RPG Design – The Divine Ruler

   For the final bit of the series on Magical Rulers we have come, at last, to the Divine King – the ruler who’s authority flows not from the people, or from law and tradition, or from military power, but from the will of the gods. The rulers who get obeyed because nasty things happen to the people who don’t respect and obey them.

   That belief, of course, is the final stage of this particular form of magical thinking.

   For the God-Favored, divine favor is a subtle, chancy, thing, and is primarily devoted to simple survival.

   For the Noble-Blooded, the blessings of the gods are fairly obvious enhancements, and some of the benefits can be shared with those around them – demonstrating their right to lead.

   The Divine King is a viceroy for the gods, their living representative and intermediary in the mortal realms, and the gods tend to smite the people who disrespect or disobey them.

   Once again, people today generally don’t see things that way. When we look at the history of a ruler who rose to power through a clever alliance, a spectacularly lucky battle, and rival being hit by a stray arrow, we see a man who was fortunate enough to be born into the nobility, who had a couple of strokes of good luck, and who was skilled and intelligent enough to take advantage of them – although suspicious historians may see a man who arranged to dispose of a rival quietly.

   The classic view would have seen one or more gods arranging for the rule of one of their chosen – bringing him (in reality, although not in fantasy, virtually never “her”) to power by providing him with useful allies and by striking down anyone who stood in his way.

   In fantasy game settings, it’s often vital to find some way to make that classical view real. Otherwise you wind up with characters who – being run by players with modern worldviews – are rude to kings and rulers, ignore their authority whenever it’s convenient, and run roughshod over local governments and traditions. It’s bad enough when the players are simply ignoring the social conventions that their characters supposedly grew up under. It gets even worse if their characters actually possess personal power on any significant scale and thus can do that sort of thing with near-impunity.

   So what should a Divine Ruler actually get?

  • First off, we can assume that they get everything that any Noble-Blooded character gets and more – receiving those abilities when they’re formally inducted into the office if they don’t already have them.
  • The Gods look after their anointed; curses and misfortunes will tend to fall upon those who oppose a king within his or her own realm or the lands nearby. When plots and foes multiply, it is obvious that the Gods are angry with the Divine Ruler, and he or she has lost their favor.
  • They are inspired with Divine Wisdom; they can give wise judgements, make inspired decisions, and get things right about their public affairs – although, oddly enough, most of them seem to fall afoul of all the usual human errors of jealousy, egotism, and such in their personal lives later on. Apparently all that divine wisdom and approval doesn’t do a thing for their personal lives.
  • The Gods listen to Divine Rulers. If there’s a great drought, or likely calamity, the gods will allow a Divine Ruler to erect temples, perform rituals, undertake “improvements” which will provide a remedy – whether or not such activities have anything whatsoever to do with what a modern thinker would see as the cause of the problem. If all such efforts fail, it may be time for a new ruler. (Fortunately, in actual history, a lot of problems fix themselves if given a little time. Others, of course, result in the elimination of the Divine Ruler – thus demonstrating that he or she has lost the favor of the Gods).
  • They are impervious, or at least resistant, to minor curses and spells. Otherwise we can pretty much take it for granted that any target so public and so important would be subjected to dozens per day.
  • Similarly, they are impervious or resistant to divination effects, mind-reading, and related powers and abilities. Otherwise they’d have no privacy or secrecy at all.
  • In many movies and tales Divine Rulers remain healthy and vigorous into extreme old age – but that’s hardly universal – and is common in a lot of game systems anyway.

   Now, to actually get specific we will have to pick a game system to work with – in this case Eclipse d20. Given that the +1 ECL Noble-Blooded template has already been set up for d20, all we’ll have to concern ourselves with is what we need to add to that…

  • First up are a few additional Innate Enchantments – a total of 5200 GP worth (5 CP):
    • Armor of Light (+1 Sacred Bonus to Saving throws, Unlimited Use Use-Activated, L1 at CL1, Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Resist Energy (reduces energy damage by 10, Unlimited Use Use-Activated, L1 at CL1, Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Protection from Opposing Alignment (as appropriate, Unlimited Use Use-Activated, L1 at CL1, Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Detect Magic (Unlimited Use Use-Activated, L0 at CL1, 1000 GP). Divine Rulers can detect the presence of magic – allowing them to sense many illusions, supernatural creatures, and subtle spells.
  • Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized for Double Effect (4/-)/only versus physical damage (3 CP).
  • Dominion/Wrath of the Overlord/Curse, Specialized and Corrupted/this ability will not operate if the Gods are displeased with the Divine Ruler and he or she has little control over its operation; it mostly works when the ruler is very very upset, but occasionally will take effect on threats they don’t even know about – and, of course, drains their dominion point reserve each time it does (2 CP).
  • Major Divine Favors, Specialized (for double effect – as in, epic-level Favors) and Corrupted (for reduced cost)/the Divine Ruler must enact major rituals to gain a favor, erect occasional temples, persecute the enemies of the gods, and otherwise carry out their will in the material world (4 CP).
  • Deep Sleep, Specialized/only as a prerequisite, Corrupted/stops working until a proper atonement is made if the user offends the gods (2 CP) and Cosmic Awareness, Specialized/only works to provide occasional intuitive guidance (whenever a matter is important to the gods for some reason) when making public judgements, determinations of policy, and directing public affairs, Corrupted/stops working until a proper atonement is made if the user offends the gods (2 CP).
    • This could also be made to work as an Occult Sense, but Cosmic Awareness works better to simulate external guidance.
  • Immunity to Divination (Common, Minor, Major – covering effects of up to level five and providing a +6 bonus on saving throws against higher-level effects, 6 CP).
  • Spell Resistance of (Level + 10), Corrupted/only works as long as the user is fulfilling his divine obligations and remains favored by the Gods (8 CP). Divine Rulers can often resist or throw off hostile magic.
  • Accursed/feels damage inflicted on his or her domains, and may suffer sympathetic injuries and penalties from such damage (-3 CP).
  • Accursed/is a special object of the Gods attention. A Divine Ruler has been granted power by the Gods, and may be punished in a wide variety of ways if he or she misuses it – often through his or her children, by a failure of their powers, or by disasters such as invasion, famine, drought, or rebellion (-3 CP).
  • Finally, the Divine Ruler is entitled to a Bonus Feat – most often an additional Dominion power, but Immunities to the special enemies of the gods or to their particular attack forms, the ability to detect lies (Occult Sense), the ability to inspire others by their mere presence (Presence), gaining loyal followers (Leadership), and the ability to coordinate the efforts of others (Executive) are all common.

   With a total cost of 64 CP – 32 CP here and 32 CP for the Noble-Blooded Template – this is a +2 ECL (over whatever the user’s racial adjustment is) acquired template. Of course, unlike most Templates, if the character loses the favor of the Gods AND gets rightfully overthrown, he or she will drop back to the +1 ECL Noble-Blooded base.

   Hopefully, this particular template will help make the player-characters respect the ruling nobles a bit more; they’ll never know when it really is the Gods speaking – or when some act of defiance may result in a vicious curse.

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One Response

  1. […] ECL God-Favored, +1 ECL Noble-Blooded, and +2 ECL Divine Ruler – divinely-chosen nobles and […]

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