Glossary of gming terms -Deus Ex Machina

March 9, 2007 at 1:38 pm (Articles, DND)

Treasure tables brings us glossary of gming terms.

Latin for “God from the machine,” a deus ex machina is a plot device that dramatically alters the outcome of a situation without regard to suspension of disbelief or the actions of the PCs.

We have to thank Agatha christie a lot for this. She was very against pretty much everything that didn’t make logical sense. But for a long time in history this techique was used all over the place. Its still sometimes used, often with denials of it all makes sense in the back plot.

However, in dnd the deities can interfere in the world and players might sometimes cause a deus ex solution by well, calling in the deus. The act of deity, is well the act of a deity.

Reading the old greek myths give a lot of ideas of the deitys causing all manner of problems for the heros. I gave myself this problem quite earlier on, by my most overunning theme and plotline, containing the deities. An older gm would have run away going never, never, never, are you mad?

So I looked at the gods personalities. And at what was happening in the overrunning plot.  

A couple of solutions appeared, the gods proving themselves sometimes more of a hinderance than a help (being dumb (orcan god), just rushing in (dwarven war god), not really wanting to help (azural)), some expecting payment for anything they do ((hades, zeus,) often a heafty cost, a favor, a quest, a statpoint sacrificed etc), some doing the whole you will never learn if I do everything for you (green eyed lady, death) or the If I interfere I get in trouble (mercury), the deity in question being unable to at the time (balor).

However I dont want it to come across either as just a gm-method for stopping the players being clever. I dont like that. So the ability of the players to be able to use a deus for a deus ex, is never completely removed. The gods might be an ackward bunch who often care more about themselves than their charges, but they still have their power (well unless something very bad has happened to that god, in which case the players should be fixing that (corellan, balor)).

Another meaning of deus ex machina, is the god or ghost in the machine. When the machine hinders or helps without you having anything to do it. But thats more useful a thought for cyberpunk rather than dnd.    

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