Prophecy

Prophecy is the divine gift to foresee in detail the fate and destiny of mortals.

Prophets are those born with the “Gift of Isati”, the ability to prophecy. Initially the gift is weak and a prophet must develop his ability over time. This power of prophecy first manifests itself as dreams that occur when the prophet is asleep. Because of this, at first they are unlikely to pay any attention to them. As the prophet becomes more aware that these dreams come true, they will begin to occur more often. Eventually these dreams will become waking visions. Over time the prophet will develop a keener sense of these visions, and can even provoke them under the right circumstances. The prophet will develop the skill to interpret their own prophecies and many will write them down.

Prophets have a greater overall awareness of the divine, and thus are sought out to be emissaries of the deities. Prophets, therefore, often have the ability to communicate with their deity in a means far greater than any cleric.

Divination:
Prophecy is not divination, and it is important to make this distinction. Divination is the use of magical forces to learn something that is in the present or past, either by asking a divinity for the answer, or by scrying into another place and trying to learn the answer by oneself. Divination can sometimes be used to make a prediction about the immediate future, but is never as accurate as prophecy and is usually only the advice of a greater intelligence that may have access to more knowledge.

Prophecy comes directly to the prophet and has no restrictions based on current knowledge. The most unexpected and unlikely of future events can easily be foreseen by prophecy, if they are, in fact the preordained event that will occur.

ADMINISTERING PROPHECY

In the campaign World of Naeja the greatest tool a DM has is Prophecy. The DM has the ability to define future events for the Player Characters, that may or may not specifically include them. These events can then be the focus of the storylines the DM runs. Player Characters may be the center of these prophecies, or they may simply be involved peripherally. Generally only the PCs can actually change the prophecised events and doing so would be extremely difficult. A DM does not have to use Prophecy. It exists in the world, and the PCs should be aware of that, but that doesn't mean they have to be involved in them.

Prophecy can be a daunting tool to use, but with a few simple rules and a good bit of practice you will find it is far easier than you may fear.

For the purposes of administering prophecy, it is best to give prophecies a few simple classifications.

There are three Classifications of Prophecies:

Minor Prophecy: A minor prophecy has very little effect on the overall campaign world. It may be something that will happen soon, and usually only involves a single person, a small group, or a local. It has very few lasting effects upon the world, and only a moderate effect upon those it entails.

Major Prophecy: A major prophecy has a somewhat significant impact on the overall campaign world. It often is predicted well in advance, and usually involves someone of significance, such as a King, or a great deal of people, such as an entire nation. It often has a long lasting effect upon the world, and a major effect upon those it entails.

Grand Prophecy: A grand prophecy has a huge impact on the overall campaign world. It often is predicted thousands of years in advance, by various prophets, often with different variations or tellings. It usually involves a large number of significant individuals, such as numerous kings, gods, major NPCs and often many PCs. It will often decide the fate of an entire nation, or various nations, and may even decide the fate of the world as it is currently known. It's impact will forever change the world, and the lives of those it entails.

Despite these classifications, you don't have to worry about forcing any prophecy to fit into one of these categories. These are only helpful guidelines and often have very little to do with the management of prophecy.

Prophets themselves are usually associated with the classifications of prophecies they predict. Minor Prophets predict minor prophecies, while Major Prophets predict major prophecies. Grand Prophets do exist, though often times there are numerous Major Prophets predicting Grand Prophecies, but only in part. That is, it is very rare for a single Prophet to make a Grand Prophecy, and certainly the one that does would be considered a Grand Prophet.

The information above, with that provided in the Prophet character class, should be enough for you to begin using prophecies in your campaign. You don't have to know any more than this to do so. However, if you feel that you need further explanation and advice, then below is a far more structured and formal method for administering prophecy in a campaign.


A System for Administering Prophecy:

Above are detailed the three Classifications of Prophecy. However, to better understand how prophecy works, it is possible to assign various descriptors to prophecy. There are two "Forms" of prophecy, which describe the ways the prophet uses his ability. There are six "Manifestations" of prophecy, which simply describe the means in which a prophet receives a prophecy. There are various "Types" of prophecies, which describe the amount and the detail of the information the prophecy may impart. Finally, there are various "Interpretations" of prophecies, which describe the ways in which prophets and those who make use of prophecies translate and apply them. Below are full definitions of each of these descriptors.

There are two Forms of prophecy:

Predictions: The prophet foresees events before they happen. This is the most common form of prophecy. An example would be having a vision of a young warrior with a unique birthmark overthrowing a terrible tyrant.
Postdictions: The prophet sees events that have happened in the past but that have a significance for the future. It is far less common, and only occurs in relation to future events. It is prophecy, simply because it is the ability to see events outside of the time in which they occured, and it is relevant to future events. An example would be having a vision of the birth of a child with a unique birthmark, during a war that occured eighteen years ago, in a city ruled by a tyrant. This would be relevant in knowing that the child is now 18 and may be important to future events.

There are six Manifestatons of Prophecy:

Omens: The first manifestation of the gift of prophecy is the ability to recognize and interpret Omens. An Omen is an occurance or phenomenon that portends, or foreshadows, a future event. Such signs are never very clear, and usually only provide a vague prediction. The use of external signs to predict future events has been a long standing tradition. It simplifies the process, and can even bring on prophetic visions in true prophets. However, when the external signs are the only source for the prediction, they can be very unreliable. Examples include: observing astrology, throwing bones, reading entrails, and watching animal behavior.
Prophetic Dreams: The second manifestation of the gift of prophecy is having prophetic dreams. Ones mind is more open during sleep, and so these visions may occur as dreams, sometimes causing nightmares. Prophetic Dreams are often visions of coming events. They may be litteral or they may be symbolic. Because everyone dreams, they are often ignored until the person understands that they are prophetic.
Prophetic Visions: The third manifestation of the gift of prophecy is having waking visions. The visual and auditory senses are suddenly overwhelmed with other information, detaching the prophet from the moment. This can be very dangerous for the prophet, as he loses all control of himself, entering a sort of catatonic state, during the vision. These visions may be litteral or they may be symbolic. They may also appear as Divine Dictations, that is, a deity speaking to or appearing before the prophet and telling him the future.
Inspired actions: The fourth manifestation of the gift of prophecy is having inspired actions. The prophet acts upon visions and impulses immediately, without knowledge or understanding of what he is doing. This is very rare even amongst very experienced prophets. This is often described as a "feeling", "sense" or a "compulsion."
Inspired words: The fifth manifestation of the gift of prophecy is speaking or writing inspired words. The prophet acts as a medium through which the prophetic words are spoken or channeled into automatic writing. The prophet may not even remember the event, or may remember exactly what was said as if it were burned into their skull. This is common amongst experienced prophets, and is the source of most prophecies that are written down in poetic quatrains.
Revelations: The sixth manifestation of the gift of prophecy is having inspired moments of ingenious thought. These sudden moments of insight can be very useful immediately or simply be knowledge to be set aside for later use.

There are various Types of prophecies:

Specific: The prediction is very specific, and thus will clearly come true or be proven false.
Vague: The prediction makes a non-specific claim, therefore it is difficult to verify if it has come true or not.
Open ended: The prediction has no specific time frame and therefore runs indefinitely and could be said to have come true and then later be determined that it has yet to have occurred.
Recycled: The prophecy seems to repeat itself in various similar events, therefore could have been intended for only one or all occurrences.
Broad: The prediction covers more than one possible outcome, therefore it is likely to catch the events no matter what happens.
Probable: The prediction is something that would likely come true anyways, therefore it is often times seen as an unsurprising event.
Insignificant: The prediction is about something so trivial that it seemingly will have no significance. Such predictions often have no danger associated with them and there is no apparent need to avoid the predicted event. However, it is possible that the event may, after coming to pass, prove to have been very significant, and the significance was not detailed in the prophecy.
Infaliable: The prediction makes a claim that is impossible to verify or falsify, therefore when it supposedly comes true it can either be accepted or denied, but both would be due to a lack of detail that can be proven.
Self-fulfilling: Some prophecies will come to pass just by the fact that they were foretold. Those who are referred to in the prophecy may try to prevent it or to make it occur, and by doing so will actually cause the prophecy to be fulfilled. Often times those acting cannot see, due to lack of information or ignorance, that they are causing the prophecy to be fulfilled.

False Prophets

It is an unfortunate truth that there are those who will use prophecy to their own ends. Many times there have been those who have created false prophecies. Some may do so innocently, meaning they are either mad or truly believe their predictions are prophecy, while others do so willfully and selfish intent.

The use of false prophecy is one way to inspire change. If the vast majority believe the prophecy will come true there will be those who will work towards that end, hoping to be on the "right side" when it comes to pass. On the other hand, some use false prophecies as a means to deter change. If an entire country believes that they must always have a wizard on their throne or prophecy tells that the kingdom will fall to the religious fanatics in the neighboring country, then likely they will always keep a wizard on the throne.

There are also true prophets who choose to fabricate false prophecies. They are often more trusted and so it is easier for them to convince others that their prophecies are true. Their reasons are often the same as those of other false prophets, but if they are in the service of a particular deity it may be because they are trying to enforce the will of their god. If a prophet warns others that he has forseen their doom if they defy the will of his deity, it may not be the result of a true prophecy, but it might not be contrary to the deity's will.

Interpreting Prophecy

There are various Interpretations of Prophecies:

Predictive: Most prophecies are interpreted as being predictions of events that will come to pass. Most sages will interpret a prophet in this manner, even if it may fall into another category. It can be difficult to divine the difference.
Retrospective: As some prophecies are actually visions of the past, it is understood that sometimes one must look back to see if all or part of a prophecy has already occurred. This means applying stanzas of the prophecy to the past, and seeing if they fit prior occurrence without forcing them to.
Manipulative: Some sages of prophecies will manipulate the wording of the prophecy to suit what it means to them. This isn't always incorrect, as often times one must transpose modern events and names in the place of those mentioned in the prediction to get the correct interpretation. Other times the order of the phrases are rearranged to come up with a more understandable timeline, but some meaning may be lost when this is done.
Selective Interpretation: There are times when those interpreting prophecies will select one or more lines, withdrawing them from the rest of the prophecy, stating that they refer to a particular event. It is possible that this is the case, however it is also just as likely that they are misinterpreting the prophecy. Some will do this to suit their own means. They will select only the lines that support their cause and will ignore the rest, even if they contradict their cause.
Overanalytical: It isn't uncommon for those sages interpreting prophecies to read too much into them. Often times sages can be bombastic and prolific in their writing, cramming excessive amounts of information that's barely related into their discussion of the meanings of the prophecies. It takes a keen mind to sift through this abundance of useless material, and pull out what is best and most accurate.

Creating a Prophecy

Now that you understand the different descriptors given above, you are ready to create a prophecy. There are five steps in this process.

Step 1) Decide who, or what the prophecy is about.
This is the most important part of the process, as you must first decide if that prophecy is about the PCs themselves, or about an NPC they will be involved with. Will the prophecy simply be about an event, or maybe about a particular object? Will the Prophecy require the PCs to be involved, or could anyone be involved? Fortunately, making such a decision is about the same as writing an adventure. You must know the overall quest, who is questing, and the adversaries and obstacles they will face in completing the quest. These decisions are the same for deciding a prophecy.

Step 2) Decide when the Prophecy will occur.
When deciding prophecies, it is often simplest to assign them to a particular point in time. The best way to do this is to use the Astrological Timeline, so you can tie the event to a particular celestial alignment. Then you can describe the alignment in terms that a skilled astrologer would know, but everyone else wouldn't. Then you can steer the PCs in that direction. If they don't resolve their part by that date, you can just let the event happen. Of course, not all prophecies have to have a set timeline. Some are vague and may occur in the distant future, or could occur tomorrow. This is a good way to keep the PCs guessing and to give yourself time to steer events in the right direction without letting them know it.

Step 3) Decide what will occur.
If the prophecy comes true, what is going to happen? You must decide. If the prophecy fails to come true, are there any ramifications? You should always plan for both possible outcomes. The whole point of this being a roleplaying game is to allow the PCs a chance to influence the story, and by preventing a terrible prophecy from coming true they truly will feel they have a part in the campaign. However, if they fail to prevent a prophecy, it is often a wake up call to just how important they are to the campaign.

Step 4) Writing the Prophecy.
The next step is to put the prophecy into writing. A prophecy can be as simple as a dream someone had or as lengthy as a long cycle of poetic verse describing various events. As you write your prophecy you must decide what you want to give the PCs and how much work you want to put into it. Is it easy for you to write some flowery poetic quatrains to inspire your PCs, or would you rather just write a descriptive paragraph about some dream a PC or NPC had? Maybe you'd just like to put a couple simple lines of verse together and tell the PCs it is a commonly known prediction. Whatever way you do it, it is important that the PCs get it in writing so they can recall it. After all, Players do have a life out of gaming (we hope) and keeping up with some prophecy given in game may be of little consequence to them.

Step 5) Delivering the Prophecy.
Finally, you must deliver the prophecy to the PCs. How will you do this? You must decide if the PCs get the prophecy first hand, from the prophet, through word of mouth, by research and discovery, or by finding it scrawled on some stone or papyrus in some ancient cache or cavern. Sometimes PCs get the prophecy as part of their adventure hook, other times it just appears to be something they stumbled on by random. Sometimes the DM may just give out a full prophecy to every player and tell them it is a well known prophecy that may or may not involve them. This is a good way to keep it mysterious, especially if you really don't involve them in every such prophecy.

There, now you have your first prophecy, right? No? Not that simple, eh? Ok, let me offer you some advice on how to start…

Stages:

When learning how to implement prophecies it is a good idea to do so in stages. There are only four stages, and you may decide to skip some if you are ready to. These stages are really just groups of advice, so I suggest you read over all of them and just take what you want from them. They offer solutions to overcoming difficulties in the process, and might offer a few points you hadn't thought of before.

Stage I: Novice. If you've never used prophecy before, you should probably start here. Minor prophecies, and no prophet PC or NPC in the campaign.
Stage II: Intermediate. If you've had some experience, you can start adding in a Major prophecy, and could have a Prophet NPC.
Stage III: Expert. Now that you've learned the basics, you can start using Major prophecies regularly and maybe start introducing a Grand Prophecy. You can allow your first PC Prophets, and have regular contact with NPC prophets.
Stage IV: Master. After mastering the skills needed, you can now fully develop a Grand Prophecy and manage multiple Major Prophecies. You can GM for a high level PC prophet, and allow prophecy to be a major aspect of your campaign.

Stage 1. Novice
Those who are new to using Prophecy in a campaign world may find that they want to get their feet wet before jumping in, proverbially speaking. The best advice I can offer is to "keep it simple." Nothing says prophecy has to be complex or world shattering. These five rules will help you keep it simple:
1) Don't have a Prophet as a main character: This means not allowing a Prophet PC, and if you have a Prophet NPC, use him sparingly. If you can, don't even include a Prophet. Just have the prophecy written down somewhere, so you avoid having to give the "first hand interpretation".
2) Keep it Short: Your first prophecy should be no more than a simple quatrain, four lines that hint at some greater event. You can always add more prophecies to it later. Heck, you could even make it one line if you wanted to.
3) Keep it Relative: That is, don't worry about trying to use some world shattering prophecy. Instead stick to Minor Prophecies and keep it close to the immediate story. There have been thousands of prophecies that came true, or failed, within weeks of their telling. Or, they were about something specific that really only affected a few people. At the most, have it an event that occurs around a small locale, so you don't have to worry about the rest of the world. If you are relating it to a PC, that's even simpler. Then the prophecy follows the PC around and you just need to find ways to employ it.
4) Keep it Simple: Don't make the prophecy too elaborate. There's no reason to make it so complicated or vague that it doesn't make sense. Only predict things that will likely happen anyways, based on what you know as the DM.
5) Don't worry about it: If it doesn't work out, it's not a big deal. There have been many prophecies that never came true. The PCs should understand that their decisions really do have an effect on the outcome of prophecies. If the PCs ignored your prophecy and went off on a tangent, don't even worry about resolving it. Later you can master the technique of "steering" the PCs back on track. If the PCs ask you about why the prophecy didn't come to pass, I suggest smiling mysteriously and offering no other response.

Stage 2. Intermediate
After you've managed a few Minor Prophecies, as detailed above, you may decide your ready to jump into the proverbial lake and start swimming.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License