In my world, the gods great and small play an active role in the lives of mortals. Some would say too active. They are, for the most part, extremely self-interested, and provide magical aid to mortals in exchange for worship, favors, service, or specific rituals. The gods also play by somewhat different rules than mortals, and are not always bound by what we would term 'sanity'.
- One character has gained the ability to sense fear by sacrificing a black goat at dawn with a blade of buried bronze. However, he can only do it when the moon is less than half full, because he kind of timeshares the ability with someone else (this is a damn good deal)
- One character has a god of darkness for a patron, granting him limited control over darkness. In return, he must behave according to a certain code, and do things when asked (this is a pretty standard deal).
However, this is not the preferred arrangement for gods. Although they get something in return, they have to sacrifice a portion of their power. Instead, gods prefer to grant mortals knowledge. Once a god has a valuable piece of knowledge, they can sell it to as many people as they want, and it is often more valuable than a supernatural ability. The gods also prefer that the information be a black box.
If a mortal can figure out how the knowledge works, they can create further advancements from it. This stops a god from selling additional knowledge, so gods don't like it. As such, the gods never explain the knowledge. Some people know how to make wine, but they have no clue why it works. (Teaching godly knowledge to others is also a pretty sure way to get smote).
Examples of this kind of useful but dead-end knowledge are:
- How to make wine
- Advanced metallurgic techniques
- Blackmail information (who's sleeping with who, etc)
- Verbal equivalent of a treasure map
- All major astrological events for the next twenty years
So, I'm interested to hear what other ideas people have, because I'm close to running dry. What interesting information / technological advancements are mortals willing to pay for? Bonus points if it fits the 'black box' concept.