For the second year running, Tales of a GM is proud to host the RPG Blog Carnival in January. I have so much fun connecting with great bloggers each time I host, so I wanted to repeat the experience in 2017.
The monthly Blog Carnival was launched by the RPG Blog Alliance. This group disbanded in 2015, but the Carnival was too good an idea to fade away. Thus, it migrated to a new home under the care of Johnn Four at his Roleplaying Tips website.
Every month, the host launches a new theme for the travelling Carnival. During January, this page will act as the central list for all the articles. If you have written something as part of the Carnival, then please leave a comment and a link here, so everyone can find your page. During the month I shall write a couple of contributions, probably based around some of the ideas suggested below.
At the end of January, a compilation article will unite all the submissions. If response is good, then there will also be weekly Carnival updates. I look forward to reading the contributions.
But first, we need a theme.
Prophecies & Omens
Inspired by the season once again, the theme for the January Carnival is Prophecies & Omens. January is a transitional month for many people. We are embarking on a new year, a new adventure in life. Sometimes we may find a prophecy, or see an omen, about an aspect of our life.
Such portents may also appear for the characters in our games. There are many ways to weave prophecies and omens into a game. Here are a few topics you could explore in the Prophecies & Omens Carnival:
- Prophecy Plots
The title for this month’s topic is in two parts, so the place to begin is by defining our terms. A prophecy is a prediction of the future, often a message from a divine being. Typically these are more like riddles, or puzzles, and usually relate to a major event. There are no prophecies about what the King may eat for breakfast, but plenty about who will rule the kingdom when the King dies.
For the Carnival: What prophecies have driven plots in your game? Have the Heroes thwarted a prophecy, or possibly fulfilled one? What makes for a good prophecy in RPGs? Can prophecies and SF mix?
In contrast to a prophecy, an omen is an event given meaning, usually unlucky. The event has happened, such as a raven landing on the roof, and is then ascribed a meaning. An omen may just be folklore and superstition, or it could be used as a form of divination. This moves us into the field of augury, where omens are interpreted as a divine message. The Ancient Romans saw messages in the flight of birds, but other sources of omens are possible.
For the Carnival: What are the omens for good and bad luck in your setting? Is there a form of augury not dependent upon birds? How do omens work in your game? Are there any mechanical benefits to spotting or fulfilling an omen?
If there are prophecies, then so there will be prophets, the enlightened messengers of the gods. Or perhaps they are simply charismatic charlatans, leading a personality cult with no divine sanction. In a world where divine magic is possible, these two categories ought not be confused.
For the Carnival: Can you describe a famous prophet from your game? Are prophets lone voices, or an official part of church hierarchy? Do the words of prophets have any influence over church politics? Does your game have a dangerous cult headed by a zealous prophet? How does the established religions feel about this new arrival?
The divine message carried by a prophet usually focuses on a single goal. In contrast, the work of an oracle is more general. Anyone may ask the oracle a question, although they may not like or even understand the answer.
The Oracle at Delphi is a classic example. Many powerful Greeks sought answers from the oracle, even if the reply was frustratingly cryptic. In game terms, a famous oracle is a useful source of all manner of predictions. If your Players are fond of riddles, then here is yet another way to weave them into the campaign.
For the Carnival: Does your setting have a famous oracle in the style of Delphi? Perhaps the best known oracle is just a wise individual, who hides from the Queen after a famously ominous prediction. An oracular magical item would be a powerful object, and a great goal for a quest.
From the sword in the stone to the oracle at Delphi, a famous prophecy has driven many stories. Tolkien even writes a poetic prophecy about Aragorn. Such plots are a common trope in fantasy. Heroes may fight to fulfil a prophecy, while a corrupt ruler may take extreme measures to thwart the prediction.
For the Carnival: What games have you run around a prophecy? Can you think of an epic prophecy for a game, yet ensure enough Player agency through the story? Or does the central motivation for the villain in your campaign revolve around thwarting a prophecy?
As you can see, there are lots of ways to write about prophecies and omens. You can choose a narrow interpretation, and write about your game, or go wide and be generic. I am sure there is even a meta approach to the topic, looking at the way GMs read the progress of the game from the Players’ behaviour. There should be enough scope in this topic for everyone. I look forward to reading your submissions to the January RPG Blog Carnival.
Please leave a link, and perhaps a brief introduction, for your submission for the January Carnival in the comments below.
- Read more about the RPG Blog Carnival and the schedule of hosts, at Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips website.
- Read all the current entries to the December Carnival at 6d6 RPG, where the topic was garbage and sewers.
- Do you need more Tales?
If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:
- Something for the Weekend last week: December ‘16 Carnival, Sewers and Civilization
- Something for the Weekend BONUS article: 2017 Resolutions