Jeff asked a question about cleric spells on G+, the normal Vancian system being too much like "a snap-your-fingers-and-God-comes-running affair."
I agree wholeheartedly, and if you've been following my blog you probably know I have my players draw dominoes to see if petitions for aid are answered. I've spent a lot of brain cycles on this, trying to make it simple enough for even new players. And just when I think I have the system as simple as it is going to get, I find I'm not really satisfied with it.
Sure, the ways of the gods, or your ancestors, or your totem, are mysterious. They know more than you and are wiser. How can you know whether a petition will be answered or not? But as a mechanic it really sucks when in the heat of need, your petitions go unanswered again and again and again. I've seen more players disappointed than helped by this system. And I'm pretty sure my players have little interest in playing the class because of it. So what to do?
A New Approach
I want to keep the mystery in divine aid, but not in whether prayers will be heard or not. So maybe I can shift the mystery to how prayers are answered. What if I made a more general spur-type chart of aid granted? Clerics will get a certain # of petitions answered a day, but how they are answered is up to the divine power (or in this case our interpretation of the chart).
This will require more work, but could be potentially cool. I'd want the aid to come in a form that fits the power where possible; Zeus tends to send lighting & thunder, the wolf totem- a wolf. But I'd also like to have a bit of choice for the petitioner so that the miracles will fit them, maybe they like little animals coming to their aid, maybe they are more of the persuasion of melting enemy faces off. Either way, pc clerics would begin to resemble distinct saints as they grew in power.
I need to think more about how I'd construct this "Aid Granted" chart,
maybe for any dangerous situation it would have general entries of the
type: "smite enemies," "escape granted," "unharmable," "hidden," etc. I
guess it takes away some of the strategy if miracles just become get-out-of--jail-free cards. Then the player's choice becomes: when do I ask for help because I can only ask a few times.
Another possibility that could work in tandem with the mysterious miracles above are random boons clerics would get at the beginning of each game session (this idea comes from Jeff's question). This would make for miraculous powers that are more useful and tool-like for players-- "I've been granted the ability to walk on water, lets go to the sunken dungeon!" But I would want a big list, at least 100, so that it would always be fresh and interesting. Probably should have room for the flavor of their divine power too. Hmm, I wonder if I could just use my Spell-Like Effects spur for these boons.