Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Spotlight on: The Prophet

Jerry Stratton, January 21, 2008

Abraham

Of all of the Gods & Monsters archetypes, the Prophet is the most different from its D&D counterpart. The Cleric in D&D is mostly a fighter/magic-user. I remember being impressed in high school at how powerful the Cleric was, especially for short-term games. Not only could they fight nearly as well as a warrior (and for one short XP window, better), but they had magic spells, too!

Our DM at the time tried to call Clerical spells “miracles” to keep us from treating them as spells, but the rules and supplementary material didn’t help him. They continually treated clerical spells as the same thing as magic-user spells, even to the point of coming up with historical reasons why magic-users and clerics had different repertoires, and giving clerics access to magic-user spell lists.

The D&D cleric was a fighter as much as a holy person. In Original D&D, they were a fighter first: they didn’t even get spells until second level. And that’s not a problem with D&D. Their clerics were based on arcane fighting orders such as the Knights Templar.

If you want to play such a character in Gods & Monsters, the best way to model it will be to start as a Warrior and then multi-type to Sorceror.

Gods & Monsters prophets are not based on fighting orders. They’re based on the active holy man or woman with divine power, such as Moses, David, Jesus, Joan of Arc, and Joseph Turner. Some of them could fight, but their warrior skills were secondary to their religious zeal.

Prophets in Gods & Monsters display more power than their real-world legends, just as sorcerors do. For this reason they’re very useful: healing spirits are invaluable in a dungeon. Why, however, would a prophet go there?

Goals

More than any other archetypes, Prophets must have goals. The players are going to have to choose goals that make for good adventures when there is a prophet in the narrative.

Jonah

Religious fervor can be directed towards worldly goals. Joan of Arc worked for the restoration of the French monarchy, for example. What are some goals that can co-exist with, or lead to, fantasy adventure?

Restoration

Prophets can be out to restore some situation. They can quest to right a wrong. They can advise the powerful, and prophesy to the world.

One of the easiest ways to integrate a prophet into a standard campaign is a need to restore balance. The prophet may have a vision or urge charging them to restore the right person into power, restore a temple to its former glory, restore a nation to glory, or restore a relic’s power.

These goals can involve several steps. Restoring the rightful royal line might first require finding the rightful heir, then proving the heir’s lineage, and finally convincing the political structure to accept the heir. This might then lead into other adventures to assist the nation that the new king rules. Such a campaign could be a combination of Joan of Arc with the Three Musketeers.

Quest

Prophets might be on a vision quest to discover some secret or to discover their place in their religion; or to discover their true goals.

Vision quests are great adventures because they usually involve long trips into barren wastes or ruins for vague reasons and unspecified amounts of time. They will eventually need a payoff, but you can build to it based on what the players enjoy. The vision itself can of course be a catalyst to more adventure.

Prophets may also quest to right a wrong done to their god, their people, or their temple. Or they may quest to right a wrong done by their people or temple. They may wish to right this wrong simply because it needs to be rectified, or because the gods are punishing their people. If the latter, the first part of the adventure may be finding out what they did that is causing their divine punishment.

For example, the adventurers may be questing to discover the reason for a killing drought; in the first part of the adventure they discover that it is their own culture’s actions that brought down this punishment; in the second part they discover what those actions were, and in the third, they right the wrong they’ve done.

Moses and the Tablets of the Law

Consider the latter portion of the story of Oedipus. It’s not exactly the kind of adventure you want to spring on unsuspecting players, but it follows that pattern: first they find out that someone has angered the gods, then they find out that someone is having sex with their mother, then they find out who did this, and finally Oedipus puts his eyes out, to wander the world in darkness.

Their quest may be one of discovery, restoration, or vengeance. They may quest to find a relic, to kill a heretic, or find a greater prophet.

They can also quest to influence the course of history, guiding their world into a better state.

Guides and Advisors

The prophet can be an advisor to a group or to the world. They may train followers, or raise the status of allies. They may improve the religion’s or culture’s relations with important people. They may prophesy to the powerful to get them to prepare their people for hardship, or to change their ways and free their people.

Sometimes, prophets will be charged with the reformation of their own religion. Prophets do not answer to a hierarchy for their powers. They answer to their gods.

The avatar

One kind of prophet is the god among men. In Christianity, Jesus was this sort of prophet. In Hindu, the Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu.

Like the ancient wizard, such a character tends to display lesser powers at the start of the narrative, becoming progressively more powerful as the game progresses. It doesn’t matter that according to their backstory the prophet could have done more powerful things at first level. What matters is that they not do so. Jesus starts off changing water into wine, progresses to raising Lazarus from the dead, and finally returns from the dead himself.

Elijah

A personal savior

Some prophets start their career after a physical encounter with their god. Christian prophets might see a vision of the Virgin Mary; nature prophets might meet their god in a grove or by a riverside. Their first quest is likely to be given them by their god. They will eventually want to build a temple at the place their god appeared.

Choosing spirits

Prophets don’t choose spirit manifestations, they choose spirits. A prophet will be able to perform fewer miracles than a sorceror will be able to perform spells, but their choices are vast—limited only by the spirit manifestations listed for use. A prophet might have a level 3 health spirit, a level 4 health spirit, a level 4 war spirit, and a level 3 sky spirit. When the time comes to use those spirits, that prophet could then manifest any health manifestation of third or fourth level or lower; any war manifestation of fourth level or lower, or any sky manifestation of third level or lower.

Because manifestations are made manifest at the level of the spirit, not the prophet, and because higher level spirits have a greater range of options available to them, it will make sense to choose higher level spirits when possible. Unless you know you’re going to need a manifestation more often, each level increase brings with it more options and more power.

On the other hand, if you know specifically what you want your character to do that day, you won’t want to waste calling points getting that spirit at a higher level then necessary to perform the task.

Choosing specialties

The druid or nature prophet will want to be at home in natural environments. Choose the nature friend specialty, as well as, perhaps, animal form or some of the familiar specialties. Choose as familiar an animal that calls to mind your God or form of worship.

If you’re a Christian prophet or the prophet of some sort of sun god, consider turn undead. Nothing says “convert” quite like blasting the most evil creatures imaginable: our own dead come back to harm us.

Sermon on the Mount

Avatars will want some mark of their origin, such as spirit bane or disease immunity. An avatar is also likely to be an exemplar and may have charismatic healing if so.

If your prophet is going to look for converts, both exemplar and charismatic are good choices. And if your prophet is going to be smiting the blasphemous, a holy weapon will help.

There are several specialties that enhance the effectiveness or versatility of spirit manifestations. Spirits can be tied to a location and told to act when specific events take place using spirit attachment. Higher level spirits can be used a little at a time with spirit drain. A priestly circle is useful if the prophet has a following of fellow worshippers, focussing their faith into greater spirit manifestations.

Act the part

Don’t be afraid to call down the wrath of god. Preach if your religion expects it. Give moral answers to moral dilemmas. Pray before you go into battle, before you embark on a journey, and when you need divine guidance.

Think ahead before each session. What lessons are likely to play out tonight? How will your character respond? What morals must be taught? What epigrams can teach these morals?

Wisdom is what makes a prophet. Your warrior, thief, sorceror, and monk can change their minds on any matter. They can do one thing today and another thing tomorrow. They can be different when no one is watching. Your prophet must be steadfast and faithful to their gods, and outspoken when the gods are angered. Whether it leads to the cross or to wise old age, your prophet has a lesson to impart.

The wonderful images in this article are Gustave Doré woodcuts.

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