Prayers (5e Variant Rule)

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These rules are designed to encourage your players to interact with your pantheon, and illustrate it in concrete ways. I tried to keep them light (design notes at the end).

Definitions

tl;dr A prayer is a short ritual or ceremony, performed in a consecrated place, which provides a a temporary bonus.

Prayers are sets of movements, psalms, drawings, etc. Each domain has an associated prayer, and each god can have multiple associated prayers. Prayers are easily shared: they can be taught, inscribed in a book or on a wall, learned by reading & memorizing them. However, one can not improvise a prayer, they have to be learned somehow. (Optionnal) each character starts knowing a prayer of their choice. If they are a cleric or a paladin, then know 1 more prayer.

Consecrated places are required to perform prayers. Most temples encountered during the adventure are consecrated places. A player with a divine class can spend 5 minutes to consecrate temporarily a place for their god; a small place has to be set up. A player with a divine class can spend a week to consecrate permanently a place for their god; at least a whole room has to be arranged.

Mechanics
  • In a place consecrated to a specific god, one can perform one of their prayer, or one of their domain's prayer.
  • A prayer takes 5 minutes to perform.
  • A prayer's effects last until the next long rest, unless stated otherwise.
  • A prayer's effects prevent other prayers from working until the next long rest.
Domain prayers
Domain Effect
Knowledge You have advantage on your next (choose one) history/arcane check.
Life You have advantage on your next (choose one) death saving throw/medicine check.
Light You have advantage on your next (choose one) perception/insight check.
Nature You have advantage on your next (choose one) nature/animal handling check.
Tempest You have advantage on your next (choose one) athletics/intimidation check.
Trickery You have advantage on your next (choose one) trickery/stealth check.
War You have advantage on your next (choose one) initiative/melee or ranged attack.
Death You have advantage on your next (choose one) death saving throw/melee or ranged attack.
God prayers
Domain Effect
Avandra When travelling, you have advantage to every check to keep your way.
Bane The next attempt to frighten you fails.
Pelor Plants you tend to today can not degrade (vermin, diseases, bad weather, etc) for the next 24h.
Torog You have advantage on your next survival check if underground.
The Raven Queen Undeads of CR less 1 or lower can not enter the consecrated place.
Creating your own prayers

I wrote a prayer for each domain for completeness, and a few others for a part of the Dawn War pantheon. I encourage you to create your own prayers, to showcase your god's agendas and/or values. Do not limit yourself to gods: a powerful demon or fey could have some too!

For evil gods, you may want to find tempting prayers.

Quests and adventures

Here are a few thoughts on how to integrate these mechanics in your adventures:

  • a few townsfolks have heard of a prayer, lost decades long ago, or performed far away, that could save/protect the village!
  • enemies of the realm seek to destroy Pelor's temple to hurt the harvests!
  • a priest of life domain need the PCs to protect him while he builds and consecrate a new temple.
  • the goblin's presence in the region was manageable, until someone built a temple to Maglubiyet/Bane/Gruumsh, empowering them!
  • your PC have destroyed this temple. Now their name are knownn, and the god's followers are hunting them!
Design notes

I used a lot "advantage for your next roll". In my opinion, the advantage gives a very tangible and tempting bonus; the 1 prayer/day limit (and 1 advantage/prayer for my prayers) should not be too cumbersome. I think that small static bonuses (+1 to hit for a day, etc) are a good option too.

I wanted the prayers to give concrete (albeit situational) bonuses, to have them attractive. I tried to not mess to much the game balance, but feel free to adjust them! Keep in mind that the NPCs worship the gods too: a group of Vecna's cultists with advantage on their first attack can be an interesting threat. Also if the players try to abuse them, it should not be difficult to have the world react to that (the god realize the players are exploiting their favours, and stops giving them/destroys the temple/sends a powerful paladin after them; or the players start to be known as very pious people, attracting enemy cultists or being treated differently by NPCs).

Prayers need not be useful to adventurers (like the Pelor's prayer). They can be used just to add depth to a cult/the world.

I had trouble understanding the Tempest domain. I hope the associated prayer makes sense.

For my game I use the gritty realism rules; under them, I have a prayer's effect last until the next short rest.


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