Gods and Monsters
Table of Contents
A god gains power through increasing their intention and storing it in stations in the form of power points, which are spent to power their boons.
If a god’s intention grows to such a point that it cannot be controlled, the god transforms into a monster. If the god cannot stave off an increase of intention by storing it in a station, they can bleed off intention into the land—but this could have consequences.
At each milestone, you’ll evaluate your intention and set your milestone tier, which determines the strength of your god’s boons and the severity of their geas, a divine weakness.
All mentions of tiers in later sections on boons and geasa refer to your god’s milestone tier, not the positions of your intention tokens.
If you need a quick reference on intention during play, read Intention in 30 Seconds.
Intention and Power
Intention is the main measure of a god’s power: The more they favor their strengths, the stronger they become, and if they act against their nature, their power will leach away. One might conclude that the gods want to push themselves as far toward their nature as possible in order to maximize their powers—and this is true, to an extent. But this is not a boundless cycle of improvement and ever-increasing power. If their flow of power becomes too great, a god will inevitably lose themself in it and become a monster.
This happens in the game when spending a fate point pushes your intention token off the end of one of the scales. At that point your character immediately succumbs to their power and becomes a monster, with deleterious consequences for everyone and everything nearby.
Fortunately, gods have two ways of managing the build-up of intention. They can store the power in their stations, or they can bleed it off into the world.
A god can store intention in their stations, using the metaphysical connection between themself and the world as a buffer. Even better, once grounded in the world like this, this “refined” intention can be used to fuel the god’s boons in a way that raw intention cannot.
Stored intention takes the form of power points, and a god can store 1 power point in each of their stations. Whenever you would move an intention token toward a higher tier of your ascendant approach, you can instead store 1 power point and keep the token where it is. If you have no empty stations, you must either move the token or bleed the intention into your surroundings.
At the beginning of a tale, all your stations begin empty. Any stored intention vanishes between tales with no ill effects.
If you want to spontaneously fill a station with a power point, you can do so at any time by spending a fate point.
Bleeding Off Intention
Rather than storing intention in their stations, a god can bleed off the excess power into their immediate surroundings. By diverting the resonance of their nature through the sympathetic link between themself and the underlying material of the world, a god can force their surroundings to warp in place of their bodies. This keeps them in control of their power, but the changes in the local landscape are uncontrolled and almost always unwanted.
A god can bleed off intention just before they would move one of their tokens. Unlike with storing intention, a god can bleed off intention no matter which direction the token would move, In this way a god can prevent themself from weakening at an inopportune time, but can also stall their transition into monsterhood if needs be.
Bleeding off intention is simple: the god’s intention token doesn’t move, and the GM changes the refinement of the local region or sub-region, either changing the current sub-region or creating a new one.
The new aspect should reflect the events that caused it to occur, the nature of the god who created it, and the kind of intention that was bled off, and it should be “bad” in some way—either directly and immediately hostile, or likely to present a long-term problem, or laced with enough poetic irony that it makes you want to wince. It’s more art than science, though, so if a particular aspect feels right but doesn’t meet these criteria go with your instincts.
When bleeding off more than one step of intention at a time, the created aspect is more intense or covers a wider region. In particularly egregious cases it might apply to all regions of that kind in the world.
On the plus side, bleeding off intention marks that region or sub-region, giving you access to the regional stunt.
Cassia is proud of her Implacable Strength (Mighty) and she takes care to keep her Mighty at tier 3 to make the most use of her power. However, while helping Herakhty in a wicked village she has to display uncharacteristic cleverness and her token is about to slide one step down toward tier 2. Cassia decides to bleed that intention into the village instead of letting it affect her directly.
The GM pauses for a moment to have a think. She puts together the events of the story with the Clever intention that Cassia is bleeding off and comes up with the idea that the villagers are scared of a return to their old, wicked ways and have become suspicious and mistrustful. She adds Inquisition! as an aspect on the village, and describes how the headman approaches Herakhty and Cassia with a list of so-called “subversives” he believes have not fully given up the old ways.
We’ll talk more about the effects of bleeding off intention in “Changing and Creating Regions”.
Making Things Worse
If the characters hang around in a particular area for a while they’ll probably bleed off a lot of intention there. As a general rule, rather than stacking extra aspects on a region, try to limit yourself to one or two and just keep making them less helpful and more antagonistic. Eventually the characters will have to either fix the fallout from their actions or just move on, leaving a trail of ruined landscape behind them.
As an example, consider the following progression of refinements for a sub-region:
- “Justice Comes Swiftly to the Evildoer!”
- “Punish the Evildoers!”
- “Death to the Outsiders!”
A god’s self functions as a conduit for intention, but it is too unstable to store that intention for long without warping. However, the world at large is a much less fluid place; the gods can tap into that to store power for future use. These bastions of stability, whether places or communities, are called stations. Gods are always dimly aware of events in their stations, and people present at a sacred place or who are members of a sacred community can deliver messages through prayer. A god might not be able to answer these prayers unless their mantle allows them to communicate over a distance, but they can always hear them.
A station that takes the form of a place is a sub-region—usually an extremely small one consisting of a single sacred location, feature, or building—which reflects some truth about how the god sees themselves. Anyone in the station can sense its sacred nature but has no special knowledge about which god claims it.
A station in the form of a community does not have to worship the god in question—they may leave worship to priests, invoke the god’s name to avoid misfortune, or actively revile their divine patron—but they think of the deity often and their idea of the god forms a stable repository of power. Communities don’t have the same sacred aura as places, so it is not immediately obvious who the patron god might be. Even so, the citizens might erect shrines or churches that proclaim their allegiance—and of course, you can just ask someone about their religious beliefs.
A place can support one god, unless two deities are so similar that one place could speak to the truth of both. A community can support any number of gods. However, changing the nature of a community can change the nature of all the gods worshipped there, so pantheons often diversify their stations.
New places are harder to find and vulnerable to desecration, but easier to claim—all a god needs to do is find or create a sub-region that reflects some truth about them or their power, and claim it. Bleeding off intention is easy but risky: the created sub-region may not express enough truth about the god to qualify as a station, and its refinement will be hostile. A surer way is to create a sub-region with an explanation, and surer still is to explore the world for the perfect place.
The actual claiming process is a symbolic ritual that varies from god to god but usually takes about five minutes. It could be a religious ceremony, bestial scent-marking, a rainbow touching down from a clear sky to burn arcane sigils into the ground, or anything appropriate to the god in question. Claiming a sub-region as a station marks it.
New communities are easier to find—any community will do—but harder to claim. To claim a community, a god must first take it out in an ideological conflict or convince them to concede with the consequence that they worship her. However, for each exchange a god wishes to begin for this intent, she must have done something noteworthy nearby. Naturally, gods who act Boldly have an easier time with this.
Places can be desecrated and communities can be converted to new forms of worship; stations can be lost as well as gained. When a god loses a station, they can no longer store their power in it, and any power they had stored there vanishes into the fabric of the world with no further effect.
Desecrating a place is as simple as changing the refinement of the sub-region associated with the station so that it no longer reflects the prior god. This is usually a simple matter of bleeding intention into it—this chaotic outpouring is highly unlikely to favor the old owner. A god can restore the station by returning there and changing the refinement back. Because places are fragile, gods who favor places over people tend to be extremely territorial, never straying far from their power sources for fear that an enemy will sneak in and wreak havoc before they can return.
Desecrating a community is considerably more difficult. The people who make up the community must be convinced to turn away from their previous patron—not just to hate them, but to forget them altogether. One way to do this is by displacing the patron’s presence in the community’s belief system with your own, done in the same way as claiming a community as a station. Another method is by wiping the community off the map entirely—whether one by one on the edge of your axe, or all at once with a landslide or firestorm—but this invites savage retribution from the patron of those people you destroyed.
Communities offer a way to drive them against their patron deities: corruption. Because the community’s idea of the god is what stores the power, a subtle god can quietly amend the community’s view of their patron in order to get leverage over them. This is done by creating an advantage against the community’s Integrity. The resulting aspect can be invoked and compelled by anyone as if it were an aspect of the community’s patron god, and it can be “healed” as if it were a moderate consequence. A god can carry a maximum of one such aspect per community station they lay claim to.
The fearsome nature goddess Thorn wants to teach Herakhty the folly of favoring civilization over the wilderness. Disguising herself as Herakhty, she visits the once-wicked village that Herakhty has since claimed as a station, and counsels them to place more trust in their emotions and indulge their animal sides. She attempts to Subtly create an advantage against the village’s Integrity and succeeds, making the community Emotionally Driven.
As the community’s perception of Herakhty shifts, his nature warps to accommodate it: Emotionally Driven appears on Herakhty’s character sheet, and it can be invoked or compelled as normal. Because Thorn successfully created an advantage, she gets a free invoke on Emotionally Driven for either Herakhty or the community.
A god’s boons are the powers provided by their divine mantle, which reflect their essential nature and become more powerful as their weight of intention grows. Boons come in thee tiers, showing how closely god and mantle are aligned. Each tier offers different gifts, and the gifts vary from god to god. When designing your god’s mantle, think carefully about what each boon says about your god’s nature. At any given time, your god will have boons equal to your milestone tier.
If you are at tier 0 you cannot use your boons at all.
At tier 1, you can expect to receive a constant low-level benefit related to your concept: the ability to see in pitch darkness, minor illusory cantrips, deep pockets filled with odds and ends, invulnerability to naked flames, and so on. These benefits tend to take two forms:
- It offers no mechanical advantages but lets you do things you might not otherwise be able to, such as produce a valuable gem from your deep pockets, or use your illusions to display silent messages.
- It offers a mechanical advantage over a limited scope, such as being invulnerable to fire damage or immune to compels on darkness-related aspects.
At tier 1 and above, a god can spend a power point to grant a bonus to a roll equal to their tier, but within limited circumstances, similar to those of a stunt, that must relate directly to the god’s concept. When you created your god, you created a boon with a +1 bonus because all new gods start at tier 1. As your tier rises, so too will your boon’s bonus.
Julian is a god of lightning. At tier 1 he cannot be hurt by lightning. Also, because lightning is fast, he can spend a power point to add his tier to any Swift roll related to covering ground quickly.
Oyalede is a goddess of quiet, still death. At tier 1 she can tell on sight how a mortal died. Also, because her kind of death steals up unnoticed, she can spend a power point to add her tier to any Subtle roll related to entering a place unseen.
At tier 2 and above, a god can spend power points as if they were fate points, but only while invoking one of their ascendant aspects. Spending power points in this way does not affect intention.
Second, the bonus of the god’s tier 1 boon increases to +2.
Finally, the god gains another boon that is roughly equivalent to a stunt, offering either a +2 bonus under limited circumstances or an overall expansion of capability. Like regular stunts and fate points, a particularly powerful tier 2 boon might require you to spend power points. If a god gains an approach-based power, the approach of that power must be one of the god’s ascendant approaches. If an ascendant approach linked to a power ever becomes subordinate, wording of the power changes to reflect the new ascendant approach.
Arroy is an entity which transforms pain into transcendence. At tier 2, whenever ze suffers stress or a consequence, ze can rename another’s consequence so it begins healing, or purge a dangerous or harmful aspect in the scene.
Yul-Terra is the goddess of the lizard kings and has an appropriately reptilian head, with teeth to match. At tier 2, she gets a +2 bonus whenever she Mightily attacks someone with her bite.
At tier 3, a god gains the most powerful boon: they can spend power to make something just happen, as long as it relates to the god’s overall concept and identity.
Also, the bonus of the god’s tier 1 boon increases to +3.
Ellisa is a goddess of evil. At tier 3 she can spend a power point to give physical expression and form to a mortal’s evil, populating the world with twisted beasts spawned from and preying on humanity.
Surut is a god of semiotics and meaning. At tier 3 he can spend a power point to imbue a symbolic connection between two things, making one a stand-in for the other.
A god’s mantle also comes with a geas: a cost associated with the identity they have assumed that grows greater as their power waxes. Geasa can be physical in nature—a fire goddess who increasingly resembles a walking inferno as she falls further into her own power—or something more subtle, such as a god so beautiful he cannot conceal his presence or one so subtle she threatens to fade from existence altogether.
Geasa normally do one of two things: it gives a penalty equal to the god’s current tier on some activity that runs contradictory to their nature, or it prevents a course of action until the scene has one or more aspects that allow it. Other options are possible, such as taking extra stress or being flat unable to perform particular actions, but those are harder to balance. Talk with your GM about these.
As your god’s tier increases, the severity of their geas increases as well. For a geas that gives a penalty to an action, that penalty equals the god’s tier. For a geas that requires aspects to “unlock” the god’s actions, the number of aspects required equals their tier. The more powerful a god becomes, the harder it is to act against their nature.
For homebrewed geasa, a good starting point is to look for patterns of three and tie them into the tiers at increasing severity. For example, a moon god vulnerable to silver might, when touched by it, take a mild consequence at tier 1, moderate at tier 2, and severe at tier 3.
If your god is at tier 0, then you do not suffer from a geas. By reducing your power to that of a mere demigod, you can avoid its demands on your nature.