[HR] Pools of Power - an alternative Divine Power system

In ACKS, Divine Power is generated on by worship. The more worshippers, the more power a god generates, and the more power the god gives to their clerics. But what if there are no gods? What if Divine Power comes from a source not interested in human worship?

That’s a question I ran into in my campaign. This is my attempt to redesign the Divine Power system to better fit such a world. I’ll add some ‘in my campaign’ notes for colour, although the rules for my specific campaign world are slightly different from these more setting-neutral rules.

I'd love to hear what you think. What did I miss? Does this make any sens?
Did I mess up the maths? I messed up the maths, didn't I? ;)

Let’s talk assumptions. For this system, I’m assuming:

  1. Divine Power is generated by nature, or is a naturally occurring power source.
  2. Rough, untouched and awe-inspiring nature generates more power.
  3. Civilisation and human settlements lessens the power generated.
  4. Divine Power tends to pool in certain places, where it becomes far easier to use and channel.

Now, what those assumptions actually mean in your campaign world is up to you. Perhaps all civilisation is corrupting, like in Conan. Perhaps Divine Power is the life-force of the world, it’s very soul or merely a neutral power much like gravity. The places where power pools could be ley lines, chi flows, holy places or anything you can imagine. You can even add gods - they either are the Divine Power personified, or are also channeling it.

In my campaign, the world is alive. Everything, from the rocks to the mountains; from the trees to the seas has a life-force; Eä. Eä is the sacred element of being in almost anything. It is what makes an object itself rather than something else. Without it, a mountain would be a pile of dirt, a river just water flowing. Eä seems to concentrate most in beings, things and places that are alive, awe-inspiring or powerful forces of the natural world. For example, individual trees will have some Eä, but the largest tree in the forest, ancient and massive, will be the focal point of powerful Eä. Strong Eä can - and often does- manifest as a Spirit. These powerful beings are the Eä of a place personified, and can range in power from a Dryad to a Demi-god. In this world, civilisation ‘corrupts’: Human settlements, waste and logging diminishes the forest, reduces its beauty and essence, and so diminishes the Eä it generates and the power and majesty of its Spirit.


Dominions and Wellsprings

Divine Power is generated in Dominions. These are territories that are ‘governed’ by a geographical feature. To gain power from a river, you have to be near it. A forest’s power can only be tapped from inside the forest. 

A Dominion’s size is counted in 6-mile hexes. Smaller Dominions (a single pool, a small hill) can be a single hex; larger domains (such as rivers, forests, etc) can fill 10, 20 or more hexes. Dominions can have subdominions - A mountain range could be a single Dominion of 40 hexes, with a single magnificent peak being a separate Dominion of three hexes. Where nature changes, so do Dominions. What appears as a single forest on the map is often multiple forests - perhaps even with a small woodland grove as another Dominion. 

In order to determine Dominion size, just count the number of hexes the feature covers. When in doubt, its better to err on the conservative side. If your Dominion is 50 hexes or more, it’s too big. In this case, it’s better to split it into smaller Dominions. Some sample sizes:

Single place


Lake, stream










Large River


Mountain Range


The Divine Power generated in Dominions is not divided equally. It tends to pool in locations called Wellsprings. Wellsprings are usually important or majestic places in the Dominion. A river’s Wellsprings might be at its source and in a large waterfall half way through. The Wellspring of a valley might be at a group of standing stones shrouded in mist, between two hills where the setting sun shines through, or in a small lake at the heart of the valley.

Ever walked through a forest to find a truly ancient looking tree? Far far older than it has any right to be, it stands in a small clearing, just… waiting. For a moment, the leaves break the sunlight into a million tiny rays, and the whole forest seems to go quiet… that’s a Wellspring.

In my campaign, Wellsprings are called Manifestation Areas, and are the places where the Spirits most easily manifest, and are most easily contacted. Potential initiates to the Spirit must travel to a Manifestation Area of the Spirit to bargain for a pact and through it, power.


Most Dominions will have 1 to 3 Wellsprings, but larger Dominions can easily have more.



To channel Divine Power, you will need a Focus. This can be anything from a shrine, a temple, a totem pole or a circle of carved stones - whatever fits your campaign. It should not necessarily be hard to construct a Focus, but they should not be natural constructs. Without a focus, you cannot gain Divine Power. 

If you like, you can imagine that the holy symbols of clerics in a world without gods are not divine symbols, but miniature Foci - just powerful enough to channel Divine Power into a spell.


Divine Power generated

Exactly how much Divine Power is generated per hex, depends on two things: Civilisation Influence and the Market Modifier. These represent the general encroaching of civilisation, and the amount of human settlement. 

The Civilisation Influence is simply this: are the Dominion’s hexes considered Wilderness, Borderlands or Civilised? This is determined just like with human Domains (acks page 125). If the Dominion is within 8 hexes from a city or large town (market level 4 or higher), it counts as Civilised, etc. If you’re not sure, simply call it Borderlands.

With large geographical features consider the type of the majority of its hexes. A river may wander for miles and miles, crossing both civilised lands and wilderness. But if most of its length is in civilised lands, count its Civilisation Influence as Civilised, despite the wilderness hexes. Of course, you could always split the river into two or more separate Dominions!

The Market modifier is the Market value (1 - 6) of the largest settlement in the Dominion and the hexes directly adjacent to it. If you’re not sure, assume there’s at least some people there, and use 3 or 4.

As you can see in the table, Wilderness hexes generate far more Divine Power than Civilised hexes. 

Type of Domain


Divine Power Generated per hex











The 1 : 2 : 6 factor is roughly(!) equivalent to the average numbers of families ratio in civilised, borderlands and wilderness hexes. In regular ACKS, more families means more Divine Power. In this system, I’ve reversed that. These numbers also seem to end up with - again, roughly - the Divine Power generated in similar sized Domains. 

To determine how much power the Dominion generates per week use the formula: Number of Hexes * Divine Power per Hex * Market modifier.

As an example, a 14 hex borderlands Dominion with a level 3 town would generate (14*20*3) 840 DP per week. A similar Dominion with only level 6 hamlets generates 1,680 DP.

As you can see, it pays to build your temple well away from civilisation and people in general. It also nicely makes sure something huge like a metropolis really drains the amount of DP available - they only have a x1 or x2 modifier, and would only ever be found in a civilised area.

I really enjoy what this implies about the setting as well. Not only does civilisation ‘corrupt’ Divine magic, it also explains why creepy cultist filled temples are always found in forgotten valleys, deep jungle or other inhospitable places. It’s not just scenic and adventurous, it’s common sense!


So now what?

I’m using these rules as the basis for a new Urban Settlement type called Temple Grounds. Temple Grounds are temples (big ones, think Angkor Wat) built on Wellsprings, and they allow for a few extra tricks. Firstly, you can use (some of) the worshippers in your temple as Congregants, giving you as ‘ruler’ more Divine Power. Secondly, the Temple Grounds produce double the Divine Power you’d get from a normal temple. This extra power can be used to buy magical effects, such as a healing pool, magical stone guardian, a shielding barrier - and other such things you’d expect in such a magical place.

In my campaign, you have to strike a bargain with the Spirit controlling the Wellspring (or Manifestation Area). You then also have to abide by its Taboos and rules, or the power goes away again. It’s probably wise to install a similar system in your campaign.


The power invested in these magical effects has to be renewed, usually by the Divine Power generated by the Temple Grounds. Of course, if you no longer control the Temple Grounds, or civilisation comes too close, or you simply spend too much Divine power in research, the magic goes away. Or worse.  Magical pools grow unpredictable, guardians go rogue…

Again: this totally explains why magical pools are always so odd and random, and why there’s crazed mosnters stalking the ruins of ancient temples… and why evil cultists keep sacrificing virgins in those far away temples: they can’t generate enough power to keep their guardian golem up and running without the sacrificial energy!


I worship the sun!

So what happens when clever players figure out the the Dominion of the Sun is basically the entire friggin’ world? Or when they decide to worship ‘the sea’? That’s where mythology comes in. There are hundreds of stories about the sun, each portraying it in a different light. Is the sun a benevolent friend to farmers, a drought bringing enemy, the king of the sky, or a light hung from a chariot? Each interpretation fractures the total power. And where exactly would you build your temples? 

I'll post some more on Temple Grounds if people like. But does this system hold up?

Interesting. I'd been thinking about the reversal of the C/B/W thing when I was puttering around with a Druid/Ovatic spell system. 

What about Ley Lines as a stand-in for trade routes? If there's pools within a certain distance of each other, there's a resonance, perhaps, that goes out from the largest pools to the smallest?

That'd have the added effect of having Civilization cut those lines eventually as it spreads. And maybe those lines, or the pools, give added chances for lairs or lairs of certain types, depending on how you're defining things. 

The hexes are 6 mile hexes?

Hmmm. I'd have to read the trade routes rules properly, but yes. That sounds like a fun bonus.
The hexes are 6 mile hexes, yes. I should have specified.

The C/B/W split reminds me of 2e's Birthright setting, where a province's population and magical power had a 1:1 inverse relationship based on the type of terrain (for example, plains had started with 5 magic, and reduced it by 1 for each point of population, while forests started with 7). I like how your system is tied into the ACKS rules, and it would be easy to layer "flavors" of magic over it (i.e. River improves healing and travel spells, but isn't as good for divination because it washes things away, while Mountain helps defensive spells but hinders healing).


Also, if you haven't, I would suggesting reading Glen Cook's Instrumentalities of the Night. It has Wells of Power centered in the Not-Middle-East of his setting, which are alluded to be the main fuel for magic and the "gods" of the setting (which seem to be a combination of massively amped-up mortals and spontaneous manifestations of magic). It's very different in execution (less genius loci and more Blessed With Suck for whoever possesses them), but might give you some ideas.

Cool. You could pop the max Dominion size up to 48 hexes and thereby exactly double triple the max single ruler domain size. Dunno if that symmetry would end up helping anywhere else, but, free symmetry. It might help in eyeballing power levels - knowing a 14th level character has a 16 hex domain, and a "max level pool" has a 48 hex dominion, they could scale down relatedly, which ties you into the assumed demographics already there for the using.

(said double the size originally, messed up 24 mile hex vs 16 6 mile hexes)

Pg 233 has basically the "range of trade" for various market sizes - it expects roads or navigable water, which wouldn't necessarily be a requirement for this but it's a guideline.

The point of that though is to determine demand modifiers in the direction of the larger trading partner. Aside from just a base increase due to the connection I'm not sure what else a modifier might do, unless one were to want to "theme" their pools - here's one of Healing or whatever, and perhaps those themes follow the ley lines around and modify nearby pools - so small pools have some very small bonuses to several things and large ones have larger bonuses to single things - that'd inform your thoughts on the Temple Grounds allowing for granted bonuses of certain types.

Maybe the pool in the "dormant" volcano gives bonuses to Summoning and Blast spells involving fire, since the wall between the planes is weaker there, and within some distance there's an abnormally high number of fire-themed barbarian/beastmen tribes at connected smaller pools. 

And it'd make for a nice network effect of ley lines. Characters searching for something unfound can assess pools where they find them, follow a line, assess the next pool, see if they are closer or farther.

This'd even work if you had gods - or at least Lawful gods - the power pools could represent the Gaia-style druidy magic, or just the undirected potential of life's Chaos, whereas civilization, and the Lawful Divine force, naturally push it back - cleanse and align it.

It's actually kinda Authurian in that way...hm.