Thursday, December 21, 2023

Thoughts on Godbound

 Is Godbound OSR? Honestly at this point who cares, but it is at least broadly compatible with OSR content.

I ran two simultaneous campaigns for a rough average of 30-40 sessions each. One group leaned more 'philosopher-king refugee road-trip', while the other was more 'rock star adventurer vacation'

I drew for this campaign instead of the blog this past year which is mainly why the blog has been ded

The setting was the Sunset realm, as usual, but in an intersolar period, with no sun to chase off the infinite darkness and moon-madness normally kept at bay. This made for a world in enough shambles for Godbound characters to feel needed, and added an aspect of cosmic horror to tweak things just a little away from baseline godbound. Baseline godbound has dangerous monsters, but it's a universe where A Big God was basically in charge, giving a generally anthropocentric baseline. The likely 'top of the foodchain' in the sunset realms are kilometers-wide 'moons' which range in nature from derelict matrioshka brains to celestial superpredators to bubbles of alternate physics. The mighty solar pantheon driving off moons each solar age feels like triumphing over chaos to humanity, but to the moons it's more akin to gazelles escaping a lion... this time... kind of situation.

But from the godbound still changed the world, saved lives, etc etc, so this is not as grievous a departure from intended tone as my Esoteric Enterprises campaign, and as such my thoughts should remain relevant for people interested in the system in general.

Character Creation

Some aspects of the game feel vestigial, like in the case of lingering D&D sacred cows like 6 stat arrays and trying to make armor choice meaningful by having the tradeoff be 'worse saves but more AC.' Since you can pass saves with effort, this is not particularly menacing, and gifts that give base defenses are quite popular... as are enemies that auto-hit anyway. Parts of the game that take more from storygames feel a bit underdeveloped. Facts, things that give you +4 to relevant rolls and can justify starting with magic items or spellcasting, feel a bit like an Aspect from Fate, but without the narrative weight that makes Aspects meaningful. I barely remember more than one or two Facts from the dozens present on my players sheets, and I certainly don't think rolling under stat to adjudicate things was a common enough occurrence to make Facts feel mechanically relevant either (thank goodness.) Some players took the approach of having Facts add godly-sounding titles to their characters to commemorate their deeds, which seemed like a good way to add flavor even if they were usually mechanically irrelevant.

H'zeszh The Pitier

Words and Gifts

The meat and potatoes of the system. Again, I find it similar to Aspects and Stunts from Fate, but in a Dresden Files RPG way,where the reliance on them exposes why the mechanics of those abilities was actually fairly unimportant and focusing too much on them 'misses the point.' A list of cool abilities to peruse and select has some character-building appeal, and my players were torn between different character concepts, so I'm glad they had fun with this aspect of the game even if I find charop choices  to be of mostly illusory significance.
As a GM, I found the Words & Gifts system all vaguely dissatisfying, especially when I was called upon to use it in the bestiary. A lot of seemed to boil down to 'control things, destroy things, move through things, know things, protect things," with the flavor of 'with FIRE, or WITH WATER, or [insert flavor here.]' I do like reskinning abilities as a general design principle, but having about 25 pages of broadly similar abilities with a limited selection of unique ideas in there didn't really impress me. Having only the 'common miracle effects' could almost suffice if you wanted to have a superlite, trimmed down godbound document and indeed might encourage more personal, unique miracles.

The idea of the system is that you counteract and are countered in turn by gifts and miracles of opposing forces, using creativity to circumvent things. However, I couldn't shake this feeling of arbitrariness and homogeneity. When everyone has flexible, powerful abilities that mostly all equally counteract each other for 1 effort, it's easy for scenes to feel less like challenges and more like filler where we wait for someone to run out of effort, 1 action at a time.

Priestesses of Our Lady of Gardens

This may make it sound like I ran the dreariest empty-room battles ever to scourge RPGs, but I don't think that was (always) the problem. I tried to have environmental problems, stakes beyond 'fight or die,' motivations for involved parties. Classic superhero gaming concepts work well when applied in Godbound. And it's alright if combat isn't the main focus of a game- I really enjoyed the 'debate club of the gods' sessions, or the dance sessions.

But just as D&D has a very heavy focus on combat rules and filling your character sheet with combat relevant things, Godbound does too. And the non-combat gifts have a tendency to solve non-combat problems quickly and easily, so it becomes incredibly easy to overwhelm non-combat problems with miracles and gifts and then move on to a combat scene that takes up a fair bit of IRL time compared to anything else.

A good example is the Journey word. You might expect a Godbound who takes the journey word to be interested in long trips, and to have the game be about that to some degree. But the words of Journey ironically almost delete the experience of 'Journeying' from the game. Frodo going to Mordor with the Word of Journey would be like this
-He doesn't need to worry about supplies, or even sleeping. He can walk without rest forever.
-He doesn't need to worry about the ringwraiths- he is always faster than pursuers.
-He doesn't need to worry about terrain, or bad weather- he can cross Mount Caradhras as easily as the gap of Rohan. Moria is skipped.
-He doesn't need Gollum as a guide- he knows the safest way to travel already, and could slip through the Black Gates security, avoiding the Shelob encounter.
-No 'lesser foes' will appear as random encounters. No orcs, then.
-He could also really skip over things and just fly there in a day or two, essentially being the eagle question all over.

I certainly understand how design ended up here. Kevin Crawford sitting around with his game group, thinking of problems you have to solve with D&D travel, and writing down how Journey lets you avoid all that. But from a game design standpoint, the reward for being a master of Journey sort of just... removes it from gameplay. It would be like if Thieves had perfect 100% skills... at which point you might as well remove traps and locks from your dungeon entirely because they exist only to be skimmed over (said skimming was what I usually did for the players with the Theft word). Or if Fighters had 100% chance to defeat monsters, so why bother including them. Or if the Cleric can heal all consequences, so there's no great point in having curses, mutilations, diseases, or poisons. Or if the wizard can cast infinite Dispel Magic and simply magic any unpleasant arcana away. Normally, players have to interact with these things with some thought even if they can overcome these challenges, but when problems can be bypassed so easily, their inclusion in Godbound may make them seem more like bland Effort toll booths than anything.

I don't feel brainy enough to find an easy way around this design trap, and I have focused on the negative moreso than the positive here which may give an unfair impression of how bad things were. But that paradoxical feeling of 'your reward for playing the game well is... not having to play the game anymore' really haunted me when it came to prepping session content. It could be hard to linger in triumph  in noncombat problemsolving because it was over so quickly, and it had similar difficulty in creating challenges as high level D&D. One of the few things that gave the players any pause at all was a temple of a Frog God, who was enslaved by an ancient Lich who could call down meteors on anyone he knew the name of, who was in a temple supported by a vast self-replicating army of clay golems, who also each held a tadpole child hostage, and was supported by two other fell necromancers. The book informs me that it is fine for something like 2/3rds of situations to be solved quickly and easily, and I think I mostly followed that recommendation.... but it caused disparity with how the actually difficult stuff then took up, say, 7/10ths of playtime because the easy stuff was rolled over and forgotten as fast as I could prep or improv it, while the harder nuts to crack required much more IRL time devoted to them.

Salaneptha, nightmare princess


Definitely suffers from 'if magic is a good and versatile tool, everyone should want it' problem that games have from a design standpoint and fiction has as a problem of verisimilitude.

The limits on 'Low Magic' compared to divine powers and Theurgy is a pretty good solution, and could be broadly slapped onto other magic systems to prevent them from getting out of hand... though here they clearly seem to be mostly to stop magic from stealing the spotlight of Words.

Magic spells exist, but they're more of just a flavorful way to solve problems, and sometimes they allow for a cool solution that can't be covered by Words. Mainly, I think the magic system exists as a bridge between OSR content and Godbound rather than it's own thing, and that's fine.

The 'high' magics of Theurgy aren't bad, and cover the higher end of D&Desque spells fairly well, and have just enough 'utility that doesn't fit elsewhere' that the word of Sorcery should satisfy people who want to be the one with esoteric answers to esoteric problems. It definitely does not escape the prior-mentioned problem other words have though- when facing strange arcane abilities and evil sorcerers, players with the Word of Sorcery were typically better served simply effort-point-dispelling any fell magics rather than trying to specifically do things like 'wall of ice to block fireballs from having LoS.'

It did, however, make me aware of just how much of D&D is just pointing the DM back to the spell list. Demons and dragons and angels and liches and beholders and so on all require pondering the spell list, as do many magic items. And this causes some blandness, because the spell list is mostly about breaking and entering into high security dungeons, and so when Asmodeus pulls out his dark sorceries and it's just the usual wizard nonsense again, it doesn't feel strange and unknowable and frightening, but rather rote.

Arcem, the Setting

No opinions, honestly. I didn't hate it or anything, but I am fairly committed to layer-cake lore-stacks built on my own world and the adjacent realities of my player's campaigns, so I had no interest in using Arcem.

one of these days the Sunset Realm is gonna get the full 300x300 keyed hex map and I'll stop using kitbashed screenshots of roll20
but it is not this day

Gamemastering Tools

People have been complaining about how hard it is to run high level D&D since the moment someone's group realized an ancient dragon was like 1/3rd the HD of the party and was no longer an appropriate 'final boss of the dungeon.'
Godbound, knowing what it was dealing with from the beginning, does an admirable job of warning GMs that they gotta run a sandbox and gotta be pretty good at prep and improv. I was somewhat dissatisfied with the provided prep tables and mostly relied on personal improv, as I found the included tables were suitable for sketching a rough idea of a place thematically, but lacked the ability to whip up something meaningfully challenging or strategic. A longform example of play, or more than one to show starter and high-level play, would have been more useful to me than the 'cool character owns peasants with facts and god powers' examples given.

It provides some sandbox tools for creating political 'courts,' 'ruins' (dungeons) and challenges (assorted not-necessarily combat problems), which are not terrible, but lacked a certain substance in my opinion.
Something like 'the dungeon is full of toxic waste' will likely be solved with a miracle or two, so while it is fine for a quick improv, the random tables don't necessarily create a 'significant' challenge for godbound.
A good example might be, if godbound was a standard D&D retroclone, its tables would have entries like 'a locked wooden door' as a feature of a dungeon for typical OSR adventurers. While it is true 'locked wooden doors' are staples of dungeoneering, they are less 'something to define a dungeon and provide a memorable experience' and more 'a default assumption that may become interesting when combined with other, more interesting dungeon features,' not really something you can use on its own.

This may sound a little harsh, but the first(and last) ruin I actually generated with Godbound rules took, I dunno, an hour or more to roll up, and 1 fight scene and 4 noncombat miracles to conclude (the equivalent of 4 spell slots, not counting the fight). The godbound didn't actually have to leave the entry area, and only walked to the treasure vault themselves out of habit. I liked it well enough, but at the same time, I don't think any of the rolling and table consulting I did was all that relevant compared to the improv.

The factional play section had a sense it was going for a sort of minigame where the players tried not to create too many Problems by making Changes, and the factions did this and that to each other, but I ultimately didn't find it interesting enough to keep using after the first 4 faction turns. It had the same problem as the tactical combat section of gameplay, I would say- appears to have strategic considerations, quickly boils down to depleting the only relevant resource that matters and not really being worth tracking the minutiae of compared to focusing on Godbound actions. It's only a cul-de-sac of subsystem rules and easily disregarded, so this isn't a big deal. But, it's just another thing that takes up a few pages that I'd rather see an example of a Shard of Heaven high level dungeoncrawl, or an example of longer play in. The content tables are better here I think than in the ruin section though, and I think are decent for generating factions and giving them identifiable characteristics. All in all, the factional play won't suffice to turn the game into a 4X domain play grand strategy game of cult expansion, but would require a comparable level of fiddly minutiae to track for little reward.

The court of the Nightmare Sultan

The Bestiary actually just "Words and Gifts" all over again, for the most part. Due to how combat works, monsters are mostly just smaller blobs of HP and Effort than a player is, and little of what they have will make them feel different, and most of what they have is a few gifts, or rarely full words. Reliance on the player-facing system makes everything feel very samey to me, while also requiring consulting the Words & Gifts section rulebook for constructing monsters, instead of just having them be challenges separate from the player-facing rules. I did not love this approach- it felt a bit like the problem of, say, the AD&D bestiary leaving it up to the GM to crack open the players handbook to kit out a Lich with spells, rather than the bestiary doing much on its own.

priestess of Yg

As a general rule, monsters that are actually threats are dependent on dealing straight damage (roughly 2-3 times more menacing than regular damage) and often hit automatically, ignoring AC, and finally get 2-3 actions per round. This more threatening type of damage can still be avoided via defensive miracles, so it is unlikely to manage to instantly kill people, and instead serves as a form of rapid effort depletion.

The game warns that for enemies to have a chance, they need to go on the offensive rapidly, or they will suffer from trying to defend against godbound who have higher total effort, and all the above traits serve to assist them. However, as godbound always go first and use side-based initiative, rather than something more staggered, fights tend to take the form of back and forth barrages that are either weathered, or result in destruction due to a lack of effort, with HD serving as a buffer. Supposedly creative back and forths of dispelling each others gifts typically comes down to nothing but effort depletion. If the GM is unable to come up with defensive options it may feel more like them folding a hand out of laziness, and the GM denying player ideas can feel like quashing creativity, and the GM not  denying such ideas makes everything a sort of laissez-faire, almost deterministic depletion of effort and HP.

Angel of Our Lady of Gardens and of Murulu

Being strict about allowing only thematically appropriate defensive miracles to block attacks may feel like you are being 'no fun allowed' but prevents combats from being such a slog. An example that came to mind is when a evil undead Luck god caused a allied NPC to slip and fall into a wall of fire... so the NPC used an effort to use her sword to catch herself... so the second luck-based attack had her falling on her sword... so the Sea godbound made a geyser to juggle her away...but if any Word can essentially be used as fine-control instant-reaction telekinesis, a lethal blow will never land until all effort is lost.

There are some unique abilities among bestiary monsters, but all that was mentioned above contributes to the sense that fighting an ancient mummy, a living hero, or a titanic mutant beast all plays out basically the same way. Some enemies have a 'random behavior' chart to ensure they don't simply soullessly dish out as much straight damage as they can with as much focused fire as they can muster, but this feels less like 'variety' and more like ' GM pity' or 'the enemies acting stupid.'


The ability to pass saving throws by spending an effort, no thematic justification required, contributes in part to this. There is no real reason to accept any seriously debilitating effect unless your effort has been strained to its maximum (a situation while not impossible, requires so much pressure from the GM that it may feel contrived), and saves are good enough that you rarely have to even spend effort to pass anyway. This contributes to the sense that 'the only thing worth anything is raw damage.' Both of the groups pretty swiftly discovered that using enhanced minions (who deal Straight damage) is pretty much the best way to carve through the health pools of your enemies, and Smite miracles likewise provide a 'delete an enemy' tool far more reliably than any clever effect that regrettably fades into irrelevancy due to being save-based.

If you are familiar with Magic The Gathering, imagine if all players by default had the ability to counterspell opposing spells at the cost of 2 Life points, or just had 7 'free' counterspells they could cast at any point. This may help illuminate the sense of 'nothing will do anything until the initial buffer of Effort is depleted, so you may as well just do damage with creature summons."

The face of the demon flail Temuridae should be credited to 'Dread the Slammer' by U M A M I on youtube


There are rules for adjudicating creative ways of conflict resolution that seem to have been made in the spirit of 'balance' which is well and good, but make it even harder to escape the 'creativity matters only as flavor in the face of Effort and HP.' One of my players had the idea that, as the God of Worms, they could transform people into worms, right? This is certainly allowed by the logic of other words, but the general miracle rules have a little caveat for transformations

"If the change would kill or totally incapacitate a (worthy foe)
person, roll it as if it were a damage-causing miracle. If the damage
rolled wouldn’t be enough to kill the target, the miracle’s not able to
change them that drastically, either, and no harm or damage is done"

So the creativity becomes yet another Smite vs HP calculation. Similarly, 'debuffs' like entangling vines, Slow effects, bestowed Curses, disadvantage on rolls operate with the same kind of considerations. They're not allowed to debilitate worthy foes in the same way that, say, a wizard catching someone in a Force Cage can. Nor is it permitted to seal people in stone blocks or pools of lava without a rather dull 'they get a round to move out of the way' caveat and a '1 damage per level per round' damage consideration, rather than more naturalistic rulings about 'yes they are sealed in a bubble of water and suffer the logical consequences thereof.'

 While I understand the mindset that led to this sort of balancing, know that the system can still be 'exploited' perfectly well via the use of summons and minions, who can chew through HP far more reliably than Godbound Player Characters can and get around the 'no extra actions for Godbound' action economy. My complaint is that while the developers did try to balance things so no one strategy dominates, their intentional or unintentional result was, in my experience, a HP/Effort depletion race.


Many typical magic items that regular adventurers crave do not function for Godbound- a +5 sword is for different mathematical paradigms and works only for non-divine NPCs, and a flying carpet is encouraged to not function unless the Godbound have access to flight via a Gift or Artifact (more on those later).

Monetary treasure exists in a more abstract form of 1-10, ranging from the wealth of a rich man in a wealthy village to the treasure vaults of an Emperor. This wealth is valued for its ability to sanctify the temples of the Godbound or serves as an Influence/Dominion replacer, allowing changes to the world to be enacted abstractly. Mundane items have little value to Godbound, so wealth has little value save for being a protracted cipher for 'access to cult powers and existing mechanics.' There's not much point in determining whether the wealth is emerald-eyed idols or silk sheets- there are some considerations with regards to how difficult treasure is to carry or if it is fragile, since not all godbound will have ways around it, but unless your group is quite small, I wouldn't bet on the inventory being all too important to track most of the time.

Celestial Shards are an attractive generic reward to Godbound, but again, they are valued less on their own merit. They are simply a requirement for 'impossible' changes (such as conjuring pegasi to be the steeds of a city) and are essentially the 'key' to 'unlock' using your godlike abilities to make drastic changes in the world. You can almost imagine them as a 3rd type of special 'Experience Points' you have to collect to use your character abilities, or a kind of additional tax on certain actions.

Some NPC Hellknights with demonic weapons

Artifacts are the proper Godbound-level magic items, with powers along the lines of creating whole cities or chopping through entire armies! Mortals cannot even use them without being corrupted! They certainly seem akin to the Artifacts found in the Treasure sections of the AD&D DMG, which sounded well and good, but in practice it kind of felt like more of the same Words and Gifts with a use cap of Effort, just with a crafting system attached. Certainly unique powers can be conceived of and used as a nifty treasure, but the same applies to the characters innate abilities.
I might liken my disappointment with the Artifacts to be akin to a treasure table that was mostly crafting rules for making wands to cast spells you already knew. The God of the Sky can craft a flying carpet artifact, but can also just whip up a miracle to Wind Walk the party to their destination. (And so can the God of Birds, or Journey, for that matter.)

Queen Farid bint Dumandred

Personal Takes on Power Level & Theme
For all I complain about the players being largely unchallenged and combat being a game of paper tigers, the Godbound power level is strangely low in some areas. The godbound may deal an astounding 10HD worth of damage in a single smite action... but cannot destroy objects larger than a ship, or take more than Level# of companions flying with them at one time.

I do not wish to emulate gods who are omni-anything, but even the flawed and mortal gods of the Norse pantheon have some better feats than simply being 'really tough & hard-hitting adventurers.' The example I have in mind is when Thor is tricked into drinking the ocean during a drinking contest. He fails, but his mighty attempt creates the very tides of the sea from the depleted water level sloshing about. 

Godbound doesn't operate on this level  of mythological magical realism logic. Thor in the above scenario in godbound might instead simply spend an effort to not vomit profusely from being tricked into drinking saltwater, but lacking the word of the Sea, the Influence/Dominion required to lower its levels, and of course, the motive to do so, he can't really stumble into something like that. The limits of crushing/hurling objects with Strength are boat/wagon sized typically, and so the gods are more like street-level superheroes who occasionally do a wide-spread miracle, but feel less like these greater workings are some fundamental part of themselves embodied, and more like a Big Wizard casting a Big Spell. I tried to get around this sometimes like having murder be made impossible in a region because the God of Murder had sworn never to set foot there as the explanation for the expenditures of dominion/influence. Godbound was likely never meant to emulate Aetiological myths like that, so I may be being unfair here, but it's something that may make campaigns feel more mundane than mythic so I do feel the need to bring it up.

A god manifested from the bond between dogs and humanity

Even so, if we're thinking of the world more in terms of 'physics,' than 'symbolism,' the powers of the godbound are mighty in the world of D&D HP and Saving throws, but when confronted with certain questions of mass and energy beyond what can be expressed in human-scale D&D adjacent combat math, the feeling of 'just being Big Wizard Guy' tends to return.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Demigodbound, but my real complaint is that the system is unsure of where it stands to some degree on its own power level- endless abilities for bullying masses of peasants abound, and large changes can be enacted with Dominion/Influence, and things with stats can be smited... but things without stats, like a storm or a chasm, sometimes remain stolidly beyond the players reach, outside of the 20 cubic foot intervals they might be allowed to chip away at.

As a personal point of thematic inconsistency, I mildly disagree with Godbound's conception of Words. The god of Fear can also banish fear, making them the god of bravery as well by default. The god of Flames can also dispel them. The Word of Death is as much Undeath and 'Not-Dying' as it is 'Death.'
This has some advantage in that it allows players to put their own interpretation and spins on the Words, but I find it to smack a little of comic book writing, where justifications for why a character can use their powers to get to whatever point the writer requires can feel like the tools of lazy writing.

As such, anything the gods do, they are typically able to undo. Narratively, I think this is questionable because it gives a lack of consequences to actions. Game design wise, I think it's bad because it removes the design space of the 'negatives' of things, and while Godbound says that it's not supposed to be a game of 'gotchas' and 'unintended consequences of actions' I think something is lost when their decisions can be walked back. An example that comes to mind is the poor mortals cursed by the gods in Greek mythology- Arachne's story from greek mythology turns into something else entirely if she is brought back from the dead, or turned back into a human due to the changing whims of the gods rather than as a reward for lengthy quests or bizarre moral fable. Of course, such alterations only apply to the weak, as strong entities would simply spend 1 effort to ignore the effect, forcing any such transformation to require lengthy strength depleting battles to actually take effect.

As a bonus point of annoyance, there's a great deal of mind control scattered about with rough emotional correlations such as Fire=Angry, Madness giving control over the insane, or Dance having mind control just cuz. Turning roleplaying into 'I make the NPC do what I want them to do' is another of the much loathed 'abilities that skip over the act of playing the game.' And while the godbound are largely immune to it being done to them due to Effort, since the enemies all use the same abilities as the Godbound it does tend to be thrown at them as a possibility and imo, mind controlling player characters is something I think is Bad for a myriad of reasons both socially and game designy but I'm on enough of a tangent...

Actually Positive Remarks

The Bradster

This all may seem awfully negative for a game I played ~75 sessions split between two campaigns of, so lets try to throw in some things I liked. Not all of them are necessarily system specific, but oh well.

Players of the power level of Godbound are immediately Important. Their opinions about geopolitics, ethics, etc, matter because they can enact change. I think this encourages characterization and development of thought in ways that being a dirty adventurer dying in a hole does not.

The players can Change The World. I think it is low-key a waste to run a godbound campaign and then not have a future campaign in that world where players may be clerics of the gods, seek out their artifacts, marvel at their temples (ruined or otherwise) and so on.

You can use all the weird monster manual beasties that normally were 'level-gated' out of typical 'new D&D campaign' gameplay. Admittedly, they might not be as impressive if their main appeal was combat, but I had a good time using a False Hydra without it taking an entire mystery campaign arc, and had them fight Juiblex (or at least a simulacrum) for fun.

You can go absolutely nutty with designing challenges without much fear of a TPK ending the campaign, and so can use ideas that were too 'out there' for other campaigns.

It is, in my humble opinion, a waaaaay better approach to high level D&D shenanigans than 'This being has 10 million HP and +127 to-hit'

Advice if YOU ever want to run Godbound

A good way to approach interesting combats is to think of it as a superhero showdown- throw in ticking bombs and endangered civilians and crumbling buildings and mobility in combat to break up the back-and-forth of HP and effort depletion.

'Dungeons,' fortresses, etc that they raid should similarly be full of perils and obstacles which are not just passive walls of monster meat and stone, but problems the players must react to or go out of their way to preemptively solve. Some high level D&D dungeons try to solve player power by applying antimagic, anti-scry, anti-teleport, anti-tunnelling measures. I don't think that's a good idea for D&D, but it's DEFINITELY not a good idea for Godbound. Certainly it can be used in appropriate areas like the heavenly fortresses of rogue gods, but giving the players great abilities, then denying the players the use of their abilities to keep things 'manageable' misses the point entirely.

Run the game with intent to be very roleplay heavy, and not as a tactical wargame/problemsolving exercise as more standard OSR dungeon delves may be. The game advises 2/3 combat encounters to be there not as threats but as ways for the godbound to show off, so I think this intent exists in the game already. Bear in mind that Gifts abound with ways to bypass many social and informational problems, however.

Consider the game to be, in part, a world-building exercise. Anything that happens in a godbound game can be grounds for mythological past events in a future campaign in the world, and material for you to use later.

I recommend changing the initiative such that it alternates between 'player takes an action' and 'NPC takes an action' to break up the glutted barrages of side-based action and reaction. Or even doing a more standard individual initiative mode- I strongly think 'side based, with all players going first always' encourages boring strategies from the NPCs and PCs alike. 

For Legibility: Boss Monster, Smite Gifts, Entire Party of Godbound

Streamlining Procedure- Just as you should not require players to repeat things like "We look at the ceiling and tap the floor with a 10 foot pole as we advance through the dungeon" in every room after they've established that's what they do, similar streamlining of Godbound player action should be taken into account. A list of Journey miracles can be assumed to be in play unless otherwise mentioned with travelling. If the players want to know something, or even probably would want to know and have the word of Knowledge, and aren't in a position where spending effort would endanger them, you can simply tell them things without demanding precise announcement of which miracle they're using. If they walk into a room with sinister magics, you can spring right into describing what the bearer of the Gift of Perfect Understanding will understand about the evil runes.

Consider having one or more Big Bad Evil Guys who are out to GET the players. A sandbox is all well and good, but realistically speaking, most entities who are not aware and actively scheming to counter the players will likely be rolled over due to a lack of specific preparation against the myriad abilities of the godbound. If the players can phase through the earth, the majority of stone fortresses will suddenly be more disadvantage than defense, and there's no reason for Joe Tyrant #8 to see the player-stone-phase strategy coming any more than Joe Tyrant #1 did, assuming the players operate in a modicum of obscurity and the world does not have public television.
However, if Big Joe Evil is scheming to destroy the players and actively has spies and time to scheme, perhaps Joe Tyrant #8 will have Stun jellies on the edges of walls waiting to engulf unwary tunnelers, or Explosive Runes, or SOMETHING, thanks to the intel provided by Big Joe Evil. Having this kind of foe who can learn the players capabilities and try to come up with countermeasures not just for themselves, but for their lesser allies, can help keep the tactical/strategic aspect of the campaign continually challenging in a way that does not also have the issue of verisimilitude where each foe is inexplicably better prepared than the last one.

As a minor personal recommendation, word of Knowledge has a gift called 'The Best Course' which I think is absolutely terrible with regards to gameplay and you should ban it and any other gift that asks the GM to make an OOC decision about a value judgement about what is 'best' or tells the players what to do, rather than simply providing value-judgement neutral knowledge. If the players can ask the GM 'what should we do that has the best outcome' I believe the campaign will enter a horrid state of false player agency. Where their own decisions cease to be made, and the GM simply tells them what to do whenever they spend an effort, turning a game with multiple participants into a novel with one author.

And finally... consider a different system lol.

nuthin personnel, m'godbound

Should you play Godbound?
It may seem harsh to play what was by all accounts a very successful set of campaigns for nearly a whole year of weekly sessions, only to then say 'this system, which is most nobly available for Free online, wouldn't be my choice to run a campaign about Gods' but I think that is my ultimate conclusion. My summation of Godbound is that its design is ultimately derived from being "a power fantasy for D&D characters" and while it succeeded... that success shows the limits of this fundamental premise, and the possible clash of expectations derived thereof.

Fate, for instance, suffers from a similar problem of lots of conflict resolution feeling samey and being all about depleting Fate Points, but there's a lot less text to read and get caught up in thinking that it's all about the Combat Miracles. Fate is not my favorite storygame system, but I think it could work quite well for Godbound, without some of Godbounds mechanical pitfalls.

I'm not saying don't ever run or play Godbound. We had fun, for one campaign. You probably would too. It has a free version, so there's only moments of your lifespan at stake if you care to try it out. Not anything important, not like fungible currency!
But I think it's worth thinking to yourself about if, in your desire to play high-powered characters of myth, if a storygame might not capture the myth better, or if a superhero game might capture the spectacle of high powerscale battles of wits and might better.

What about Exalted?