By no small coincidence, I’ll be leaning on Mongoose Publishing’s Classic Play: Book of Immortals while developing Divine Trappings. The entire book is about how to play aspiring deities, and there’s a fair bit of material I’ll be able to repurpose.
In particular, I’ll be looking to covenants for guidance in developing domain aspects, especially regarding duties
A covenant is a contract. In Classic Play: Book of Immortals a covenant is an agreement between an immortal and a ‘greater power’ (a more powerful immortal, a deity, possibly an entire nation or the like. Each covenant consists of a number of terms, and when the immortal completes a challenge and proves worthy, the immortal swears to be bound by the first (or next) term of the covenant.
The terms are defined in a formulaic manner. The details vary between covenants, but the terms all follow the same set of patterns.
I will express how I might apply the covenant terms as duties. Duties are easier to write at this point, since they are directions to followers. When I get further along I can reframe them each as dogmas (things followers are told) and tenets (things followers commonly believe).
In Book of Immortals the covenant terms not only describe the rules around the terms (as I’m summarizing here), but have templates for the wording of the various terms (very formulaic), explanation of the meaning and intent of the term, and rules for how to apply the term, variations that might be applied, and expanded detail (such as a commitment term outlining about a dozen specific roles that might be played in the immortal world, and what they mean, how often they’re likely to come into play, and the rules for resolving them when they do). I haven’t decided yet if I’ll follow a similar route, but right now I think I’ll take the general meaning of the term and put my own words — or rather, the words of the deity — around it.
An allegiance term in a covenant requires that the immortal put the well-being and goals of other creatures (meeting certain criteria) ahead of their own. In Divine Trappings I would use this as a template for a duty to creatures meeting certain criteria, to serve in some way.
A deity who has an allegiance toward sailors and explorers, and expects their followers to do so as well, might have a duty like this one.
Succor those who travel the sea and unknown lands. Give them shelter and rest before their continue their journeys.
A bond term in a covenant is a commitment to work toward a specific goal, to try to bring about a specific set of conditions. Again, this would be a template for creating duties to work toward certain conditions.
A deity that wants to see wind power harnessed might have a duty like this one.
Teach those who build ships and mills how to better use the wind’s bounty. The power of Brother Sky frees people to see the world and from tedious work.
A commitment term in a covenant is an agreement to perform in a particular role. In Book of Immortals these are each unique, named positions in the immortal world, but here it is likely to be to serve a particular role in society.
A deity whose followers gain abilities that make them particularly good sailors might have a duty like this one.
Take to the sea on board ship, be it as sailor or officer as your abilities suit, for you are my hands and eyes upon the seas.
A nemesis term in a covenant is a commitment to destroy and humiliate a particular enemy. This might be a unique creature, a group of related or similar creatures, or a combination (especially when the group supports the unique creature).
A deity might oppose the powers of hell, especially that one, and have a duty like this one.
Destroy the Arch-Devil Espritis, raze the towers of its sycophants in the mortal realm and salt their lands that nothing may there grow.
It is of course unlikely that any particular follower will ever actually encounter Arch-Devil Espritis, but almost any of the could conceivably spoil the plans of its followers in the prime plane.
An offerings term in a covenant requires the immortal to give up some measure of their being: blood, magic, materials, or power. That is, a large number of hit points that require a long time to heal (or Constitution loss, if others offer the blood), the ability to cast spells at all for a time, treasure or other valuables that the immortal acquired through time-consuming effort, or some amount of Aura (points of mojo used to power their immortal abilities). The sacrifices expected of mortal followers might be more symbolic and probably shouldn’t be too hard to complete.
A deity of the air might simply have directions on how to go about worship.
Accompany your prayers with scents pleasing to the Goddess: sandalwood, Midnight Seduction perfume, or the steam of chamomile tea.
A quest term in a covenant requires an immortal to go through another challenge (basically) that fits a story in the epic cycle of the world, and may require the immortal to play a role in similar stories when other mortals go through this again. This is not a great fit for my purpose, but I’ll use it as a template for identifying the sorts of quests a deity might expect of their followers.
A deity of explorers might require a duty like this.
Follow the wind to places unknown, and return to share the new path.
A ritual term in a covenant requires the immortal to perform a certain ceremony at a set time (and possibly place), or the world will cave in. (Well, not really; if the immortal fails the potential failure can cause a backlash that obliterates the immortal… but there are second chances to prevent it). In my case I think I’ll use this term as a template to identify rites and ceremonies to be performed, without the potential for disaster (probably).
The Greeting of the North Wind could be a ritual duty as follows.
Come the frigid season, greet the North Wind as a welcome guest, the he knows your people do not spurn him when they take shelter from his cold.
Covenants in Classic Play: Book of Immortals are a way for the immortal to gain power (new immortal gifts), and as such they have game mechanical costs and effects.
These game mechanical costs and effects are of little use to me, but the covenant term templates are useful for me in devising dogma, tenets, and duties that might be part of a domain aspect.
One of the ‘related content’ links below goes to Non-Class Development and Small Gods. I’d forgotten about this post, and it could have saved me a fair bit of time had I reread it before writing. It doesn’t change anything that I’ve written above, since I’m working on developing story-related elements.
Still, I think it could be useful in my West Marches-style setting, when I get back to it, since finding lost temples and reclaiming them by forging agreements with the deities are an important element of the campaign.
It is really interesting how this relates to “real world” mythology and breaks it all down into a system. I’m not used to thinking of “covenants” this way and yet they can certainly work that way. I feel like this is the basis for some really great world building angled toward some really great plots.
Thank you, that’s my goal in this series. I’ve wanted to get this book written for quite a while, and the A-Z Challenge is a good motivator.