Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mechanics Talk: Devotional Concepts

We had some questions a while ago about the concepts that go into the Devotionals, so let's look at those real quick!

Long ago, when we first started designing Devotionals, we envisioned them as having three "tracks", which we referred to as Divinity, Ritual, and Theology. They represented the three kinds of powers that each pantheon might have to grant uniquely to their Heroes; Divinity represented powers that Heroes and eventually gods of that pantheon traditionally displayed in their myths and stories, Ritual represented powers granted to Heroes for performing the sacred actions and rites of their pantheon's religion, and Theology represented powers granted as symbols and representations of their pantheon's conception of the universe and the forces that move within it.

The early drafts of the trees had them as separate choices - you could invest in any of the three separately, and they had ten powers apiece, and your powerset would be uniquely tied to the pantheon your Hero served but could also have a wide amount of variety depending on which ones you invested in. You would have dots in one of those tracks as well as in the Devotionals overall, mirroring the design of the Domains and Spheres that are available to all Heroes.

Over time, this ended up being refined down and changed into its own unique system. Devotionals stopped using the Domain/Sphere setup, and became an independent set of powers, connected by branching paths that allowed some crossover as you progressed but still had unique conceptual lines, even if they were no longer their own "stats". Divinity, Ritual, and Theology were no longer Spheres and therefore open to any Hero of those pantheons, and the Devotional set repurposed the word Divinity to refer to the specific resource pool that the Devotional powers work with.

But even though you no longer buy dots in Ritual or Theology, the three old "Spheres" still exist, just not formally. The Devotionals (now twenty powers overall) are arranged in a tree with three tracks, and each track corresponds to the old Divinity/Ritual/Theology setups; all Heroes start with their first node in what used to be Divinity, and can then progress wherever they want from there. (There are also more nodes in the Divinity track than there are in either Ritual or Theology - eight as opposed to six each in the Ritual and Theology tracks - and both choices to slightly prioritize Divinity are intentional, since even a Hero who doesn't subscribe to their pantheon's religion or practice their rituals should still be likely to display their pantheon's concepts of what a Hero or god should be like.)

So the old "Spheres" are a concept thing for us as developers now, but no longer explicitly lined out in the game itself. But you can still clearly see their influence in each tree, where the leftmost path refers to Ritual actions and the rightmost one to Theological concepts. Each pantheon of course has their own concepts and powers as a result, which makes each Devotional set a little different. They have mechanical themes that correspond to the tracks as well; the track that used to be Divinity is mostly individualized powers and abilities Heroes wouldn't otherwise have, while the path that used to be Ritual is about supplementary benefits that aid Heroes in their everyday adventures (the way rituals in mythology are used in a consistent way to bolster a Hero's life), and the path that used to be Theology is about gaining the juice to use these powers (by drawing from the sources of power and importance in their pantheon's worldview).

A quick overview for each pantheon!

The Egyptian Devotional Tree:

The Egyptian Divinity path is about the concepts most central to Egyptian Heroes and gods: identity and transformation. This encompasses symbols and names that represent the Hero and their legend, their essential identity to their pantheon and people, and eventually the ideas of syncretic combination of Egyptian Heroes and deities to meet the needs of their people and stories.

The Egyptian Ritual path is about traditional Egyptian religious practices: creation of magical talismans and scrolls, the speaking and inscription of spells, and the preservation of important things so that they last throughout the ages. And the Egyptian Theology path is about the central concept in ancient Egyptian thought of the manifold soul, made up of many parts that are all critical to an individual's life and eventual journey through death, and drawing power from understanding and harnessing these parts of the Hero's own soul.

The Greek Devotional Tree:

The Greek Divinity path is about quintessentially ancient Greek values and concepts: skill and mastery, fame and glory, and being so impressive that your story lasts the ages no matter what. Its powers involve mastery over specific areas of your greatest skill (and accompanying areas of weakness), impressing others, and becoming a pinnacle of power and expertise in your chosen area of influence.

The Greek Ritual path is full of Greek-style practices, including euphoric and intoxicated worship, contests and tests of skill, and consecration of sacred spaces to the divine. And the Greek Theology path is about recognizing the inherent place of Heroes and their stories, their skills and their tragedies and flaws, and the power of fate to ultimately control all their destinies.

The Hindu Devotional Tree:

The Hindu Divinity path is about the representation of Heroes and gods through many symbols and forms, from tools and images to personas and forms. It includes the Hero's place in a universe of divine and human Heroes alike, their personal symbols and sacred images to represent different facets of their power, and eventually the ability to manifest as completely different personas in order to represent the facet of themselves most needed at that time.

The Hindu Ritual path cares about the Hero's sacred duty to better themself through meditation, scripture, and reverence of the divine, and lets them become more successful through tireless devotion. And the Hindu Theology path is about connecting to and finding a place in the great cosmic cycles of existence, levels of enlightenment, and recognition of underlying truth that form the background of Hindu universal thought.

The Norse Devotional Tree:

The Norse Divinity path is about destiny: discovering it, fulfilling it, and making sure nothing stops you before you arrive where you're supposed to be, whether it's because of a foretold fate laid out in prophecy or just the unsung end of your inevitable path through heroism. Its powers involve ensuring your survival in order to make sure you're there to fulfill your pre-ordained roles and living up to everything your Archetypes and divine backing require of you.

The Norse Ritual path is concerned with religious practices that allow the direction and focus of power: spells, runes and the effect they can have on the things they represent, and calling upon fate to ensure greatness. And the Norse Theology path looks at the Nordic conception of a many-part world where each piece has its own role and each world balances the others to create a working universe, and allows Heroes to align themselves with those worlds when necessary.

Since y'all can see the names of Blessings (other than the ones that need fixing in the Hindu Divinity track... sorry!) on the trees linked above, you can probably make some educated guesses at what each Devotional is about, even if not how the mechanics support it. I'll leave you to your speculations!


  1. Thats amazing guys. Can i use hindu divinity to receive superweapon from the gods like Rama did?

    1. If you mean getting new tools/weapons/representative items, like Shiva's trident or Sarasvati's veena or Yama's lasso, then yes! One of the Hindu Divinity track powers specifically allows you to slowly work up to getting new permanent objects that represent you, letting you have a set of items that symbolize you just like the Hindu heroes and deities who always hold their items of power in artwork.

      If you mean borrowing Vishnu's Sudarshana Chakra, no, that's his and you'll have to ask him for a loan through roleplaying. ;)

    2. Thanks Anne! Just one more question now. Since you mentioned heroes alignn themselves with Worlds. What happens when i align myself with Muspelheim? Do i become a fire giant?

    3. Alas, no! The fire giants are hardly the Norse gods' favorite people, so it would be odd indeed if they all had a power that turned them into one.

      Actually, the Norse Devotional set does not include the option to align your Hero with Muspelheim; there are only six nodes in the Theology "track", which isn't enough for nine-plus worlds to all be represented, and since Muspelheim is largely an antagonist world for the Norse Heroes and gods, it's one of the ones that isn't represented. (Niflheim, Alfheim, and Svartalfheim are the others you won't see; Niflheim is also usually antagonistic toward the main characters of Norse myth, and the other two have their own things going on.)