As a DM, I often found it challenging to integrate gods (deities) and the worship of gods (piety) into a campaign. As a result, I found it easiest to just ignore both. Recently however, after giving it more thought, I came up with a framework that integrates both quite nicely into my campaign… and maybe yours. Below you will find my thoughts on how a god might reward a player’s devotion in the areas of:
Short and Long Rests
On page 186 of the Players Handbook, you’ll find the rules regarding rest. On a short rest it says characters can regain a portion of their hit points and on a long rest they can regain all their hit points (and spell slots too!). What it doesn’t explain is ‘why’ or ‘who’.
Why does a player character heal so quickly? After a battle, a fighter could go from dozens of hit points to only a few yet after an 8 hour rest, all wounds are healed.
Who gets this healing ability? Is it everyone and every creature, monsters and beasts included? Of course not. This would make the world a Utopia where a kid could break their arm and by morning have it all restored. So much for a dirty, gritty medieval atmosphere!
Perhaps now you can see why I am writing this post. We need to clear up the ‘why’ and the ‘who’.
Deities and Piety are the answer! Why can you heal so quickly? Because it is a blessing from the god you worship. It’s not for the common person or common creature but for the special, god-touched creatures of the world.
This blessing is given only to the pious chosen few. For my campaign, this means player characters, select NPCs and important monsters or beasts. The common thread between these groups are that they are chosen by a god to champion their will and do their bidding. In game terms, each character has a god that they worship. When the adventure begins, something in the characters back story has influenced their god to adopt them as a champion in the making. I see this relationship similar to a shoe company sponsoring a basketball player. As such, the first benefit in this relationship is the ability to heal quickly. Others in world are not so lucky and must heal though traditional or magical means. So for the typical villager or woodland animal, they could restore 1 hit point per day, week or month, depending on the injury. They would need herbs, medicine and a lot of time.
Note however that this god/champion relationship is not restricted to just player characters. There could be many NPCs who have this relationship including evil creatures who worship evil gods. So in an adventure, some monsters may come back healed if allowed to escape. All dragons and legendary creatures would have a god blessing them for sure, but it could be any significant plot creature or boss at the DM’s discretion.
Thus concludes my framework for explaining WHY a rest restores so much health and WHO can benefit from this powerful blessing.
Another option for integrating the gods into the character’s adventuring life is through experience points and leveling. Page 15 of the PHB explains merely that leveling happens but not how it happens. For NPCs in my campaign, leveling occurs after months of hard work with a trainer. For the player character however, advancement is much more swift and they are able to level in an instant through the blessings of their god.
In many campaigns where gods play a minor role, praying is something that is regarded as something cleric mainly does. In my god-centric campaign however, I’d like the players to pray more often and to encourage this activity, I give them the possibility of a blessing. Once per day, the character may pray to their god for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, they can roll a religion check. The DC is always 20 or higher with a bonus or negative given depending on the place where the character prayed. If the character is in a temple there would be a large bonus but if their were in the forest or deep in a dungeon, there could be a negative. A failure would mean that there is no response from their god while a success would signify that the god has heard the prayers. The reward? It’s up to the DM or course but some examples would be the answer to a question, healing or restoration or maybe a buff like Aid, False Life or a super Bless that would last for a day instead of just a minute.
Breaking the Contract
The example of a basketball player who is sponsored by a shoe company is really the perfect analogy for player character’s role with their deity. It’s a partnership where both entities benefit. The player gets powerful blessings for working hard and staying true to the teachings of their god and the deity gets a champion to go on quests and as their champion gains levels and performs great deeds, the god gains renown amongst the pantheon of fellow deities as well as more followers.
But just like a famous basketball player who is dropped by their sponsor for committing a crime or becoming an embarrassment, so too can a god end the relationship with a character who changes alignments or acts in a way that does not please the deity. When this happens, the player may lose the benefit of gaining hit points through resting, instant leveling without going to a trainer and the possibility of a blessing by praying at a temple. For example, a druid that burns down a forest may lose favor with their god until restitution through penance is made.