CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Future Perfect

Divination In Your Pathfinder Game

I find that when writing characters for my randomly rolled backgrounds I make a lot of oracles. In theory I love the idea of seeing possible futures, of being connected to destinies. The thing is, as a GM sometimes I find it difficult to deal with divination spells. How do you show the future to your players when the future is mutable? And how do you keep the mystery in the game when the players can just look to magic to show them the path?

Divinations came up in this week’s Shattered Star game. One of my players is a cleric of Sarenrae and he had access to the spell of divination. In the midst of their preparing for the next part of the initial adventure they were waylaid by hired thugs. Seeking to find who hired them they came up with a clue about who it was from just interrogating one of the attackers. The cleric used divination to find out where the person was located. Which left me with a conundrum, how much information do I give?

I can’t give too much away as my players, or at least the cleric reads my blog, but to be honest this was a total last minute side thing I had zero preparation for. I did have some idea in my mind as to where I wanted this to go, but the divination through me for a loop. So what information to give and how to give it? Verse. I went with verse.

What you seek
So seeks you
Finding it is hard to do
It follows the path
Which you also tread
Wait long enough
It'll find you instead

For those of you who don’t know, Shattered Star is fairly straightforward “find the McGuffin” adventure. The players are seeking the pieces of an artifact as a mission from the Pathfinder Society. Luckily the, ‘it follows the path, which you also tread’ line was enough to send them scurrying back to the Pathfinder lodge. Where they found that the research of the lodge head had been stolen. So now the person they suspected has all the information about the artifact they have, and is possibly seeking it.

One of the first ways we can find help in determining how to deal with a divination is determining how they person is gaining this information. The Augury spell says the material component is marked sticks or bones. A simple yes or no answer comes easily with this method. The divination spell requires incense which means the caster is praying for an answer directly from a god. Luckily gods are notoriously vague and a quick limerick works, but you could use a visual omen. For example, I could have shown the cleric images of the shattered star and the wrecked pathfinder lodge.

Clerics aren’t the only ones who get divination spells that might answer questions the players can’t answer themselves. Bards, sorcerers, witches, and wizards get the harrowing as a 3rd level spell. The joy of the harrow cards is that you can find the cards that will give clues to what they are asking, but the interpretation is still up to the players. They may even misinterpret what you are trying to tell them, which can lead to even more fun shenanigans later.

All in all there is a delicate balance between the information the characters want and the keeping the game from becoming overly simple. Divinations should almost never turn into the ability to wrap things up with a neat little bow. The Golarion campaign setting makes this especially easy since their current time period is the Age of Lost Omens. Divinations are well known to be vague and inaccurate.

So how have you used divinations in your game? Have they made adventures overly easy for your players? What kind of divinations do they use? In what way do you present these omens of the future?

Although the future is vague hopefully the CRB brings you some clarity. If you’ve found the omens you seek here, please consider contributing to the CRB’s Patreon. If you’d like more interaction with the CRB and me please join our communities on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter. My inbox on all social media outlets is always open.

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