Jan 13

Prophecies & Omens Part 2: Bird Augury Tables

 

The start of a brave New Year brings the travelling RPG Blog Carnival to Tales of a GM once more. It is a great pleasure to host the carnival for another January. My nominated theme is Prophecies & Omens.

 

 

 

Adding Avian Auguries

In my previous contribution to the Prophecies & Omens topic, I noted how the random generation of bird auguries merited its own essay. I now address this topic here with a selection of tables. As ever, your game may vary, so feel free to adapt these tables to better suit your campaign.

 

 

The first step to creating a bird augury is to determine the type and number of birds present. Roll 2d6-5 to find the number of birds spotted. Treat any number less than 1 as a single bird appearing. Rolling in this way ensures a single bird is observed roughly 40% of the time. While 16% of the time, or 1-in-6, a pair of birds will appear.

 

The remaining results give an increasing number of birds in the sky. For flocking birds, you can treat any 6 rolled as wild, and roll again, adding to the total. On average, this is unlikely to take the number of birds into double figures, but it would happen occasionally.

 

 

Sacred Birds

Once you have determined the number of birds appearing, you must identify those birds. Ideally, compile a table of birds sacred to the gods in your setting. For the purposes of this article, I present an example for you to customize. Table 1 lists twelve suitable birds. To keep the table generic, I have listed each bird with an associated broad theme. Tighten the connection with the gods in your setting by linking each bird you use with a particular god.

 

d12BirdSacred Meaning
1CormorantSea
2CrowWar
3DoveFarming
4EagleSky
5HawkHunting
6HeronRiver
7MagpieTrickster
8OwlNight
9Skylark/songbirdLove
10StorkFamily
11VultureDeath
12WoodpeckerForest

 

You can also customize the list by defining some of the generic birds in the table. Replacing the generic hawk with osprey, sparrowhawk or marsh harrier creates a richer setting. Alternate species of birds may reflect the precise environment of the culture. A maritime culture, for example, finds meaning in the behaviours of coastal birds, not woodland ones.

 

Master Augury Table

Once the number and species of the birds are known, it is time to discover what actions the birds are taking. First roll on the Augury Master Table, which nominates the actions constituting the divine message. The flight pattern could be the message, the calls of the birds, or even their location in the sky. Sometimes, it will be a combination of two or more of these factors. The Augury Master Table outlines what the auger interprets as being the important part of the message.

 

This opens up the possibility that another auger may read the message differently. Each auger observing the birds should roll separately on the Master Table. If the results match, then the divine message is clear. Should different factors be indicated, then prepare your debating rules as the augurs bicker over the interpretation of the message.

 

d12Augury Traits
1-3Flight Pattern
4-5Flight Pattern & Location
6-8Bird Call
9-10Bird Call & Location
11Flight Pattern & Bird Call
12Flight Pattern, Bird Call & Location

 

Once the vehicle for the augury is rolled on the Master Table, roll again on the appropriate sub-table to detail the observed behaviour. This method recognises three traits in a bird augury:

  • Flight Pattern
  • Bird Call
  • Location

 

Flight Pattern

Roll on Table 3 to determine how the divine birds were flying.

 

d12Type of Flight
1-2Circling
3-4Straight
5-6Weaving
7Carrying Object
8Collecting Object
9Fast
10High
11Low
12Slow

 

 

Bird Call

Roll on Table 4 to determine noises made by the divine birds.

 

d12Bird Call
1-3Silent
4-6Single
7-8Continual
9-10Repeated
11Echoing
12Incorrect

 

 

Location

Roll on Table 5 to establish where in the sky the divine messengers appeared.

 

d12Location
1-2North
3-4East
5-6South
7-8West
9Above
10-12Roll Twice

 

 

Conclusion

These tables randomly determine which divine messenger appeared, and what they were doing to convey the prophecy. Some combinations will suggest particular messages, while other results may require the GM to improvise a suitably cryptic message. If prophecy forms a regular feature of your game, I recommend adding a list of generic prophecies to your collection of reference sheets.

 

Do you use bird augury in your game? What birds are sacred to your gods? How do you generate random bird behaviour? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.

 

 

Happy Gaming

Phil

 

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