Amy the Playtester: Maybe a post about what it looks like when a divine intervention happens SINCE WE HAVE USED ALL OF OURS
Ah, Divine Intervention. A mechanic that everyone loves, yet always uses with keen regret. No one ever wants to call for a Divine Intervention, but man, is it nice when they're there.
The point of the Divine Intervention mechanic is literally what it says on the box: it's a deus ex machina that a player can call down when they're in terrible trouble and no amount of effort on their own part can save them anymore. The universe itself swoops in to save them - probably via their great and terrible divine patron, but also possibly through some other divine supernatural force, or through events set in motion by a deity who isn't actually going to show up in person this time.
In playtesting, all of the following have occurred as Divine Interventions:
- A Hero dies and has a post-death experience wherein she is informed by the powers of the universe that it is not time for her to die and she should do better next time, before being forcibly catapulted back to life.
- All the Heroes are grabbed and whisked away from danger by the speedy intervention of the Greek psychopompus Hermes, who leaves them squatting in a nearby condo with instructions to succeed more and annoy him less.
- A very angry Norse goddess arrives, reams the group's Sage out for not preventing this problem before it occured, then hurls half the party members across the city to find their friends.
- An alfar warrior rushes in just in the nick of time, gets shot in a Hero's place, and rescues her before returning her to her group and informing them that her divine patron would like to see this Not Happen Again.
- A powerful, overwhelming storm occurs, completely obscuring the Heroes from their foes and sweeping them away to end up elsewhere in safety.
- Two of the Heroes die and end up in Duat, where they are rejected from the heart-weighing ritual and sent back upstairs by a very tired ibis.
(Honestly, we look forward to hearing about peoples' creative DIs in the future, because almost anything could happen and it's always an impressive moment!)
Divine Interventions are pretty rare, which isn't surprising - if the players could just escape doom all the time easily, consequences in the game wouldn't mean much and the whole focus of the game would shift. Heroes only get a couple of Divine Interventions over the course of their careers, and they usually only use them when a Hero has died or is about to inescapably die, and there's no other possible way of saving them. A big group of Heroes by nature has more Divine Interventions at their disposal than a small one, but considering that this also means there are way more of them to get in trouble and that healing or protection powers are stretched thinner across them, we haven't seen much of a difference between the rate of use in smaller or larger groups.
This is all pretty much what you could all have guessed, but the bigger question is: do Divine Interventions work? Are they as useful as they're supposed to be? Do they change the game's landscape for the better?
As we talked about back in an old discussion on escape hatches in games, one of the concerns with Divine Interventions is that they might make players feel they can screw around with impunity since they know they can scream for help if things get too bad. In playtesting, happily, this has not seemed to be the case; the DIs are infrequent and valuable enough that players hate using them up and, like Amy the Playtester above, never use them unless they can't help it and sadly wish for the days of yore when they still had them once they have.
They definitely work, but depending on the GM, how well is a matter up for debate. In a game with lots of potential lethality, DIs are more necessary and at a higher premium; in a game where the players are more cautious or the GM doesn't introduce as many possible lethal threads, they're easier to save up and therefore might prolong Heroes' lives more. We can't really control that other than to provide guidelines for how we think heroic adventures should ideally proceed, so there'll be some variation between games, but hopefully the phenomenon, cool though it is, is rare enough that it should be balanceable on the fly by individual games.
In playtests, it took a group about one year of weekly sessions to use up six DIs, so obviously they weren't going off everywhere all willy-nilly. (Of course, this doesn't mollify them much because it also took them that long to finish their first Saga, but honest, folks, it was a reasonable time-frame in real-life time, anyway!)
The goal with this mechanic is to give Heroes that little bit of extra "story insurance"; as Heroes, they're the main characters of the story and more likely to survive than random other characters would be, and as we all know, myths (and the high-octane stories that are their descendents, too) often feature a moment or two where the Heroes get a lucky break or help from on high that arrives just at the best possible moment. It's not often, and it's not easy, but it's still possible - and sometimes that's all a Hero in a tight spot needs.