Donations and Intervention

In the heroic Greek myths, heroes and kings often made sacrifices to the gods to gain good favor on voyages, or were punished for not making sacrifices at the appropriate times. This idea was common among the Greek people at the time, and sacrifices to the gods were a common occurrence, whether as a part of a feast, holy day, or celebration such as a birth or a wedding. To reflect this, the following system gives rules for how to reward characters who make sacrifices to the gods. It is designed so that the sacrifices are inexpensive enough that a typical peasant can be rewarded for a minor sacrifice (even pouring out a cup of wine to the gods may be enough), and the rewards are minor but significant enough that it’s appealing to heroes and commoners alike without ridiculous effects (no unexpected heal spells out of the blue). The costs are also balanced against the cost of simply buying the effect in a standard campaign (why spend 100 gold in sacrifices to gain a cure light wounds when you can just purchase a potion?).

Many deities are casually worshiped by the people of the world just by making donations to a temple or shrine of that deity. If the character has recently (within the past week) donated to the church of a deity, and he is in a situation relevant to the portfolio of that deity, the deity may intervene in some small way to aid that character. When the circumstances are appropriate, the player should point out the situation to the GM, and if the GM agrees, an intervention roll is made. The chance of a minor intervention is equal to 1% x the number of silver pieces donated by the character to that faith in the past week. If the roll is a success, the character immediately benefits from a guidance, resistance, or virtue orison (which may reverse a just-failed check or saving throw if the player remembers to suggest the intervention after the roll is made). If the intervention d% roll fails, the character receives no intervention and receives no other chances for intervention from that deity until another donation is made. Sacrifices in excess of 100 sp have no effect (donations only count toward the next possible intervention, and it’s not possible to “pay ahead” for more than one intervention).

Should a number of people make a donation as a group, any one of the group can call for an intervention based on the total donation; failure means that no other rolls for intervention based on that donation can be made.

One could argue that the gods have no interest in money. Not true. Their temples need maintenance (and new temples need to be built), guards need to be paid, priests need to be fed and clothed, and so on. Gods themselves may need no money, but to accomplish their goals in the world it helps to have gold.

Money is not the only sort of appropriate donation. Goods (including food for the priests or to be given to the needy), items of significance to the church or temple (such as remains of a long dead hero, or a religious relic, or even church created magic items), and services (from repairing an old church’s window to digging a garden for a monastery) are all appropriate donations, and should have their value converted to silvers for the purpose of figuring the intervention chance (based on a common laborer’s daily wage of 1 silver piece or other hireling wages). Sacrifices are also a suitable form of donation (the act of worship in animal sacrifice enhances the taste of ambrosia and nectar, the food of the gods), with the animal’s cost in silver pieces counting as a donation to the deity. Treasure items and other valuables (or even food in poorer areas) are also acceptable sacrifices, and are usually burned, thrown into the sea, or some other method where the mortal loses the item and the gods can claim it; no priest is needed for this form of sacrifice. In Greek culture, animals of high quality are prized as sacrifices, with perfect animal specimens (such as a snow-white calf or sheep) valued even higher. Some deities have preferences for certain animals (Zeus and Poseidon favor bulls, for example); these kinds of sacrifices can count up to 150% of the animal’s normal cost. Human sacrifices are abhorrent to the gods and are more likely to bring curses or permanent bad luck rather than any favorable intervention.

For example, Xanthos steps between an angry hydra and his unconscious ally Anaxis, making sure that beast doesn’t carry away his fallen friend for a meal. The hydra attacks Xanthos and reduces him to 0 hit points. Xanthos’ player James reminds the DM that Xanthos sacrificed a sheep (worth 2 gp, or 20 sp) to Athena (who represents protection and tactics in war) yesterday, and asks for an intervention roll, as he is acting as a protector for his fallen friend. The GM agrees that this is an appropriate circumstance for an intervention by Athena, rolls percentile dice, and gets a 19 ... success! The goddess intervenes by targeting Xanthos with a virtue spell, bringing him to 1 hp. Xanthos is able to attack the hydra and cut off its head on his turn (muttering a quick prayer of thanks to Athena for giving him the foresight to learn Improved Sunder). Without the intervention of the virtue spell, Xanthos would have been at 0 hit points (disabled) when he attacked the hydra and would have dropped to -1 hit points for performing a strenuous action while disabled, putting himself and Anaxis at the mercy of the hydra if he failed.

For example, Zale and the other New Argonauts are battling thunderbolt-hurling Cyclopes. One Cyclops strikes Zale with a thunderbolt, and he misses his saving throw by 1 point. Zale’s player Brian knows his character will die if he takes full damage, so he reminds the GM that before they left Aea, capitol of Colchis, Zale spent a week guarding Zeus’ temple for week while its champion was away on a quest (the GM had earlier agreed that this counted as a donation, and priced it based on the daily wage of a “mercenary leader,” so 6 silver pieces per day times 7 days is 42 sp). Zale’s player feels that the god of lightning might intervene to save him from a death by a thunderbolt, and the GM agrees that it might work. The GM rolls percentile, gets a 25 (success!) and retroactively applies a +1 resistance bonus to Zale’s save from a resistance orison granted by the intervention. Zale makes his saving throw, takes half damage, and is able to go on fighting.