Author Topic: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?  (Read 509 times)

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Offline EltonJ

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How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« on: July 02, 2024, 05:34:12 PM »
Simple question.  I ask because I asked this question (essentially the same question) on the Eberron discord group.  I said I don't do the draconic prophecy because I wanted to maintain player agency as free agents.  However, I thought I might ask here if you include prophecy in any of your games.  How do you include it, what you do to maintain player free agency?  Do you keep prophecy vague?

Offline Cory Magel

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2024, 07:24:44 PM »
Make your prophesy vague enough and you can often fit events into it.
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Offline jdale

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2024, 07:35:33 PM »
I have used it in vague ways that don't cover player actions in my current game. For example the Oracle said (when asked by an NPC "what is the greatest power in the wastes?"):

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“Time consumes all and renews all, but its hand upon the gods is slowest in the land of ruins.”
“The gray idol claims the mystic power of water, receiving the prayers of his people and offering them terrible ablutions. His power rises towards its zenith.”
“Those who claim the legacy of life and death hold a chained god in the seat of the one-eyed skull. Its power is lasting.”
“Manyfold are the swarm lords, and manyfold are the idols. Many, too, are the builders. Each pursues the others in an endless chase. But when one calls out to another, it may come to pass that a greater power returns. Only war and death will follow.”

Not a lot of prediction there. They are currently in the thick of line 4 though. Line 3 is likely next. The players were also told (at a different point):

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“Child of Azinkainal, you walk with those who carry the marks of Caecytia, Lysianora, Kallodotenia, Oragorion, and Hadrillos. This is a council of disruption and change.”

Which mostly just gave them things to talk about, and maybe a little foreshadowing. (Four of those names are known deities, three of them with obvious connections to the party members, the other two were obscure.)


We've done more with prophecies in the LARP. Oddly, when you get more players involved, things can sometimes be more predictable. (Sometimes.) Still open-ended but prophecies are a good way to give players a list of important tasks. We've also done the counter-prophecy opposing group, that makes pretty explicit that failure is still an option, but you can still see the path you need to follow for success. In a LARP you've got a little more freedom to have different elements playing out simultaneously at different rates with different player groups; in a tabletop RPG you can give them some freedom about sequence but it's mostly one at a time.

Here's one from our previous campaign (which the players received in a very difficult code and needed to decipher first):

Quote
Few shall heed my words, chosen shall they be.
Guided, unguided, blessed shall they be.
From depths does shake, the mountain coughs up flame
As Eurus shudders, belches forth foul smoke.
Boreas rages with frost, propelling
Dragons from their ports against far shores.
The madhouse does burn and the mad forget
Death with echoes, echoes of fire and pain,
Nothing more in mad memories of ash.
The Zephyr stirring, herald of phantoms
In fog, old and new, first tendrils of change.
The serpent shatters, enslaved in the chains
Of her own making, a broken fragment.
New-lost memories awash on the rocks,
Forgotten cargo goes free, good and ill.
Shattered serpent freed with a holy draught.
Conceal’d, the bless’d hand tears down a tainted
House of cards, only to build it anew.
Dragon’s Crown trembles on a narrow ledge.
For scatter’d bones do scramble the reborn
In the place of peace, in the place of strife, 
Drowned in blood-red riches, or at the foot 
Of power arcane, in the calmest eye   
Or in the wrathful crypt, the hand that guides, 
Or in the throne of those long lost to faith 
To put to rest mistakes of age forgot,
And avert the end of all creation.
From depths does shake, the mountain coughs up flame
As Eurus shudders, belches forth foul smoke.
The dragon’s cycle, shall fire all consume?
The bitter glass of spirits treacherous
And he who holds the glass of night ahigh
Not eas’ly yields his ill-got dominion.
In this reign, night is day as day is night
The lock shall be the key, and key the lock,
But not ere error be at last undone
And when at last the day is day again
The tides of dissonance shall wash like storms
Against the shores, a rising flood of hate
And wild cards may earn their unlikely stake
For lord and lady’s long lost die is cast.

Roughly the first half covered historical events, that's helpful in establishing that it's reliable and gives the players a chance to get a sense of how to interpret the words. The lines starting with "In the place of peace" up through "Or in the throne of those long lost to faith" is a list of where the 8 bones they needed to recover could be found. "Mountain coughs up flame" obviously is a volcanic eruption, "the dragon's cycle" is a calendar reference hinting at the timeline, "in this reign, night is day as day is night" transformed the world so evil ruled and good was on the run (and some of the good players were changed), although nobody saw that coming, they just woke up one morning and everything was wrong. Until "error be at last redone" and they fixed it, but found the world already in the midst of war which "wild cards" had to use what they had learned in the evil world to prevent their world from being overrun.

So, it gives hints about what they need to do, and the stakes, and the timing of events outside their control, but super vague about who will do what.
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Offline Wolfwood

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2024, 01:25:23 AM »
As I tend to ignore novels with the word "prophecy" in their blurb, I don't really use them in my games either. However, if I were to use them, I would do so to highlight their inherent ambiguity. Their vague language and symbolism allows them to be retrofitted to almost any outcome, thereby demonstrating their inherent silliness.

So, I might use a prophecy to allow the player characters to interpret it as they like, perhaps to guide some of their actions, but also allow them to work against the prophecy if they so choose. Whether they interpret the prophecy to refer to their current circumstances or not is their choice.

Offline MisterK

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2024, 02:10:20 AM »
I am a firm believer of the "the prophecy is right until someone proves it wrong" philosophy. Basically, a prophecy is the most likely outcome given the current situation and the various factions involved.
If you can change the situation enough, then the prophecy might become wrong.

It's basically the Intuition spell pushed to the extreme and wrapped into mystical mumbo-jumbo :)

But there are obviously things you can do to make your prophecy more resistant to PC actions
- be vague about what will happen
- do not specify a precise date
- if you can think of different, conflicting interpretations, that's better
- make sure that some people know of it and have already invested in either its resolution or its avoidance, in their own flawed way. If they have researched it, and tried to avoid it and failed, it gains significance and power just because people are convinced it *will* happen.
- use a prophecy in a world setting where most people believe in fate in some way (and it will likely be thwarted) OR in a world where everyone thinks they are just con jobs or fairy tales (and it will likely become true).
- if you want the prophecy to become true, don't make it the focus of the campaign unless the characters *want* it to become true. This preserves player agency. After all, if they are busy doing something else, the kingdom can meet its fate.
- if you want your players to go along and make it happen, reveal the prophecy only after they have already chosen what they will do - if they want to save the kingdom, reveal the prophecy that the tyrant will fall only as part of their search for a way to achieve their goal. Thus, they well not see it as railroading but as a clue. This is usually the midpoint of the campaign, where the characters go from "looking for a recipe" to "gathering the ingredients".

Offline Druss_the_Legend

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2024, 06:04:32 AM »
I included two prophecies in my campaign. one with the PCs as heroes and one with the protagonist (a dork god) returning from exile and covering the world in eternal darkness. Which one is true is up to the players.

Offline Druss_the_Legend

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2024, 01:13:08 PM »
 ... (a DARK god)

Offline nash

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Re: How would you incorporate prophecy in your games?
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2024, 02:50:23 PM »
Simple question.  I ask because I asked this question (essentially the same question) on the Eberron discord group.  I said I don't do the draconic prophecy because I wanted to maintain player agency as free agents.  However, I thought I might ask here if you include prophecy in any of your games.  How do you include it, what you do to maintain player free agency?  Do you keep prophecy vague?

So a few ways:
 - First  is keep it vague and ambiguous.  Adding "it's a translation" helps here
 - Second is to try to not let the PCs know what it is.  Just there exists a prophecy.   May be irritating.
 - Third is to steal a leaf from the Belgariad... the players want the prophecy to be true... so they do what they can to follow the rules/prophecy.
 - Forth is don't ;-)