Fun, Boredom & Deities in the Forgotten Realms



  • After feeling somewhat at a loss playing my (loosely affiliated) faction character, I want to hear other peoples' opinions on divine intervention in roleplaying game plots. The long-despised Cold War between the Red Harts and the Forsaken Legion looks to be over soon, and although very much a player-driven and rather interesting plotline, it seems to be presented as ultimately the decision of the gods themselves. It's almost as if the characters are tasked to only jump through the hoops to appease their gods (which would have been fine by me, if they themselves had decided how, why and when).

    This reminds me eerily of a warning from the Faiths and Pantheons: Do's and Dont's web enhancment:

    @Faiths:

    Sometimes the player characters find themselves used to deploy one deity against another. If, while fighting the Banite church, the heroes manage to defeat the high priest only to find he has just summoned an avatar of Bane, the solution isn’t to ask the party cleric to summon the avatar of Torm. This reduces the heroes to bit parts in a larger drama and forces them to watch the DM roleplay interaction between the two near-impervious avatars.

    Just as the FORGOTTEN REALMS Campaign Setting says you should make the PCs the stars of your campaign and not sideline
    them with famous NPCs, you also shouldn’t sideline them with deities. Making a deity a star in this manner is even more frustrating
    than doing it with a famous NPC. While the heroes (with the right multiclassing and the proper spells) theoretically can manage
    the same feats an NPC performs, using “star” deities tells players that their characters could never have solved the challenge regardless of smart and resourceful play. Part of the fun of D&D is overcoming challenges, and challenges that can’t be overcome aren’t fun.

    So clearly, there's nothing wrong with divine involement in the game. Most of the gods are rather cool, cults are cool and rituals are damn cool. But sometimes it goes too far, and for me, I can't but help feeling a little disenfranchised by having my character reduced to a pawn in a celestial chess game. Neither did my character, so he more or less decided to slink back to his hole and see how things would pan out – even if he does have a real stake in that conflict. But I want to know what everyone else thinks!

    My personal opinion is that a polytheistic world like the Forgotten Realms lends itself excellently to plots about cults, religion and the relationships between the gods and their relationship with mortals. But I want to play a character in the tale as well, so when the whims of the gods go out of hand and become more important than the decisions of my character when it comes to my own tale, I feel disheartened. Same goes for NPCs as well, of course.

    Thoughts on this? How much divine intervention is too much, just enough or too little for you to have fun playing? I've heard some epic tales of PnP campaigns where the heroes had feuds with the gods themselves, but I've also heard many horror stories about upstart PCs getting hammered into submission by Avatars of Trom or whatever. Where do you draw the line?

    Specifically, I am asking about what's fun for you as a player, not verisimilitude when it comes to setting, even though that could of course play a part in the former.



  • @Aspirinsmurf:

    The long-despised Cold War between the Red Harts and the Forsaken Legion looks to be over soon, and although very much a player-driven and rather interesting plotline, it seems to be presented as ultimately the decision of the gods themselves.

    I understand my words may sound biased when they concern this plot, but if you believe the gods themselves will intervene and decide the outcome of the war, it's possible you misunderstood what is going on.

    To answer your question, deus ex machina is something we greatly despise. The story is and will always be in the hands of the players, and at a level that they can affect with their actions, being the mortal beings they are.



  • Aspirinsmurf,

    I think you missunderstood what I meant when I explained this to you. If possible you can talk to us via PM or IRC but without giving away too many spoilers there was a difference between what I meant to describe IG today and how you interpreted it I believe. My "Character" does not want to leave the decision of a battle to a gift from the gods, that does not mean that this will be the end all be all. Also, when I described my worry for the "death of the Legion" I meant solely because we are losing players in this faction not an insta-lose for the war. I don't want to go into too much detail for spoiler sake but I believe I'll have to claim this one as a my bad for describing it poorly.



  • The thing is, it's rather an either-or at work here. Either the outcome is more or less decided by whatever the gods have in mind, or if it's not, it will just lead to more cold war action (which I like, but I understand that most don't). Both belligerent parties are rather reluctant to attack the other as I understand it, both wanting to fight from their positions of respective strengths, i.e. Eveningstar and Castle Crag. Anyone initating a siege would also need to contend with any military opportunism from Kreswell and Arabel. So if this business is not a deus ex machina, wouldn't it just become a return to a slightly different yet still very much the same status quo? Sure, someone would have the upper hand, but if it is enough to tip the scales, then it was decided by the gods, and if not… what was the point at all? Culling the ranks of two unpopular player factions?



  • Perhaps you could reserve judgement until it's played out?



  • Not judging, looking for thoughts from the peanut gallery on these things in general! I'm still very much excited to see how this goes, just not very keen on being part of it, neither OOC nor IC.



  • @Aspirinsmurf:

    Either the outcome is more or less decided by whatever the gods have in mind, or if it's not, it will just lead to more cold war action

    I don't agree with this (that is the crux of the problem). The outcome is and will always be in the hands of the player, and a direct result of their actions. This specific situation will not differ. I don't see why it would.



  • @The:

    @Aspirinsmurf:

    Either the outcome is more or less decided by whatever the gods have in mind, or if it's not, it will just lead to more cold war action

    I don't agree with this (that is the crux of the problem). The outcome is and will always be in the hands of the player, and a direct result of their actions. This specific situation will not differ. I don't see why it would.

    Just commenting as a person reading the forums, I really have no idea what is going on with plots anymore.

    When 'big events' draw to a close. DMs are not going to determine who survives the last battle based on who had the most PvP skill, or makes it to the finish line of the very last quest.

    They will determine who obtains victory based on the actions of the players on the various sides for the weeks leading up to the end of this conflict. They will decide who wins before the last event because they need to be ready for the consequences of that victory. There has to be module updates, changes to areas, removal of old faction items, changes to quests, many things will happen.

    This was the case with the Civil War. DMs kept track of 'points' for all the factions and sides in the war, as well as which sides they were on in the conflict. After several months of counting, the score was something along the lines of 74 to 40. One side clearly won based on the actions of players. Many then were baffled when the side with the biggest army of NPCs lost. (IE: Duex ex machina didn't save that side. Players saved the side that won.)

    With Gromph, we did much the same thing. Gromphia looked like it would survive until the day before the event. When suddenly, one major player faction that was on Gromphia's side switched sides with the force that planned to destroy it. The DMs had actually been preparing the module for a Grompia win, suddenly we were scrambling to destroy it.

    I'm sure this event will be the same way, players matter. Their choices matter. DMs do not pick the losers and winners in these big conflicts. Often, we're quite sad. In the Civil War, I wanted Bhaliir to win. With Gromphia, I was rooting for the Gromphians.



  • @Mr.Moloch:

    @The:

    @Aspirinsmurf:

    Either the outcome is more or less decided by whatever the gods have in mind, or if it's not, it will just lead to more cold war action

    I don't agree with this (that is the crux of the problem). The outcome is and will always be in the hands of the player, and a direct result of their actions. This specific situation will not differ. I don't see why it would.

    Just commenting as a person reading the forums, I really have no idea what is going on with plots anymore.

    When 'big events' draw to a close. DMs are not going to determine who survives the last battle based on who had the most PvP skill, or makes it to the finish line of the very last quest.

    They will determine who obtains victory based on the actions of the players on the various sides for the weeks leading up to the end of this conflict. They will decide who wins before the last event because they need to be ready for the consequences of that victory. There has to be module updates, changes to areas, removal of old faction items, changes to quests, many things will happen.

    This was the case with the Civil War. DMs kept track of 'points' for all the factions and sides in the war, as well as which sides they were on in the conflict. After several months of counting, the score was something along the lines of 74 to 40. One side clearly won based on the actions of players. Many then were baffled when the side with the biggest army of NPCs lost. (IE: Duex ex machina didn't save that side. Players saved the side that won.)

    With Gromph, we did much the same thing. Gromphia looked like it would survive until the day before the event. When suddenly, one major player faction that was on Gromphia's side switched sides with the force that planned to destroy it. The DMs had actually been preparing the module for a Grompia win, suddenly we were scrambling to destroy it.

    I'm sure this event will be the same way, players matter. Their choices matter. DMs do not pick the losers and winners in these big conflicts. Often, we're quite sad. In the Civil War, I wanted Bhaliir to win. With Gromphia, I was rooting for the Gromphians.

    You know, I had no idea that that's how DMs worked with big events - tallying points and determining before it happens. I think it was briefly alluded to shortly after the Starwater Gorge battle, but never explained this thoroughly. Thanks for putting that up, because I'm sure I'm not the only one that this is news to. I rather like that system, since it's a lot more flexible than you would originally think, especially in the case of Gromfia and the sudden suicide event with the Varlets.



  • LOL: I always announced that stuff on the Announcement forums.



  • Just so everyone is clear, a DM told me the score of the epic me vs the rest of the player base story line. LaF 4021, the rest of you 6. Yes I am that good.



  • We haven't changed the name to CoLaF simply because it doesn't sound that good.



  • That's some very interesting insight there, Moloch! If such a system works towards rewarding player initiative and plotting, that seems like a very good way of going about solving these large scale plots!

    And as latok suggested, my feelings on the Hart-Legion war may very well just be an issue of perception and presentation. If this event puts some new and interesting twist on a plotline that a lot of people seem to think has grown stale, I'd love for that to happen! If it just ends it outright though, that would make me a sad panda (until my next concept rolls along :D).

    But more generally, how do people feel about, say, the sacrifice of Tymora and rebirth of Tyche? That's a good example I think, because I personally found that a solid piece of divine intervention done very well. But I would imagine that if I had played a character who had worked towards trying to seal away Mother Lyss for some time, I would have been rather dissapointed if it ended up completely out of my hands due to the intervention of a deity. Would love for it to happen as a result of player actions though, as long as the cause and effects were at least somewhat predictable!

    So it's not just about who 'wins', it's more about how. Would love to hear the thoughts of anyone who were involved in that plotline though!



  • The rebirth of Tyche did nothing with Lyss. It had nothing to do with Lyss even. Lyss as a plot element was already completed before Tyche was returned.

    So again, this is likely a situation where players just didn't understand what was going on.

    It is a good thing for people to ask about the stuff they're clearly not understanding. Lots of things are left for people to figure out in game, but then these odd confusions exist out of game because if it that sometimes are apparently leading to annoyance or frustration that is entirely self-induced.



  • Seems like a good spot for my anual suggestion of a page write up outlining the setting, something that is regularly updated. While a vague outline won't completely solve the issues of miscomunication, it will help a little…and it will make it much less daunting for a returning player to actually return to a setting they barely recognize.



  • @Leaders:

    Seems like a good spot for my anual suggestion of a page write up outlining the setting, something that is regularly updated. While a vague outline won't completely solve the issues of miscomunication, it will help a little…and it will make it much less daunting for a returning player to actually return to a setting they barely recognize.

    You mean like Project Arabel? Where we ask players to do this? Or the Wiki that was set up so players could help do this?

    DMs really don't have THAT much time, but we do encourage players to help us with it.



  • No, I didn't mean like project arabel, which seems more like a history account then a current events thing. When I first joined the server, there was a website where there was a bunch of info about the setting. Without it, I doubt i would have ever gotten into the game like I did in the begining. I'm not even suggesting something as vast as that was, or what wiki is trying to be. I just think a page worth of info in the player resource forum filled with basic knowledge that someone traveling to the city for the first time would know/hear on the trip in. Something someone can read real quick and be like, ok, I can work with that and build their character around. Player run newspapers have been good for that, but unfortunately since Fredo there hasn't been one that has been consistant enough to be relied on, not to mention you have to sort through a lot of blah blah to get to what you really want. Thats not a slight on the blah blah, its great when you are involved with something obscure to read about it in a player run news letter, But I'm talking about a quick read of basic knowledge for returning players so that they can jump right in with some meat to sink their teeth into. Could a player do it? I suppose, if they were on a lot and involved in every corner of the server. But in all likelyhood it would be best if the DM team did it and kept it updated, since they see everything. I'm not saying give away secrets or plot info, im just talking about basic stuff like who controls what territory and so on. There is so much that has happened in the year since i played regularly, stuff that has effected the cosmetics of the server, and I am clueless about it. Sure, I can read through this forum and that and try to piece it together over a few weeks, but I feel like stuff like who owns the land in Easthaven should be common knowledge. Instead I have gotten three different answers from three different PCs ig.



  • On the sacrifice of Tymora, there's a great book on the subject here. Seems like a cool story to me, and I just think I misremembered the part about Lyss, the villain here being Beshaba. Or possibly Darmos.

    Writing your propaganda as IG books and accounts works rather well for informing players and characters about events. But it's by no means a neutral account, history being written by the victors, so of course it could lead to misunderstandings. And a server so rich in canon-divergent history is bound to end up with lots of people completely clueless about what has been going on.

    And on the surface, that's a good thing in many ways. But to return to the topic at hand, if this degree of general ignorance leads to for example a perceived trend that major plotlines tend to end in a deus ex machina fashion, that would not be good. I really get where LaF is going when talking about a 'basic history knowledge' primer. I've avoided playing characters from Arabel or even Cormyr exactly for that the reason: I have no idea about what's been going on in that region lately, and that's not enough to roleplay it properly.

    Worth the DMs time? Maybe. Depends on the amount of work it involves.

    In the meantime, we can all make greater attempts at documenting things (from our points of view, of course) with publicly available books! Your character not much of a writer? Team up with one, like in the example I linked to! There are lots of Loremasters and Bards who would like to write about things!



  • If you want to know something specific, this is what Ask a DM forum is about too keep in mind.

    Granted, to avoid the FOIG response, I'd point out that you're asking because you need the information OOC for some reason; ie "to make a character from Suzail, it'd be nice to know what is going on in Suzail these days".


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