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In short, my characters are in a position where they're interacting with aspects of the gods in a mysterious underworld that they have to puzzle their way out of.

Of course, things would be easy if they could just ask the gods for guidance and get a clear answer, and one of the characters is a decently high-level cleric of the chief deity. But I don't want the gods to give them easy answers. In fact, the gods want the heroes to stay here, not to leave.

So is it possible for a god to directly lie to their clerics to further their own cause? Can these aspects of the deities give knowingly bad information to the PCs in furtherance of the story?

Of course, Rule Zero is that if the DM says it, it's true; but I'm concerned about the effect of lying gods on other aspects of the setting. If the gods can lie, can clerics trust the answers of their augury spells or divine guidance spells?

This is in a homemade world, so I can make up the rules, of course; in general, though, it seems like a step that needs to be carefully considered.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you say what makes you think they could not? They are NPCs under your control. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 28 '17 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that an answer may be setting specific, that is, Faerun does not operate like Eberron. As such, you may want to provide the setting you are using. On another note: answers should probably address the various shades of outright lying, lying by omission, or being purposefully misleading (while sticking to the literal truth). Oh, and whether a god can simply not show up (interference on the line?). \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. May 28 '17 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why must the god fib? Can't the god can just tell his cleric Dude, you should totally stay here instead of leaving? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 28 '17 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, so "can they?" Of course, as you note yourself. But what specifically is the question? There's a couple sub-questions in here about "but then can you trust divinations..." It seems to me like you are just kinda wanting to know if this is "a good idea" or not, which is subjective. What specific question do you want help solving that lies under that? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 28 '17 at 23:35
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Yes, but...

Yes, the Gods can lie to their clerics. In fact, there are spells (e.g. Contact other Plane) that can force a deity to lie to you, with the nature of the lie shaped by the personality and goals of the deity in question. This can lead to circumstances where the deity really wants to tell the truth but has to lie and so might do something like tell the exact opposite of the truth and give indication that the statement is a lie, or contact the Cleric after the spell to correct the misunderstanding, or whatever else as befits the deity's M.O.

However, lying when not compelled to is sort of against the code of conduct for a lot of the sorts of deities that a PC Cleric is likely to follow. I don't know if you are using the default deities or have created your own, but, as an example, if you have Heironious or St. Cuthbert lie to a high-level Cleric of theirs out of convenience that would be really out of character. You should consider having the deity just explain what's up to the character instead. "Yes, I know the answer, but I want you to stay here and not figure it out, so if you could go do that, that'd be great, k thx bye". Or whatever it is that the deity wants the Cleric to do. Clerics are on the same team as their deity, often, and so the deity lying to them would in many cases be really weird and also disrespectful. You shouldn't have the God lie in those cases just because it makes things easier for you; you should figure out another solution to your problem.

Furthermore, all of this has nothing to do with the reliability of a player's Augury or Divination spells, which have their own failure cases (each involves a d100 roll) and do not allow for the deity to twist the result of a caster's answer just on a whim. A deity could deceive a player using such spells regardless, perhaps using Modify Memory or the Delude and Conceal Epic Spellcasting Seeds, but doing so would require active intervention and would be equally possible for any other character with the relevant abilities.

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Yes. As a DM, one of your tasks is to produce as impressive, characteristic view to your world for your players. If a god's personality allows lying, then lie. For example, a "god of trickery" or a "god of dirty jokes" could probably lie. The important thing here is to reflect an aspect of your world as well as you can.

The gods of the D&D worlds aren't God in the sense of the Bible (or Torah, or Quran). They are simply unique, super-human beings capable of giving spells. They are not the creators of the world, their capabilities are limited.

Whether the clerics believes the answers also depends on their personality.

Lying to the cleric, or not believing what the god says, is obviously not a lawful thing, so reserve this for the more chaotic side of the alignment matrix. Furthermore, not believing his god is surely not a thing which would deepen the cleric's supernatural connection with his god, although this too can depend on the tenets of the religion.

Augury and similar spells are also a way to inject out-of-game information into the game in an in-world form.

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Gods in D&D are not omniscient nor infallible: there are things they don't know and things they know that are wrong. Answers like "I don't know", "I think ..." and "Maybe ..." are perfectly sensible.

D&D gods are only as prescient as the DM - unless the DM is an obsessive, autocratic railroader - this equates to not very. Answers about the future will be uncertain.

Gods have their own motivations and interests. You have stated that it wants the party to be here. This suggests the answer "I could tell you how to get out but I don't wanna for reasons. Good luck though - rooting for ya."

Mortal clerics, even very powerful mortal clerics, are not very powerful and are of marginal interest to a god. Like a 2 year old at a grown up family party, fun for a while but likely to get blown off if they make too much of a nuisance of themselves. Gods will react differently just like the 2 year old's grandmother, 87 year old great uncle and 17 year old cousin will. In fact, mortal clerics should generally only be dealing with a god's servants - the 843rd peasant from the left doesn't get an audience with the king.

I realise that you want this to be better/different from the RAW ways clerics have of getting info from their gods but I suggest you start there. The divination spells in the book allow, at best, a one sentence answer to a specific question: you don't get short answer formats let alone essay responses. "Better" should not be orders of magnitude better.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ -1: this is radically errant. cf. Cleric spells for interacting with deities, esp. Miracle and Gate. Also published God descriptions v.s. high level Cleric stats. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 28 '17 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gating your diety is a great way to get bounced from the faith (IMHO). Miracle is a request- which can be denied. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B May 28 '17 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JimB Gate is also just a request, when the target is a deity. \$\endgroup\$ – Topquark May 28 '17 at 23:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JimB that is how I read them too. The best information gathering spell is Find the Path which is really specific or Commune which is really cryptic. Miracle can emulate either of those. Gate specifically allows deities to put up a big "No hawkers" sign. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M May 28 '17 at 23:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @topquark it obviously depends on the specific deity, but I think, in general, if a cleric has the idea that a god can be hustled in to save his bacon there is something wrong in the god/cleric relationship - after all the god is to be worshipped. I'm specifically responding to the comment that this answer is radically errant, I don't think so and the spells listed don't make sense as somehow reflecting an error. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B May 28 '17 at 23:53

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