WHY’S THAT? Commune with Deity

By | February 2, 2019

In the Forthright Core Rulebook, the first example of a Manufacturing Project is the classic D&D spell “Commune with Deity.” It reads as follows:

COMMUNE WITH DEITY (11 Complexity)

This ritual allows the spellcaster to have one conversation with a divine being. Deities reside on a higher plane of existence, which counts as Extreme Range (10 Complexity). The functionality is similar to the Vehicle Boost Comm Array (1 Complexity).

When compared with the Grenade Launcher (84 Complexity) immediately following it, it becomes clear that in Forthright, it’s easier to speak with a god than blow up 4 dudes at a time. Why’s that?

First, in a magical world of active gods (such as the ritual presumes), gods will not explicitly shun mortal contact. Speaking with mortals is a great way to get them to do what you want, either through trickery, negotiation, or moral and emotional appeal. Given that, it should not be preposterously difficult to speak with a deity in such a universe.

Second, the spell only allows a conversation. It offers the spellcaster no guarantee that the deity will speak the truth, offer helpful information and advice, or take any action on the spellcaster’s behalf. It instead opens the door to story. The narrative tension isn’t in the casting of the spell, it’s in what the spellcaster will do or say once the deity is paying attention.

Third, it’s a one-time deal. The ritual costs 11 Complexity (or about 2 working weeks, or 88 hours!! of ritual preparation) to create, and it allows one conversation. That conversation might not even go well or be helpful. To say that communicating with a deity is cheap or easy is, well, not really accurate.

But why is it so much cheaper than the Grenade Launcher?

First, the Grenade Launcher is a permanent device: it lets you blow up 4 dudes simultaneously, no matter what Fighting Stance you’re in, in every round of every combat going forward. That’s an average of 26 Harm per attack, in a system where the average Harm per attack is 5. That’s a pretty big deal, it’s a weapon that effectively turns you into a whole Team.

(And it’s honestly broken, the upcoming Toolkit changes how weapons like the Grenade Launcher work so they don’t completely break campaigns.)

Second, the Grenade Launcher closes the door on story. Dealing Harm and defeating enemies is valued highly in the system because it both represents character power and because, by expressing that power, events reach a conclusion.

That’s a great thing, and players naturally want that kind of ability. The power to conclude a story the way you want is a key element of play. But it’s still a conclusion, and we value those mathematically higher than we do opening gambits.

Which is why, if you look at the math, you’ll see that a single grenade that does an average of 26 Harm is still slightly more expensive than a one-time Commune ritual (14 Complexity instead of 11).

Does it feel “realistic?” Admittedly, no. People have built entire industries about making destruction bigger, badder, and more affordable. But it does reflect storytelling potential and power, and that is the beating heart of the Forthright engine.

And, after all, if you don’t like it – change it! That’s what House Rules are for, and we encourage their use. That’s how you make your game, and your Gamescape, your own.

Thanks for reading this first post in the WHY’S THAT series. We’re going to be doing more of these to answer questions we see or hear frequently, to give a little insight into our thought process and how we play the game.

Happy gaming!