Several weeks back, I outlined a novel I’d like to write at some point, and a problem with the setting blindsided me this morning. In my outline I describe the characters as being “faithful and devoted,” largely due to the time and place in which they live, and then it occurred to me that the gods played no active role in their lives.

That might not sound like a problem to anyone but me.

It isn’t just because I’m writing a fantasy novel, that I want deities to play an active role in the story, but it has to do in part with the place and the time. I want to set my stories in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece, and in their myths and legends, the gods play an active role. I had to ask myself how to recreate a situation like theirs.

For me, and for the purpose of my setting and my characters, it meant finding some way for the characters to interact with their deity and vice versa. Since it’s a fantasy setting and its marginally inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, I thought about what I would do if I had to incorporate a character’s deity in their daily life.

The first thing that came to mind was visiting and leaving offerings at a temple. I’m not sure what was different about this time, as opposed to other times that I’ve thought about what to place in temples and who the characters might encounter, but I thought, “what prevents a deity from being right there?” It is a fantasy setting after all.

Quickly I thought, “well, maybe not the deity themselves, but perhaps an aspect, or a servant of theirs?” That got me thinking about what sort of influence they would be able to have on the city in which their temple would reside. Then I asked myself, “what prevents an aspect from just walking around the city doing stuff?”

There were some other thoughts that bounced around in my head for a bit, but I came to a couple interesting conclusions. There’s no reason a clergy of sufficient level shouldn’t be able to conjure up and maintain an aspect of their deity. They should be able to conjure up aspects of different power levels, at that.

“But what can a conjured aspect actually do?” This had me thinking for a while. If the aspect were truly a conjuration, it wouldn’t be wholly physical, and therefore would be subject to magical “dismissal.” It could well enough serve as an agent working on behalf of a deity, performing miracles for the faithful in exchange for offerings.

Offerings could serve a practical purpose, such as “paying the component cost” of a ritual, a la Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It would be easy enough for the priests and clergy to secure additional funding upfront for “emergency miracles,” and that’s something that should be easy enough to calculate.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense for deities to have their “domains” or “spheres” in their divine “portfolio,” because that could well define the sorts of rituals their aspects could perform in their stead. A given aspect would always remain under the control of a deity, but magic-users could command or banish them.

Fourth Edition makes it that much easier.