The Gods II
by Scott Martin
Last updated 1/24/98
In other parts of the rules, you heard my voice as a game designer speaking to potential players and gamemasters in a hypothetical game. The rules described a generic structure by which anyone can play The Gods. In this section, however, you'll hear my voice as the gamemaster of this specific game. Here I address the players and describe how I actually intend to implement those rules and, more importantly, under what circumstances I will break those rules.
Please also see the errata for actual changes to the rules.
The rules for Gods II have a number of optional parts. Here's the list of which ones I'll be using:
As described in the rules, Gods II is both a role-playing game and a strategy game. However, this is actually not precisely correct. A better way to state it is that Gods II is a role-playing game in which the characters are playing a strategy game. Make sense?
The way I see it, your primary objective as a player is to have fun role-playing your character, a god in Heaven. However, within the context of the game, your god character is a player in a strategy game in which the Earth is the board, mortal populations are the pawns which you manipulate, and mana is the prize. You should feel free to be Machiavellian, manipulative, and calculating, but should always remember to do so in character!
A role-playing game is a unique and somewhat contradictory creature. The basic idea of role-playing is to simulate a fantasy environment in which the players can act out the roles of fictitious characters and have "adventures". The basic idea of a game is to provide a framework of "rules" in which players can compete. Sometimes these two factors come into conflict.
One of the ways in which role-playing games deal with this conflict is the rather unique role of "the gamemaster". In addition to serving as a referee (in the traditional sense of someone who enforces fair play by ensuring that everyone follows the rules), the gamemaster has the additional responsibility (and authority) of interpreting, stretching, changing, and sometimes outright breaking the rules in order to find some compromise between the rigid structure of the rules and the fluid structure of dramatic and creative role-playing.
This is especially true in Gods II. After all, you're playing gods, and the powers of gods cannot be summed up by a few meager powers! However, I have to walk a very fine line here. If I don't bend the rules at all, then you as players will miss out on many opportunities to creatively role-play and might as well go play Ultima Online. But if I allow the rules too be constantly bent or changed, then you'll all end up playing CalvinBall. So, here's where I'll try to lay out, in as much detail as possible, under exactly what circumstances I will change or break the rules.
First, I will modify the rules on the fly in order to fit exceptional circumstances. This is similar to the mechanisms described at the end of Chapter 3 in the rules. Some examples:
As a general rule, these changes will not be predictable. Don't bother asking me in advance what will happen if you do a certain thing; if you think something incredibly unusual has occured, bring it to my attention and I'll make a decision. But don't expect these to occur regularly -- the whole point is to simulate unforeseen effects from unique, rare, and unusual events. I expect to exercise this option at most two or three times during the entire game.
Second, I will grant extra abilities in order to award good role-playing. Unlike the first set, these will be fairly common; I may give out as many as five or six such awards in any session. However, these changes will also be very minor in nature, similar to the awards granted for myths. Some examples would be: low-level gifts, discounts on sphere purchases, minor changes to terrain or races on Earth, and temporary reductions on the mana cost of specific powers. These could even affect other characters. For example, if you manage to publicly humiliate another character in a dramatic fashion, I may temporarily increase the cost of his persuasion powers or limit his speaking time at the next Great Council meeting. However, whether the changes are positive or negative, they will be limited in scope or duration, not drastically affecting the overall balance of the game.
Related to this concept is that of reward for long-term role-playing. Truly exceptional role-playing over the course of multiple game sessions may result in major changes to your character. These could include extra sphere cards, new advantages, or the loss of a disadvantage. For example, if your character is Hated, that disadvantage could be removed if you accurately role-play the psychological process of overcoming the personality traits which led to that state and the long and arduous crusade to regain the trust of the majority of the characters. Since this type of character evolution should be obvious to all, I will only even consider this type of change if a significant number of players are impressed enough to recommend it to me.
Finally, there's the really big things, the truly god-like acts. This is your opportunity to purposefully go beyond the rules and perform the kind of epic feats described in the greatest myths, feats which will presumably be tied into your character's mythic background and long-term objectives. Want to revive another character from obliteration? You can do it. Feel like sinking a continent? Go ahead. Always wanted to own the One Ring? Make it.
So how do you do these things? Primarily, by asking me in advance. These are not the type of changes I can or will make on the spur of the moment during a game session. And be assured, I will make them extremely difficult to achieve! Each case is unique, but here's the general outline of thow things will proceed.
I will break the task down into smaller steps which can be simulated either within the current rules or by role-playing. This will not be in the form of a simple recipe. Instead, I will lay out many different steps by which you can pursue the goal, and you'll have to decide which ones you want to pursue. Just as importantly, you should develop your own creative methods of achieving the ultimate goal.
During the game sessions, your character can start to perform (or arrange to have performed) as many of the steps as possible. And here's the rub -- you won't know how much you have to do until you've done it! Because there's no one way to perform the feat, I'll judge the process on overall effort. The more spheres involved, the more powers used, the more gods participating, the more time expended, the more mana spent, and the more you sacrifice, the greater your chances of succeeding. As a general rule of thumb, any especially large feat which would greatly affect the game world will require the involvement of at least a half dozen spheres, participation (possibly unknowing or involuntary) by a lot of different characters, the expenditure of at least 100 mana, and some form of personal sacrifice.
The reason no one gets to know in advance the full process is because I plan to drastically limit the overall number of these events which actually succeed. For the sake of game balance and my own sanity, I can't allow dozens of Earth-shaking (or Heaven-shaking) events which may drastically impact the basic structure and limitations of the rules. Throughout the course of the game I will allow at most three or four such tasks to succeed, possibly a few more if they're of a more modest scale. So if a lot of characters are pursuing special projects then you'll just have to put more work into yours than everyone else, because only a few of you will make it.
Along the way I may provide guidance on how to proceed, suggestions for steps, or progress reports on how close you are to your goal. However, even this information will have to be gained in context of the game. You or an ally will have to find lost knowledge (look in an appropriate place), consult an oracle (a god of Fate) or an expert (a god of Knowledge), obtain the collected wisdom of the Great Council (get the Council to vote to provide the information), go on a quest, or perform experiments in order to get such hints out of me. Similar steps should be taken in order to find out the exact consequences of your actions, unless you like being surprised.
To give you a concrete example, let's say you want to steal the sun. Some probable effects of such an act would be: all mana from suns or moons goes somewhere else; all races enter religious turmoil; until the sun is returned all population growth stops, no forests can be made, and the world has no summers and one extra winter. Some possible steps you could take to achieve that aim are listed here. No one of these actions would be sufficient to steal the sun, but the more of them you do the more likely you will be to succeed.
In response to some questions about these guidelines, I've added the following comments.
A) Many of the "Do Anything" plans involve steps which, in themselves, are not strictly possible within the rules. Going to places you can't normally go, making special artifacts, using creation powers in Era Centrum, etc. These can generally be simulated by the character putting an appropriate amount of "effort" as described above and I won't be too picky about how exact the procedures were.
However, many of these steps could presumably provide the character with extra abilities or opportunities in their own right, even if the plan as a whole fails. As a general rule, any positive gains from these "outside the rules" steps cannot be used to affect the game in any way outside the bounds of the plan. The same is not true of negative side effects. The whole point is that you're supposed to suffer some sort of loss in exchange for the gains to be made if the plan succeeds, so you can't turn those steps to your advantage. Of course, anything done within the official game mechanics is freely usable.
A case in point from the "Capture the Sun" example: The plan mentions putting the powers "Flame Armor" and "Celestial Calamity" into an artifact, with the presumption that the latter can be used in Eras Centrum or Omega despite being a creation power. Whether or not the plan as a whole succeeds, no one can use this artifact to destroy the sun, the moon, or any constellations. They can, however, use it to cast "Flame Armor" since that is perfectly legit within the rules.
B) Many of the steps along the way could potentially be done using either normal game mechanics or some more creative method (as described above). In keeping with the entire concept of the "Do Anything" rules, in which it's always easier to do something within the rules than something without, using the "creative" methods will always require more effort (mana, time, etc) and/or be less efficacious than using an existing power. This would seem to violate the "more effort produces more results" guideline, but in this case the extra effort involved is "sucked up" by the extra advantage you gain from gaining access (even for limited purposes) to an ability you don't normally have.