Godsend in depth

Over the last few days, we’ve survived the space trip from hell, founded a new colony, and watched new species grow from sentience’s first glimmers to reality-manipulating powerhouses.

Today we find absolute power facing its doom in Godsend, written by Khelren, and illustrated by Jess Taylor and Tithi Luadthong.

It’s the end of days. The signs are everywhere, even if fearful mortals ignore them. The desperate, the lost, the downtrodden call out for aid. And you are the Divinities who will save – or damn – them.

You decide what domain your god represents. Maybe the gentle peace of Death, the balanced scales of Justice, the deep lore of Knowledge?

You describe how your god chooses to appear; the rites and laws and worshippers of their cult; the wonders, shrines and threats that mark the landscape; and the epithet and sub-domain that add nuance to your god.

You also decide your place in the pantheon. Maybe one deity killed you, and that’s something you hold over them. Maybe another deity is your spouse and so that you’re equal in the pantheon. The leaders of the pantheon can command their lessers but must also heed their calls for aid.

You now have a world of wonders and perils, and a pantheon of deities ruling over it. But the power of a deity is subtle and ephemeral: they can see the strands of destiny and whisper into the minds of their followers, but the oncoming apocalypse needs a more overt intervention.

That’s where Avatars come in. Each player also creates a mortal who somehow caught the attention of another player’s deity – or stole power from them. Avatars are defined by their Calling: the glorious and destroying Angel, the compassionate Martyr, the rebellious Prometheus, or one of the 5 others.

Alongside the powers granted you by your Calling, you pick a role in your Divinity’s faith – Zealot, Heretic, Lost, Hierophant, Sybarite, and so on. Whatever you pick it says something about the faith, your place in it, and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Finally, you pick your stats. Avatars have four: Charisma, Valour, Will and Wisdom. But here’s where Godsend differs from standard PbtA games: you never roll dice with these stats. Those who wield divine power are not bound by the whims of fate.

Instead, when you trigger a Move, you make your mark on the world. Then pick a number of extra benefits up to your rating in one stat, and a number of calamities to avoid up to another stat’s rating. The calamities you didn’t pick are left to the GM to use as they desire.

An example move.

What this means is that as an Avatar you’re constantly making world-changing decisions, and telling grand stories of deities and demigods. As you protect cities and drown armies, as you steal the sun and seduce the moon, as you die and are reborn, your Deity must try to guide you

Even gods struggle to oppose the tides of destiny. By the efforts of their Avatar, they can shift their fate towards the world’s Salvation – or its Ruin. And when a god’s cult becomes strong enough, they can move the world to its next age – one step closer to the apocalypse.

Each time the age turns gods reshape the map, adding cities and monsters and plagues and wonders according to their current fate and their Domain. Maybe their avatars survived the turning of ages and return to the god’s service, or maybe the god must choose a new representative?

And avatars can fall, make no mistake. You’ll face scheming factions, giant monsters, even Titans that a group of Avatars may struggle to bring down. Or if the story needs a mortal perspective, you can see what it’s like to play a god’s Apostle fighting in the Avatar’s shadow.
Godsend has a firmer division between layers of play than Legacy, as you don’t control your god’s avatar. That distance adds more negotiation to play, and serves the game’s theme: do you trust your god to bend fate in your favour? Will their blessings be cherished or spurned?

And as ages pass and the world comes closer to the End of Days, will you make the sacrifices your god demands? Will you help them damn the world if they so desire? Or will you reject divine authority and make your own decisions about the world’s fate?

So that’s Godsend: a diceless, philosophical, standalone rpg about devotion, faith and power. Please do check it out, if only for the fantastic art!

Tomorrow, I’ll take you from the high-level, cosmic-scale stories of Godsend to its opposite: the life-and-death struggles of a handful of mortal heroes, fighting back a corrosive supernatural force from outside reality. The blood moon is rising and the castle is calling…

Legacy 2e Handout Sheets spreads