Commune guide

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Originally posted by GM Jharra 24 August 2004

Here, by request of at least one, is the Jharra Thornweis Guide to Casting Commune in a Safe and Effective Fashion. Please note that no privileged information will be revealed here, and your mileage may vary depending on the precise circumstances of your commune. Other potential commune-answering GMs may look for different things; I can only speak for myself and what I look for.

To get the ball rolling, you need a reason to commune. Poor reasons to commune include:

  • you're bored.
  • you want a merchant.
  • you want an invasion.
  • you want a uber weapon.
  • you want a new area, system, etc. to be built (an example of this would be communing to ask your god for a new hunting ground.)
  • you don't like the way system X, Y, or Z is set up (an example of this would be communing to ask your god to make you into an instacitizen of Wehnimer's.)
  • you want an RPA.

It should be a reason directly related to roleplay, and, for the greatest likelihood of a response, it should be one of two things:

a) a specific enough purpose that a specific GM will take an interest in the matter, or
b) a generic enough purpose that understanding the background of the situation is not necessary.

If a cleric were to commune to learn more of the history of the Spider Temple, for example, the commune would go unanswered if the commune was not observed by a GM who was already familiar with the history of the Spider Temple. This is why quest-related communes have a relatively high chance of success -- there is definitely someone (the quest runner!) who has the information near to hand and knows whether or not it is appropriate for the commune to be answered. On the other hand, if the GM in charge of the quest isn't around, then no one else is qualified to answer the commune, which can be problematic. Alternately, if the request is quite generic and completely unrelated to any current quest, then it can be answered by a GM who doesn't know anything about the situation.

Requests that directly relate to other players are very unlikely to be answered (or, if answered, are very unlikely to be answered positively.) If you commune to Oleani and ask her to make Hotcleric fall in love with you... we as GMs can't do a darn thing about Hotcleric and his opinions of you, and it would be silly to pretend that we could. If you commune to the Huntress and ask for her revenge against Vulturesnert, that draws the GMs into a CvC situation that might actually be a PvP situation, and the shrieks of "favoritism!" would be deafening. In my view, it's safest for me to avoid that kind of commune all round.

Once you have a good, solid reason for communing, it's a good idea to invite others, if it doesn't conflict with your purpose. If you post on the forums that there will be a commune to Deity X on Day Y for Reason Z, it not only allows other followers of Deity X to attend and enjoy the roleplay, but also alerts the GMs that something is going on well in advance of the actual event. (I should note here that I recommend against emailing your preferred GM directly. It's kind of people to think of me this way, but it always makes me feel as if I would be playing favorites if I responded, and, as a result, it reduces the chance that I will respond.)

Next, consider the cleric, the deity, the terrain, and the participants. A commune being cast to Deity X, by a priest of Deity X, in front of an altar of Deity X, for a reason that directly relates to Deity X, with other followers of Deity X and no followers of Deity X's hated nemesis (Deity Y) present -- that commune has a high chance of success. If the commune is being cast to Deity X by a priest of some god who doesn't really care about Deity Y for a reason that actually relates to Deity Z in an area that isn't sacred to anybody, with a whole bunch of tourists around, then it's significantly less likely that the commune will succeed.

You can slip around parts of the prior requirements under the right circumstances. For example, while it was not during a commune, I once observed a cleric of Koar invoke Ronan to give him more information about a Ronan-related situation based on Koar's authority over Ronan. Koar had nothing to do with the situation -- but the authority was valid, and it was exceedingly well roleplayed. I provided an appropriate response.

However, if a cleric of Luukos communes to Lorminstra, or a cleric of Niima communes to Niima in the middle of a forest, or a cleric of Lumnis communes to Lumnis to ask for her blessing in battle, or if a cleric of Eorgina casts commune to help out a follower of the Huntress -- you've lost the battle before you begin. If the deity doesn't care about whatever concerns the cleric, or it isn't within the deity's sphere of influence, or if the circumstances are insulting or irritating to the deity, then the cleric is just setting himself up for a negative response (if any response at all). This does mean that some clerics are going to have an appropriate opportunity to cast commune more frequently than others. Some deities' interests are so narrow that a spell of commune will rarely (if ever) be appropriate. Like the appearance of Divine Wrath and Blind, the limited circumstances under which a cleric can cast Commune are just part of being a cleric to whatever deity the cleric has chosen.

Consider your ceremony. The commune spell should be cast when all present are hushed and ready to begin, but prior to any offerings, invocations, etc. -- after all, under most circumstances, the GMs don't know anything is going on until the commune spell is cast, and it would be a shame for them to miss all the exciting stuff just because you cast commune last! Make it as appropriate to your deity as you possibly can -- a somber, solemn ceremony to Cholen is less likely to be answered than one that looks like a wild party.

Know your god! Recognize the various signs and symbols that are associated with your deity, and don't mix your deity up with any alternate force that may respond to your commune. Even the best communes can go wrong if something is wrong with the circumstance, and, as some may remember from the Vvrael Quest, the servants of the Arkati are not the only things that may respond to a commune. If wildflowers are falling from the sky, then you do not have the ear of V'tull. If snarling grey mist is coalescing on the ground, then you do not have the attention of Koar. Be ready to roll with the punches.

Make sure everyone in the communing party is aware of the situation and ready to react if anything interesting happens. I once responded to a commune to Eonak by messaging only the single Eonak follower present... who complained later just as loudly as the rest that nothing had happened! The servants of the Arkati often work in subtle ways, and I rarely find it appropriate to beat people over the head with a hammer. (Of course, it depends on the Arkati.)

At the end of it all... no matter how marvelous your commune, no matter how beautifully roleplayed the situation, no matter how appropriate the question, no matter how well-behaved the spectators are, and no matter how symbolic the circumstances... your commune may go unanswered. This may be due to any of the reasons above, or it may be for one of two other reasons.

It is possible that your commune will be answered in unexpected ways. Sometimes, as cruel as it sounds, silence is the most appropriate response -- the idea "the gods help those who help themselves" is very strong in Elanthia, particularly considering that the clerics channel the living power of the gods.

An example of a different sort of unexpected response entirely exists in the character of the Dreamwalker (Griffin Sword Saga again), who came into existence because of an apparently-failed commune to Ronan. Keep your eyes and ears perked for anything that might be related to your request over the next few weeks after your commune.

But it is possible that your commune will really not be answered. This is due to GM availability and circumstance. For example, no matter how perfect your WoN-related commune, it won't get off the ground if there isn't a War of Nations GM online and available to answer it. I might think your commune to Amasalen is one of the sickest, most twisted, most exquisite things I've ever seen in my life, and I might have the answer to your commune sitting right under my coffee cup, but it won't matter two cents if I'm wrapped up in sorting out an eight-person PvP conflict that ties in with three scams and an abused game bug. It also won't matter how beautiful your commune is if I'm the only GM (for quest-related reasons) who can conceivably answer your commune, you decide to hold it at 6 AM, and my alarm clock decides to flash red 12:00 due to a power outage instead of waking me up on time. Real life has this way of catching up to people, and every GM has various duties that take precedence over commune-answering.

In real life, people don't just pray once for something -- they pray over, and over, and over. If the question was worth asking once, and you received no response, why not ask it again? Pick another date and hold another commune. See if it's more successful.

The above information should be taken with a grain (if not a pinch) of salt. It is not guaranteed to do anything more than provide the perspective and opinion of one GM. It is not intended as an argument to demonstrate the usefulness of Commune or to justify its presence as a level 30 spell. However, I hope that you find it interesting.