Sometimes it is hard to not believe in fate. Last week I was talking with Tuonela’s CEO about my thesis. At some point the conversation headed towards Civilization 5. As he talked about the game’s failures and successes, I thought that “wow, it sounds like an interesting game. If it were a bit cheaper, I would buy it and see what’s all the commotion about”. Lo and behold: A week later it is on sale on Steam.
Now if this was Ilea, my reaction would probably be:
- Yeah! My belief in my destiny to play that game soon has manifested in a material way!
- Wow, fate must want me to play that game. Better play along; I don’t want to mess with fate.
- This event was just an outcome of different variables, and was actually quite predictable. No fate orchestrated anything.
Since there are two sources of magic spells in basic D&D mythology, Arcane and Divine, I had to weave them into my world. Since I did not have enough energy to write a pantheon of gods and did not want to resort to the usuals, there are no actual gods on the planar cosmology of Ilea. Instead, there is an enigmatic force called Fate. It manifests normally by strange visions and making sleeping people write prophecies on nearby surfaces. Most of these are gibberish, but some might hold actual information about future events. But the thing is, since Fate is so vague, everyone has their own perspective on it. A farmer might believe that Fate makes the seasons change, and if he believes strongly enough it will give rain when needed. A cleric might believe that Fate wants him to help the needy. A warlord might believe that Fate will tell when it is a good time to attack. As there are no actual gods, some artists have taken to themselves to anthromorphize their concepts of Fate. These works are referred to gods, and their usual purpose is to be shrines where people can focus and congregate..
The concept of divine magic was somewhat stolen from the Orks of Warhammer 40k: When a creature believes in his version of Fate strongly enough, he can influence it by creating physical effects seemingly out from nowhere. These people are usually so impressed by their “powers” that they take on themselves to adhere to the goals Fate has set to them.
In the first campaign, Fate evolved to the point where it is today quite organically. At first it was just elaborate fluff for divine magics, but as the game progressed, I started to use it as an explanation for unexplainable things to give them depth. (If you happen to be a player in my campaign, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph due to spoilers) For example, the players heard about Wailing Hill, a hill where a voice wailed loudly periodically. The locals feared the place, since it was inside a forest, which are full of monsters. The players investigated, meeting a half-finished marble statue of a traveller’s protector god. Fate wanted the impressive statue to be finished, so it was randomly animated to plea for help. Another Fate-related event was a vampire, who wanted to stop killing people and began to conduct research into making sap a substitute for blood. Since it would be technically cheating a curse, Fate threw all sorts of problems into his research, which lasted for hundreds of years. Depending on the quest, Fate was either a sympathetic ally for a noble cause, or a capricuous bastard who revels on irony, and in the end most of the player’s characters acknowledged, denied or feared it. The party’s alchemist constantly tried to find scientific answers for everything and their rogue prayed nearly every night for Fate not to transform him into anything.
I think that Fate the most interesting feature of the world. It enables “Fate did it”-explanation for weird things, it gives me as the GM a tool to direct the characters and it pokes fun at both human belief and scientific outrage at the former. One drawback is that players have to invent their own war cries, since there are no standard gods. In the most recent adventure session it was called “Atheist-D&D”, which was both funny and true.