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This involves two player characters: A wealthy cleric and a sorcerer with detect thoughts. They are cooperating whereby the cleric is giving gold to NPCs for free, simply asking them to pray to a god at a certain time of day once a week. The sorcerer is using detect thoughts on the NPCs to make sure he/she is living up to the bargain.

This appears in no way related to anything else that's going on in the campaign. To emphasize, these are random NPCs sought out in a crowd, not even regularly-occuring NPCs. As the DM, I'm humoring them, even keeping things fairly sophisticated in terms of mechanics: I've assigned simple character sheets for these NPCs and have been rolling a D20 + the NPCs religion modifier to see if they do it against a low DC. Most of the time, the result is: "Yea, they are praying to the god."

After which, I just move on, as it's not really advancing the plot. Of course there are ways that I could weave this into the player arcs: that kind of behavior is a bit manipulative or even vindictive, and could make for a character versus self plot device.

However, I think we're all kind of amused as it just being a comical silo theme that comes up every now and then. Of course it's impossible to read their minds and predict exactly what they are planning, if anything. It's also part of the fun to wonder what might be going on. Still, I want to map out as best I can what avenues this could open up down the road, just in the event I'm missing something obvious that might break the game. I would still reward their effort, if anything I'd just increase the difficulty slightly so that the main story arc doesn't become too easy for them if their buying of prayers actually skews the power dynamics in some way down the road.

Question

Is there any spell/cantrip or anything in the known 5e framework that scales really well with people praying at a certain time of day?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin FYI, [divination] = divination magic (like scrying), [divine] = divine magic (like divine intervention), [religions-and-deities] = stuff about gods and their followers (like this question). \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2023 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ How "honest" are those prayers though? Would it be more or less honest than employees of a company talking on linkedin about how passionate they are about their company? \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Aug 8, 2023 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Btw, possibly related question: Player does crazy elaborate things, without the GM knowing where it will lead \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Aug 8, 2023 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Of course it's impossible to read their minds and predict exactly what they are planning, if anything." – Why not just ask what, if anything, they're expecting out of it? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 9, 2023 at 0:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ A transactional relationship of "I do the thing because I expect the god to help me" or "I do the thing to stop the god from hurting me" is still an act of faith. "I do the thing so that guy over there will pay me" is not. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9, 2023 at 3:58

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There's absolutely no reasonable way to break this

First of all, there are no game features that are affected by prayers. There are some game features that require the character themselves to pray (at least in a manner of speaking) such as the Cleric's Divine Intervention class feature, but none that care about the quantity of prayers.

It is sort of implied in 5e, and explicitly the case in some rarely used supplements from earlier editions, that prayer affects the power of gods.

Depending on the setting, any god you're likely to have heard about will already have anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of faithful acolytes and layman worshippers. Bribing a couple of peasants is unlikely to have any significant effect here. Even if they somehow pulled off a grand scheme to raise the rank of some god over another, that doesn't really translate into anything the player characters themselves can make use of.

At best there could be a sort-of soft benefit, in the sense that if a god acquires more worshippers that would translate into somewhat greater prestige for priests of that god, which means they would have an easier time finding faithful who'd be treating them favourably, perhaps even in higher ranked positions. It's unclear to me if and how well bribery-induced prayer would facilitate such a development.


If you want to know what your players may be trying to accomplish I'm afraid there's no way around asking them. They may have an idea that they're working towards a very concrete goal, and rather than worrying about something like "game balance" (which again, nothing they did here would really affect directly) I would worry that there might be some fundamental miscommunication going on about how you and the players think the world works, which may lead to disappointment later down the road.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And maybe, just maybe, they are doing this purely because that's what their characters would do, and since it's not hurting anyone, then why not? From my experience as DM, this is at least as probable as some miscommunication and them trying to gain something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:32
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Talk to your players and help craft the story together

As the other answers have stated, there isn't necessarily any in-game mechanic that your players are tapping into without your initial knowledge.

But your players do quite clearly have a plan of some sort - so talk to them about it.

You're telling this story together, and they're working on something they see as pretty fun, so find out what it is and then work on a plan to integrate it into the larger story.

If it's problematic to your story, that's going to be okay, too. First, figure out if it really is a problem for you, and if there's no way you can use it whole cloth or in part, then talk to them about why and see if there's not something else fun that you can do together.

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No, there is no such spell, at least not in the way you think.

While it is impossible to prove a negative, such a thing would be both against design of D&D and its lore. It is in the domain of the divine to gain benefit from worship; the most that mortals can gain from that is what gods bestow upon them in return.
Not to mention how broken that would be, both mechanically and in-game, were it otherwise. Why? Because in-game every ruler would create a cult for himself so he could draw power from the worshipers.

Unless your PCs are playing gods they should not gain any direct benefit from other people praying. That is, unless cleric was instructed by his deity to spread the faith. But in that case the benefit would be a boon from the god/church, not upscaled spell.

There is a technically affirmative answer to your question. Every cleric's spell would count! Because if said cleric doesn't pray at a certain time of the day then he doesn't receive his spells. I would count that as scaling really well!

And the grand scheme would be that gods get their due.

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As The DM, This Is Up To You - But By Standard Rules This Doesn't Work

The way that worship in this world works is technically entirely up to you as a DM - the answer given by @Cubic describes how the standard setting for D&D treats worship, but you are welcome to change it. Regardless of this, the only way that your players can know how religion, worship, and the power of Gods works is by asking you and you giving them an answer.

If you suspect they are trying to work some kind of scam, talk to them about it - you may want to let them know how likely it is to work (if it is by standard D&D rules, then it most likely will not).

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If I was DMing a game where players were doing this, I would absolutely create a side plot around it. That would be so much fun!

I once ran a 2 year campaign where the players got an artifact in the first session that was basically the green wizard hat from the old D&D cartoon from the 80's. It could grant a limited wish as long as it was phrased in rhyme. And my job was to figure out a way to twist and corrupt their words into the most unintended (non-fatal) consequences possible. It added so much fun to the whole experience and I knew it was working when they would be preparing for some big fight and I would remind them they could use the hat to help and they would look at each other and say "nah... we got enough to deal with right now"

In that same spirit, I would create some kind of insidious antagonist that is gaining strength every time the players pull this little trick. Like maybe the church they are going to worship at has been secretly taken over by some greater vampire or a demon disguising itself as a human. Or another one would be that these peasants are suddenly flush with cash and they all get murdered as soon as the party leaves the scene. Maybe there is a point when they return to a place they had previously visited and the are held up by a massive funeral procession and the party eventually realizes that their little game is the reason all these people are dead. You could even play it where all their alignments take a hit and they suddenly have a side quest where they need to atone for their actions in some way.

Or hit the economic angle from the inflation side, all this influx of cash and prices go up all over the region and the poor are starving because they can't buy food. Or the god-power angle... whichever god they are being bribed to pray to suddenly feels this influx of new people and gets cocky arrogant and starts some kind of god-war or something, which then has negative impact on the mortal realm in some way.

Whatever it is, you get maximum effect if it is a wide-spread tragedy and they go quite some time blissfully unaware before they get the reveal. Moments like that are RPG gold that create memories that everybody will remember for the rest of their lives.

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