their Avatars during this time period to prepare for the coming war.
Ideas, edits, or constructive criticisms are welcome, and would be appreciated. Let me know what you think!
I think D&D doesn't really need, or is really built for, PCs as Gods. [Will expand on this later.]
I actually agree, although Basic D&D did a good job incorporating gods (aka Immortals) as player characters. The rest of D&D is all about the mortal PC. The game had to go through different stages in order to tame down the heroes, so Gods can defeat them. Otherwise, you had to use the "Gods are as powerful as they want to be" narrative.