Having deities interact with your players
For most readers, gods or deities in D&D will mimic the real life design that arises from centuries of stories and cultural milieu. This is a vision of gods as being unseen, distant observers who interact rarely and mysteriously with our lives. This is what most players will expect by default, but it is not a requirement for your D&D universe. Building a universe in which deities play an active role, respond frequently, and even show themselves within the world could be a fun backdrop for your story.
Before having gods interact with your players, you should set some ground rules for when they could appear. This will create consistency for the players so they can form expectations about how divine intervention works and it will protect you from accidentally deploying a god at the wrong time or an inappropriate time. Here are some examples of when you could have a god respond to the player(s):
- A desperate moment when all hope seems lost
- A critical moment in the quest when their god is needed
- When a party member performs exceptionally well in both their roleplaying performance and the dice roll when calling out to their god
- In a specific circumstance, where a party member has temporarily earned the favor of their god, or the wrath of another
- When a party member has shown unwavering faith in their deity for a long period of time and is finally rewarded
- As a punishment or penalty for disobiedience, sacrilege, or evil deeds
Note: Be careful when using gods in a desperate situation. Players may see that as the “DM saving them”. It may be better to have the god respond, but only by assisting the party in a small way (a glimmer of hope). Ultimately, the players should still determine their fates.
When a god does respond, keep their interaction brief and mysterious. This is not a Q&A. Gods basically represent a moment when the players are asking the DM for secret information about the plot or how the game works or how their DM thinks. Their response (aka your response) should be “incomplete” and leave the players wondering what it really meant while still giving them a nugget of truth. This will keep the story dramatic and save you from the challenging task of trying to roleplay a god.
Another great idea, proposed by IndirectLemon and Ymenk on Reddit, suggests using intermediaries instead of having direct communication with a god. For example:
- A player could experience divine intervention through a dream which points them in the right direction.
- A player could have a vision which shows them the way or reveals some future insight to help guide them.
- Their god could respond by producing a miracle and physically altering the world around them.
- An angel or avatar could appear to the players and speak on behalf of their god.