Dec 30

January Blog Carnival: Prophecies & Omens


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.



Blog Carnival

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.


Read more about the current incarnation of the Carnival at Johnn’s website.


January Carnival

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:

  • Prophecies
  • Omens
  • Prophets
  • Oracles
  • 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.


Prophecy Plots

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.



Happy Gaming



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  1. gcampoverde

    I was holding my draft for this one when I saw the calendar, and here it is… a few tips on handling prophecies in your campaign.


    I may do a second entry more specific to Eberron’s Draconic Prophecy.

  2. Phil

    Hi Gonzalo,

    Congratulations on such a fast submission! This is a great overview of using prophecies in RPGs, and their limitations.

    Thank you for sharing, and I hope you can find the time to write a second entry.

    All the best

  3. Tony Brotherton

    I couldn’t resist so here’s an article about how to use Tarot cards in Fantasy RPGs


    1. Phil

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for participating in the January Blog Carnival. Glad you like the topic.

      That is a great article about Tarot in RPGs. I am going to use your idea for a personality reading, applying it to my Runic Skuld cards in a similar layout. Interpretation could take a while, so I may not use it in character generation for every Hero. However, the model could be used when Players are really stuck, or as a special event during a game.

      Happy Gaming

  4. Phil


    Just as the contributions start to roll in, I have posted my first piece for Prophecies & Omens. This essay explores Roman bird auguries, and makes some suggestions for how to include these in your game:


    More to follow next week.

    Happy Gaming

  5. Phil


    Clark has contributed to the Carnival with an essay at RPG Geek. Here is what he wrote:

    My blog noting the halting development of prophecy in D&D


  6. John Crowley III

    I decided to explore how I utilize prophecy in my games. It can be a little tricky, but very meaningful.


    1. Phil

      Hi John,

      Thanks for contributing to the Carnival. This is a great article exploring the limitations and requirements of RPG prophecies.

      All the best

  7. Temmogen

    Hope everyone enjoys reading it. Though I do tend to ramble…


    1. Phil

      Hi Temmogen,

      Thanks for contributing to the Blog Carnival.

      I am pleased to see someone finally post a prophecy. I liked the Dragon Orbs prophecy, but the text is rather long with all of them together. It is a shame the Players did not want to pursue that prophecy.

      All the best

      1. Temmogen

        I have rewritten the Dragon Orbs Prophecy. It’s a bit more refined now, not quite as long. I hope you enjoy it.


        1. Phil

          Hi Temmogen,

          Awesome, thank you for your second contribution to the January Carnival.

          The new version of the Dragon Orbs Prophecy is event better. I can really see how it would act as a great backdrop to a campaign. I hope you can find the Players to run it.

          All the best

  8. mythusmage

    Keep in mind that accurate prophesying can have consequences, as we see in this post

    1. mythusmage

      And that post can be found at http://mythusmage.today/looking-beneath/#.WIJfS-YrLIU

      1. Phil

        Hi Mythusmage,

        Thanks for the contribution, and returning to post the link. This is a great magical device, and would certainly impact how entrails were read.

        All the best

  9. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    Friday has rolled around again, so it is time for my second contribution to the Carnival.

    As suggested by my first essay, the creation of random bird augury tables merited an article to themselves. In Part 2, I present five tables allowing you to randomly generate a suitable bird augury. You will have to improvise a meaning for yourself, but the activity of the birds is handled here:


    Happy Gaming

  10. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have stumbled across another contribution to the January Carnival. Marc Plourde at Inspiration Strikes, has written about Omens in RPGs. I am so pleased to find an article focusing on the second part of the Prophecies & Omens theme:


    Happy Gaming

  11. Marc Plourde (@inspstrikes)

    For some reason my G+ account is eating my posts here! Thanks to Phil for alerting me hopefully this time it’ll go through via my twitter handle

    At any rate here’s my contribution focusing mostly on the Omen side of the street!

    1. Phil

      Hi Marc,

      Ah, that has fixed it. I have no idea why you could not leave a comment here via G+. Nobody else has told of this issue, so I do not know how I can correct the problem.

      Anyway, thanks for the contribution, blessed now with a double link.

      All the best

  12. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I continue to find inspiration in the topic. Here is my third contribution, exploring the Oracle at Delphi, and the broader application of oracles to an RPG:


    Wishing you a wonderful weekend

  13. Alex Welk

    I wrote up this essay talking about how to improvise prophecy and omen in real time. This includes discussion about utilizing your players as a free source of inspiration while keeping them in the dark about exactly what was planned…


    1. Phil

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for contributing to the Carnival. I am very fond of improv gaming, so I particularly enjoyed your article.

      All the best

  14. Marc Plourde (@inspstrikes)

    I dunno if my comment went through (yay for technology) so I’m trying this via my twitter again. Another blog entry featuring 1d20 Weird Omens for Numenera or other games.

    1. Phil

      Hi Marc,

      Thank you for a second contribution to the January Carnival.

      These omens are great, a wonderful mix of mundane and bizarre. Obviously, they are specific to Numenera, but make a great starting point to compiling a list of omens for any RPG.

      Many thanks for sharing

  15. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have tracked down another contribution to the Blog Carnival. Brian Fitzpatrick at Moebius Adventures has posted this article about Prophecies from the Pit of Serpents, where the bite of a sacred snake can bring on visions:


    Happy Gaming

  16. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I have posted my last proper contribution to the Prophecies & Omens topic. Part four presents a set of three tables to generate random prophecies:


    Next week, I plan to post a summary of the January Blog Carnival, complete with all the links in the one post.

    I hope you have enjoyed the assorted contributions

  17. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    In the process of compiling my fourth weekly update for the Carnival, I stumbled across yet another article. This contribution is from Sean Holland at the Sea of Stars blog. Sean explores the role played by prophecy in his campaign:


    Thanks for contributing

  18. timsbrannan

    Sneaking this one in under the wire!

    Prophecies can be a pain. Especially if you are a first rate wooer of women but only a third rate witch.

  19. Phil

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for participating, and you did make the deadline with a day to spare. Your essay will be in my summary post, due Friday.

    All the best

    1. timsbrannan

      Looking forward to it!

  20. Phil

    Hi Everyone,

    I know January has finished, but I stumbled upon another entry to the topic. Jaye and the team at 6d6 RPG posted a counter-argument to the use of prophecies in RPGs:


    This is an good overview of the potential pitfalls of prophecies.

    Happy Gaming

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