Frustrated with Divine PCs

I must confess that our troupe has so far found Divine PCs -- with True Faith, Holy Methods and Powers, Holy Magic etc. rather frustrating to play.

On the one hand, they tend to be really powerful and somewhat unbalancing when acting "in the cause of good", which tends to push other PCs "out of the story".

On the other hand, you always get the feel they are puppets dancing on someone else's strings (or, to put it differently, on the Storyguide's whims). Their range of acceptable behaviors is very limited, meaning fewer choices for the player. And if they stray from the cause of "good" they lose all their powers, and they can lose them anyway if God chooses to test them.

It's hard to express really, but I've still not managed to have a good play experience with any such PC so far. What about you?


Easy solution: do not allow them. We also noticed that the goodies are better NPC than PC. At least the ones that cast divine fireballs around. Nobody IMS was interested in them anyway, but I think we would disallow them if someone suggested. Precisely for what you said. A friar is perfectly ok, but an ascetic is not. Sinner-proof stuff, like relics are quite cool, though :slight_smile:


I agree.
And there is a very thin line between playing a pious magus and being a total =/)%&)&) that gets on the nerves of all the other players. If you roleplay well, everybody hates you - if you don't God hates you.

This was supposed to be deleted. Apologies.

I think that this is not necessarily a problem with playing a pious magus (or any other sort of character) but rather a problem with how a pious character is being played. There is a HUGE different between being a Rightous Person and a Self-Rightous Person. Anyone playing a nominaly pious character as a total =/)%&)&) in my saga, would get a long talking to and a suggested reading list (including the Harry Dresden series... with particular attention to be paid to the character of Michael Carpenter... and the Brother Cadfeal series).


I think religious characters really highlight the setting. I'm not talking about divine fireballs or anything :smiley:. I agree that the rules for divine peoples are interesting but limiting for PC's to play ongoing games. A player of mine commented that he could do more 'good' by using RoP:I stuff. I replied that his soul would of course go strait to hell and not collect 200 mythic pounds. Divine stuff is good to highlight that realm for a one off adventure maybe, but for an ongoing campaign... thats a different thing. Magic is the way to go :smiley:.

I also feel that RoP: I has the same issue. I don't think my players have enough internal evil to keep that up really. Personally I generally limit PC's and companions to magic related books.

'Pious' characters: "Humility... is in order."

Question 1:

A Pious character should not be a disliked character. Being pious generally means being humble, understanding, and open. Unlike D+D Paladins, Mythic Europe has the best (and worst) type of demons.. sucker-punch demons. Players need to be aware of what is truly pious, righteous and humble, and what is prideful, self-righteous and ignoble. IMS, if I had a pretentious knight who thought he was gods hand in all things, I'd have a bunch of subtle demons building his pride up by giving him a bunch of evil diabolists that he can slay. Does this guy truly repent for killing men he deems evil? Thou shalt not kill, after all. If he doesn't 'mean' to repent, thats a tick in the box of 'Souls to Hell, thanks!' As soon as that box is ticked, send the high Might 'I kill you dead with + 30 to attack and + 20 to damage' demon before he somehow has an actual revelation.

Demons don't play fair. Kill those idiots.. they deserve death anyway. Demons aren't patient after all. Pride draws demons like honey draws flies :smiley:

And don't give it away until you describe the heat of the hell fires... :smiley:.

As a GM I have no problem with a truly pious character. He is calm and collected, compassionate and tries to help his fellow man find the kingdom of god. Some of the saints and holy men of the time are quite vigorous, but are pretty universal in their capacity to sacrifice themselves over destroying others. He doesn't dictate as he is humble. Think: Priest or friar. They attempt to convince, not control. They show goodness in their actions. Why would other PC's hate this character?

How to challenge this guy: Temptations to take the easier path. Its what the character is probably more interested in anyway.

A self-righteous knight goes forth and dictates to others what they do. He physically stops them from what he defines as 'evil' and does things that are against the party. He assumes God is on his side when he smites things, which he does a lot of. He often defines how 'good' he is by how tough he is. People hate this character because he attempts to control others actions. Demons love this dude.

A righteous knight goes forth and treats his tenants with justice and fairness. He spends many hours of his time doing good works. He finds the most wicked of diabolists, and while not stupid (he goes in armor and ready for a fight) he doesn't try to provoke them. He may use patience and prove by his actions they should repent. He repents to the local priest after he has killed them, not because he feels guilt, but because it was wrong.

Boredom level: Self Righteous knight is exciting. He lives his life day to day on the edge of his seat. He probably dies in an exciting feast of violence.

Righteous knight is not super exciting. He doesn't combat so much. He'd probably get killed by S R Knight. He spends a lot of time roleplaying with NPCs, or spending seasonal efforts on apparently non-optimal things.

To him however, he is ultimately choosing the most optimal build - because he gets to go to heaven :smiley:.

Whenever I run games based around morality and goodness I try to give the feeling that slaying the wicked is not good. Saving the innocent is good.


My favorite treatment of the Divine is from Tales of Wyre, a D&D story hour at ENWorld. ... -wyre.html

Who would have thought a D&D Paladin could be interesting?

Sepulchrave's deity can perhaps best characterized as "inscrutable". Even the highest echelons of the Divine hierarchy cannot fathom His infinite Will. The result is that many, mutually opposed, ideas coexist within the angels just as they do in earthly religions. All are aubsumed under the Divine. In game-terms, not only do opposed religions (e.g. Islam and Christianity) both enjoy god's favor (e.g. the Dominion), but more importantly the PCs are essentially free to choose in any way they want. They should still feel "Diviny", but god is extremely forgiving and just about any choice can be justified by some religious philosophy. Thus the PCs are not constrained at all, at least not beyond some basic demand that they play a character that at least tries to be holy, instead of one that merely uses powers listed under the "Divine" rubric.

As for the other main complaint, the proper response I think is to tone down Divine mysteries and powers as needed. I am not versed enough in these rules to really suggest how, but off the cull I would demand heavy investment in "useless" Abilities like Theology, and introduce some Mysteries that have little or no practical use but have great "spiritual" meaning. I would thus balance the benefits of the Mysteries with time "wasted" doing other stuff. As for Methods and Powers - I'd simply disallow Ceremony; IIRC, this is the real source of power for Divine characters, and without it their powers are rather measly.

Neither of these solutions are RAW. By RAW, the Divine runs a tight ship and is fairly explicit, contradicting earthly religions notwithstanding. I find Sep's version more sensible, especially in the ArM setting. By RAW, Holy Magic and Ceremony make for impressive Divine magical feats; both should be toned down IMHO. By RAW, angels are omnipresent in the Dominion and an army of archangels can strike at any place; I'd strongly advise changing these assumptions.



My feeling is that just limiting divine PCs to simple companion characters with True Faith from the core-rules and a couple of (Divine origin) Supernatural Abilities (premonitions, dowsing, second sight, sense holy/unholy, animal ken etc) works quite well.

Such PCs don't seem to end up too powerful and if the story requires them to deviate from god...well, it's pooh for the character (they lose the benefit of their True Faith and Supernatural Abilities), and we need to cue up a follow-up story (or mini-story) about penance. But because the character wasn't that powerful it's not such a diversion for the whole saga.

Also, perhaps, do not be afraid as a troupe of the possiblity of needing to tell the story (and consequences) of the Flambeau magus helping the interfering Divine PC to achieve sainthood!

I'm talking about pious characters from a player perspective - not from a storyguide perspective (they can always kill people - bad style though).

I don't think pride is the biggest problem a pious magus has. It kind of ruins the fun for the troupe if a player refuses to lie, steal and kill and insists on forgiving. Playing a magus is basically about having power(s) - some players see in enjoyment in using these, some in exploring the ethics behind having power. Normally, a middle path can be negotiated, but when God looks over your shoulder and threatens to take away your power(s), it is less easy for you to compromise.

And a really pious person is not a 21st century Texan, who can live with war and torturing the Heathens in Guantanamo and owning a gun or two as long as he says grace before meals and goes to church - it is someone who lives Matthew 5-7, or at least the 10 Commandments. This is unless we say that medieval piety was different - which takes us dangerously close to the D&D paladin (whom I consider a pain).

I had/have a long-running disagreement with a gaming friend over who is the greatest superhero. He says Batman and I say Superman. He sides with Batman as the guy doesn't have superpowers and yet still puts himself on the line to do what he believes is right. Leaving aside the vigilante psychosis and child endangerment, I can't argue with that. And he says that Superman is boring because he has all this power; he can always beat anything put up against him.

Of course, win-for-win, I'd say Batman and Superman are about even during the 70 or so years they've been taking on bad guys in comics.

But in contrast to Batman, Superman is great not because of what he can do but because of what he does. He has vast power, probably enough to carve out a pretty risk-free comfortable dictatorship somewhere. But he doesn't. He has a moral compass. He struggles with that sometimes, and sometimes he knows that the murderer that he's putting away may soon be free. But that has to be better than taking justice into his own hands and deciding who lives and who dies.

I do see a parallel here. Divine characters do come complete with the backing of the ultimate power source and they can, whenever the storyguide wishes, bring that force into the story. But here's the thing; storyguides do that anyway. Win-for-win, as it were, your Divine character is probably about even with your magical companion, or your Faerie one. And that's because of the needs of the story and that it's a collaborative game. And frankly, it's a game weighted in favour of the player characters from the outset, just as a comic book favours its lead.

The Divine character has to balance power, responsibility, morality. Like a three-legged stool, this should find a level. The non-Divine companion may lack the ultimate power, but they have a little more freedom in how they run.

Lastly, don't forget, when it comes to Divine powers, we're talking about True Faith, not Piety. A character can still be pious, adhering to religious teachings and expressing their faith, but there is something inherently special about True Faith. Lacking True Faith is not necessarily an open door to thievery and murder, no more than True Faith eliminates hubris, pride, or temptation.

Speaking as someone who plays a character with Ture Faith (a franciscan friar), I'm acutally OK with the rules. I find the character interesting when he gets stage time (not as often as I would like, but I suppose that is true for any character). If you want to create the FIst of God, go ahead, but don't be surprised if he (or she) does end up powerful. THis can be solved by increasing the moral peril and plot convolutions. You'll have a grand time.

Ah, I agree. Maybe I did not make myself clear enough in the first post.
Having a character whose faith is "personal" and with relatively little impact on the game works perfectly fine, even if the internal struggle is really central for the character. The problems arise when, tied to that faith, a character has vast mystical powers that can overshadow those of the greatest magi -- but that are automatically turned off if the character strays from the faith, or if the Divine just feels like turning those powers off (testing the character).

Technically, this is good from a "simulationist" point of view because it really highlights how the character is just an instrument in the hands of the all-powerful Divine. But it also tends to detract from the fun, for three reasons. The first is that the player feels he is not really in control of the character. It's a little as if a magus had a Virtue "Whimsy Magic: all your Arts operate at twice their nominal value, but occasionally the Storyguide may choose to have them operate as if their score were zero". The second is that it's very hard to tempt a character to stray from the faith, because the player has so much to lose. Run away from combat? No, it's much safer to use Meditation+Trascendence to make yourself invulnerable than act cowardly and lose all your power. The third, of course, is that when the character is backed up by the Divine, the other characters (and particularly Hermetic magi) feel inconsequential. What's the point of studying the mystical arts for decades, of conquering the lands and the hearts of men, of selling one's soul to the devil -- if a country boy who prays with a pure heart can completely outclass you?

Playing a character with strong Divine powers feels a little like telling the Storyguide "I won't be playing my PC; in his place, have God join the adventuring party as an NPC".

I could not offer a better reference if I had a whole day to think of one. Michael Carpenter should be what playing a Divine PC is all about.

While I agree that playing a Divine PC is difficult, I wholly disagree that it should be avoided. (( Though I have to admit, as a person with a severe case of misotheism, I find the totality of the supreme power of the Divine annoying, abusive and agitating to my senses, but I do like it precise because of these aspects and also the story arcs it allows for.)) I think playing a Divine PC is all about suffering and devotion to your beliefs no matter the consequence. It can also be about your failing to remain as loyal to god when you are tested. Be found virtuous is rewarding, being found unworthy is miraculous!

I truly revel in a scene wherein my character, because of a aspect of their personality, works against their own good as far as "winning the game" goes and suffers for them being who they are. Though I am overly fond of suffering heroes and cathartic reveals. :smiling_imp:

Yes and yes and so wonderfully put I just want to sit a read this and let it be the comment to complete my thought. :wink:

I think everyone has valid points and, as usual, it comes down to Player, Storyguide and Saga. I've been playing with my group for many years and we're all good friends. We haven't played Ars but all sorts of other things. If a particular player (I'm looking at you, Shawn) approached me about playing super-pious and goodly knight, I'd call the police or laugh him out of the room. I KNOW what that player will do with the character.

On the other hand, if you have a player who really enjoys struggling with the smaller things in RPG stories (whether or not to kill and take their stuff), agonize over things other players would gleefully engage in, then you have a pretty good Divine player/character at your disposal. I assume, possibly in error, that such a person would truly think about when to use their powers and the appropriateness of the situation in terms of their character's worldview.

To each his own.

I'm not sure that was the point of the OP's question.

As I understand it, the question is not so much about having a morally conflicted character. That is, of course, one way to play a Divine PC. But you don't need a Divine PC to have a morally conflicted one (and a Divine PC doesn't need to be morally conflicted either).

In fact, I feel that non-Divine PCs actually make for better moral conflict stories. This is because a Divine PC really does have a way to resolve any moral conflict. If the Divine PC is acting in accordance with God's will he has functioning powers. If he acts against God, then he loses his powers. If he choses wrong, he backtracks and takes penance. If his choices mean that he is martyred, then he goes to heaven and wins! It is actually for a non-Divine PC that there is moral conflict, because a non-Divine PC has no way to know whether he has made the right or wrong choice. It is all grey and angst.

The issue, I think, is more about the binary nature in game mechanics of Divine PCs. Either they are following their lifestyle and they are really powerful in game mechanics. Or they are not following their lifestyle and they are really weak. There is just too big a swing between these two states. Coupled with this is the difficulty that the lifestyle of a Divine PC is usually incompatible with the in-play lifestyle of mainstream PCs. Mostly a Divine PC can't sensibly wander around in the wake of a Flambeau maga wringing his hands over her dreadful burning evil, likewise mostly a Flambeau maga can't be standing around watching the Divine PC is being martyed while he feeds soup to lepers.

Have I missed something?

IIRC, meditation and transcendance are abilities, which make such things quite difficult. Am I forgetting something? It's been a long time since I read the divine, but I was left with the impression than, save when cooperating with ceremony, divine casters were rather weak.

Regardless, I can't see God punishing you because you flee, especially if staying would endanger other people. What's wrong is not fleeing or hiding before a more powerful ennemy, but bowing down to evil. A divine character might also let himself be captured and tortured so that others may flee.

I am also under the impression that, unless I'm wrong, you play miracles are something quite common, while IIRC:

  • It is difficult to get one
  • Most miracles are quite subtle, so a divine character can feel outclassed and not even realise it. Note that a miracle to save you could leave you gravely wounded instead.

I may be wrong, but I have the impression that you've got a problem with the divine at least in part because you make it powerful, flashy, and reliable. I wasn't left with the same impression, but maybe my parma has been penetrated.

Some inspirations for divine characters: Jedi Knights (old true SW), Gandalf. I someone can play a Jedi in a SW RPG, he should also be able to play a divine caster in Ars, IMO

And if IIRC, divine Methods were a pain to activate; you can't just throw sown a pillar of fire after pillar of fire around, like Hermetic magi do. Divine magic is limited to a few times per adventure, usually.

I agree with the above two posts. Powers and methods are abilities so require five times the xp to increase compared to arts. Also, with arts you can read books (of which there are a decent supply in a normal covenant, and available via the order at suitable cost) or study vis in a high aura, both of which allow you to increase in level much quicker than Powers and Methods. Given a similar amount of time, a Miraculous Effect-worker and a hermetic wizard would get very different powers and power levels. Yes, some of the miracle effects are very interesting, and a few can't be replicated by Hermetic magic, but the Magus can learn to throw army-destroying spells and develop a Parma so high most supernatural effects bounce off.

Miracles - well, they can be powerful, but they are extremely unlikely to occur unless either the GM rules they benefit from a massive benefit to the difficulty because God favours them and the need is calamitous or if the power level is so weak a mage could spontaneously cast the equivalent.

Praying for the intervention of saints - anyone can do this. Hey, if you mage reads Augustine's City of God to learn Philosophiae and Divine Lore and has chosen Augustine as his patron saint, they could have a reasonable chance of success.