Monday, June 9, 2014

Domains in Hero's Journey: Powers of the Cosmos

Today, we're going to talk about Spheres! Except not really - actually, we're going to talk about Domains, which are the important mechanic for players and which umbrella all the powers of Spheres. We've been purposefully a little vague about how they work because we were trying to first let everyone know what kinds of powers were going to be available, but today we're prepared to get down and dirty!

Domains, and the Spheres they contain, represent the primordial powers of the universe; they are the ancient, cosmic powers that existed before humanity did, and would go right on comfortably existing if all of humanity disappeared tomorrow. They are the powers of the elemental building blocks of the world and the universal constants that govern life and death, allowing gods to perform feats of incredible and inhuman power. Individual powers within a Domain are called Blessings, and while the powers granted by the Web of Fate are also Blessings, they are in contrast powers related to humanity and their doings. Blessings from Talents grant you powers over the human world; Blessings from Domains grant you powers over the universe.

All of the Domains in HJ are represented in the game, but each one is still awaiting additional future Spheres to expand their possibilities, hopefully to be released as soon after the initial core release as possible. So, with that said, let's talk about exactly what Domains are for and how you get to use them.

Domains are very similar to Talents; Heroes can purchase dots of them, thus gaining power over the elements of the world or the spiritual life forces of living things, and so on and so forth. Purchasing a dot of a Domain allows you to automatically gain a Blessing from the Spheres associated with it, which are arranged in a web that allows you to branch out into any powers that are connected to one another. We've talked a lot about Spheres in recent posts, but they aren't actually stats with ratings or dots you have to invest in - Heroes don't purchase, for example, dots of Fire or Fortune (really, Spheres are just convenient ways to discuss powersets inside of Domains, not separate stats of their own). Rather, they purchase dots of Elemental or Spiritual, and then may choose what Blessing, be it one that grants powers over Fire or Thunder or anything else covered in that Domain, to gain. Each Domain's Blessings branch off into separate paths for each Sphere, but no one is locked into a single Sphere or unable to pick up powers in another if they so choose.

If that sounds like it's suspiciously similar to the way we've hinted that the Talents and the attached Web of Fate work, that's because it is! Just as you can progress through the Blessings of the Web of Fate, so you can progress through the Blessings of the Spheres. The only difference is what stats those webs are attached to, and what they roll in order to perform divine actions. Where Blessings from the Web are attached to Talents, and therefore roll dice from their Aspect and add successes from their Talent, Blessings from Spheres are attached to kinds of power, and instead roll dice from an appropriate Aspect and add successes from their Domain.

Or, to try to make that less opaque, if I have a Blessing that I got from the web around, say, Diplomacy, I'll roll my Leader and add my Diplomacy successes. If I have a Blessing that I got from the Elemental Domain, I'll roll the appropriate Aspect - if it happens to be lightning smiting someone's face, probably Warrior, or if it happens to be shaping something from rock, maybe Creator - and add my Domain successes.

One of the reasons HJ allows Heroes to invest in Domains rather than directly in Spheres as separate entities is because of inherited powers from their divine patrons. Various gods provide different bonuses to their God-Touched Heroes, based upon who they are and what they do in mythology (more on this in a later post!), and while most elemental gods give rise to Heroes and younger gods with similar powers to their own, more often their progeny have related powers but clearly branch out a little bit from their patrons' skillsets. For example, Zeus may have the Celestial powers of the Heavens Sphere, but his children Apollo and Artemis instead express Celestial powers in the Solar and Lunar realms. Heroes have the freedom to take advantage of bonuses from their divine patrons without necessarily needing to do exactly the same things they do, allowing for flexibility when it comes to choosing divine patrons and trying out new powers and skills.

Another reason is because various heroes across mythology often develop powers that are closely linked over the course of their adventures; it's fairly common for gods or heroes who begin with powers over living things to later gain some powers over death, or for those who are already affiliated with the moon to later discover powers related to the stars as well. Domains containing various different Spheres gives Heroes a lot of leeway to experiment with different kinds of powers and styles of divine magic without needing to purchase a ton of different stats to go with them, which we think anybody can appreciate.

The missing piece for most of this to click into place is probably actually visually seeing the trees of powers within each Domain, and we promise, the art department's working on that! But in the meantime, as always, feel free to discuss on the forums, and we might just be around to respond!