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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Lords of Olympus: The Destroyer of Worlds

In Lords of Olympus, both characters with Advanced Olympian Magic and Advanced Primordial Magic can effectively destroy entire worlds (and by “worlds” I mean anything from the small cozy pocket realm of a deity to an entire vast universe with millions of stars and uncounted gazillions of life forms).  This is an awesome level of power that theoretically, a PC might be able to have right from the start of a campaign (I say “theoretically” because some GMs will choose not to allow Advanced Powers during character creation; but in any case, its still a power that one way or another will be reasonably accessible to PCs).

How does a GM handle a level of power this big in the hands of his players’ characters?  The short answer is: let them use it.  There are worlds that will have safeguards, of course; but generally speaking, if a PC with this power really wants to blow up an entire universe, and he’s not immensely stupid in how he goes about it, everything suggests he should succeed.  There’s no “chance of failure” involved in these powers, assuming he has enough time to reach the critical mass of the energy he’s putting in, that universe WILL be destroyed.

What’s to stop PCs from going around committing “Cosmocide” rampantly? Mainly that its not very well seen by any of the other gods.  Destroying another god’s personal realm is a lot like if you burned down somebody’s house. And there’s a good chance on top of that you might be burning down his house with all his favorite pets, some of his most valuable stuff, maybe even lovers and illegitimate children he never told you about living inside there!  Its the sort of thing that qualifies for massive retribution.  Even destroying a world no one lays specific claim to can be problematic: you can’t know who might be just passing through that realm at the time and might get caught in the carnage; it also disrupts the known paths of the Divine Roads that travel from one reality to the next, screwing up everyone’s business and/or vacation plans. So destroying a world that isn’t owned by any deity is still equivalent to blowing up a big chunk of public road (whether its a “rural route” or a “major highway” depends on where its positioned along the Divine Roads).  And you never know which god might not have owned the place but considered it one of his favorite “truck stops” along the way to or from Olympus or Atlantis or the Underworld.

This means that clever PCs are going to make a point of trying not to get caught being the one doing the world-killing, unless their whole point is to send a serious “fuck everyone” kind of message. GMs should avoid the temptation, if a player is clever about not being seen, to have the PC found out just-because; of course, if there’s a good reason why or how an NPC (or another PC) could trace it all back to the apocalypse-mongering PC, then its all well and good; but it shouldn’t happen just out of some gut GM-instinct that PCs doing huge campaign-changing things must always have blowback.

In general, this one of the hardest things about running games at the Lords of Olympus power-level; a GM has to rethink how he handles thing, and cut out the instinct of always wanting to restrict player power.  Nothing sucks worse than a game where PCs are given enormous power and then discover that the entire system, or the setting, are set up to make it impossible for them to ever really use said power.  Make sure that everyone sees the consequences of massive actions like world-destroying, but don’t prevent it from happening out of knee-jerk conservatism, and don’t insist that the PC who did it must always pay the piper.


Currently Smoking: Castello Fiammata + Image Perique

(Originally posted June 7, 2013; on the old blog)

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