Towards this end (with apologies to any religious readers!), I first thought it would be interesting to examine delusional insanity, or "progressive systematized insanity". If I compared a character’s growing relationship with their deity using progressive insanity as a framework, I thought I might be able to extrapolate a usable outline for how to measure a PC's progressive ability to communicate with their gods (I know, a little crazy itself). If there was a fairly clear, symptomatic line, I thought I might be able to devise level breaks at which various things were possible. So for example, if only late stage loonies hear voices in their heads or experience full blown hallucinations, then correspondingly only very high level characters would have their god speaking or appearing to them directly in some manner. I’m no psychologist though, so if this is possible I’ll leave the task to someone else. Also, the fact that Joan of Arc was credited with having experienced divine visions as a petite fille of only 12 years old seems to deter any notion of PC level progression necessarily relating to the ability to commune with the gods.
I still think of Bruce Galloway’s take on all of this and how logical an approach it is to something so irrational. I had also hoped to standardize the ways in which communication between PCs and their gods occurs in order to set player expectations and hopefully meet their demands for fairness in such exchanges. Now though, I’m not sure that this is possible or even desirable. After all, the gods work in mysterious ways. Though not all gods are as fickle as those in the Greek mythos.
So stepping back from that goal a bit, it still might be useful to devise and prepare some techniques to convey the occasional message from above. The prerequisite to this, of course, is knowing how the gods speak to us, or rather, to our PCs. It seems nearly anything can be attributed to being a sign from above. It would be useful to outline a number of ways in which people have traditionally been said to experience communication from or even with their deity. I won’t presume to try and address the entire subject properly here - I’m just hoping to get the ball rolling by writing some ideas down and maybe stimulating some further thoughts of my own on the subject.
A subtle method of communication from a deity can be found in the form of a dream. Intangible and easily forgotten upon awakening, a dream allows for the possibility of divine communication in any of the more concrete forms found in a wakeful state and more. That is, a dream may be of a simple scene, a recreation of the days events, or a fanciful but possible future event. It can also be filled with fantastic or magical imagery.
The problem with dreams in our games though, is that merely mentioning to a player that their PC had a dream implies that it holds some meaning worth noting. This is the exact opposite of how we know dreams to work - that they probably don’t mean anything and that they’re certainly not worth mentioning to anyone else. Except perhaps to a shrink or lover. If I’m going to be using dreams as a resource in my game, it might be best to understand them as only worth mentioning precisely because they must be portentous.
I don’t like this. I would prefer a dream’s appearance in the game to not be so predictable, but the only way to mitigate the problem this sudden appearance raises would be to make reference to them more frequently, closer to how we experience them outside of the game. It could be a lot of fun, requiring myself to make sure that every so often I mention to a player what their PC dreamt last night. Oh the random tables I could make. The players might even begin to assume that all of their characters’ dreams have meaning. Maybe they’d be right - maybe all dreams do.