D&D Ideas — Piety

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Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is piety, which we discussed in our live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST and talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of piety, in Deep Breaths adventurers encounter a procession of lizardfolk making a pilgrimage to honor the Drowned One and the party make convenient offerings to their elemental deity. This and 54 other dynamic encounters ready to drop right into your game come straight Out of the Box here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. Our second channel continues to grow and evolve! Nerdarchy Live joins the flagship Nerdarchy the YouTube channel as the new home for our long form video content like Live Chat Revivified and live game plays. Learn more about Nerdarchy Live and how to make sure you don’t miss a thing right here.

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Deep Breaths is one of 55 dynamic encounters ready to drop right into your game come straight Out of the Box. [Art by Kim Van Deun]

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Delving Dave’s Dungeon

Piety is first introduced in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons in the Dungeon Master’s Guide in chapter 1 under Renown. Mythic Odysseys of Theros really drills down on the Piety system. You can rip the section right from MOoT and transport into your own 5E D&D worlds. It’s a great way to add depth to your worlds via faith based characters who aren’t divine spellcasters like clerics or paladins. Heck, I don’t even know if divine spellcaster is a term in 5E D&D.

This aside your fighter or barbarian character could have powers granted to them by their god. But why stop there? What about NPCs or monsters? Think about your players running into a podunk village that is super pious and religious. Most of the villagers have some spellcasting abilities granted to them by their Piety score.

How about monsters? A very long lived monster could have a Piety score giving them power far beyond the standard challenge rating.

These are mechanical ways to add to the game. It would have a larger story element to your games as well. Dungeon Masters and players alike should think about how piety and pious character will affect their role playing.

  • What is the temperament of their deity?
  • What does their deity want?
  • What kind of holidays and religious observances would they participate in?

From Ted’s Head

Serving the gods in a fantasy world is a very easy choice to make. The gods’ power is mighty and their wrath can be incredible. But serving them can offer great rewards as well.

Offering prayers could be a simple act of common phrases brought into your world. Look at how the real world phrase, “God damn it!” presents very differently than how most people see it as “goddammit.” The original was a curse literally asking for divine intervention, now it is an expression one says when they are upset.

When the gods exist and are powerful enough to bestow amazing powers on their devout followers it can dictate how characters can act. It also offers numerous roleplaying opportunities. In Theros the gods interact with mortals enough that they can even be your typical quest givers.

But if the gods are your quest givers, what does that mean? Are the quests harder or more meaningful to the world? Or does it mean even the parameters of the quest need to be figured out? What if the quest is a riddle or skill challenge the party has to resolve and if they get wrong means dire consequences could follow? When the gods are the quest givers the rewards can either be thank you for your service or here is a major artifact or anywhere in between.

This can be a lot of fun to play with as well. You send them on this hard and practically meaningless quest, in the party’s eyes anyway, and they expect this great reward because they barely survived and finally get in front of the god looking down upon them the god says in a truly powerful way, “Thank…You…All. I am sure that was not easy.”

You end it there and several sessions later let them find out the encounter had far more meaning in the world and maybe a job well done has the impact it should. The world or a portion of it has been drastically changed forever, for the better because of those actions. Once they make this realization only then will the god reveal the overall plan and how mortals have the ability to do so much more for the world. Yes the god could have destroyed those evil doers, but in so doing it only breeds laziness and mortal heroes must step up and change the world or it will only be doomed.

So serving the gods can be fun and worth it. They have way more power than any mortal should get so why not follow a cause and make the world a better place?

From the Nerditor’s desk

Nerdarchist Dave covered mechanical benefits of Piety in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons while Nerdarchist Ted explored ideas about how deities in this fantasy settings can inspire belief in player characters. This leaves me the sweet spot of exploring how piety can be an incredibly useful roleplaying aid for players in 5E D&D.

Whether or not you’re seeking material benefits for your character as a reward for showing reverence to the gods, incorporating some measure of piety adds a ton of personality. This is especially true for clerics devoted to particular gods but things like prayers, daily rituals and traditions and even your character’s outlook, world view and perspective are all impacted by piety.

Think about our own world. You don’t have to be pious to participate in cultural aspects of piety. Holidays like St. Patrick’s Day offer a good example. It is a cultural and religious celebration of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Take away all the partying and there’s still people all over the world who observe the religious part.

Recognizing the gods and their influence on the multiverse becomes much easier to understand in games like 5E D&D too because, say what you will, their presence is explicit. Characters need not be clerics to say a prayer to a god of battle before combat ensues, wish for the sea god’s blessing before an ocean voyage or even take part in a frontier community’s religious tradition praising the god of hearth, home and harvest.

Piety, and likewise many other sorts of personality traits give 5E D&D characters new ways to engage with the setting. Observant Dungeon Masters can pick up on these things and over time you’ll experience lots of rewards. Sometimes these will come in the form of tangible benefits you can mark on your character sheet. Along the way they’ll help create the best kind of treasure though — memorable experiences between you and the other players that come about through developing all those special features into a realized character you and your group know and love.

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