Spell Law has an advice section on how to handle different spells and their effects such as invisibility, illusions and how spell effects can interfere with each other such as Aura and Blur counteracting each other. What it doesn’t handle is the future.
There are two ways of seeing into your characters future, divination and magic. The first is a mundane skill, anyone can learn it and it involves using tarot cards, runes, tea leaves and crystal balls etc. to get a glimpse of the future. The skill is a RM2 skill and appears in Companion II along with a neat little table of modifiers and difficulties. It is great for predicting the very near future in vague terms with limited accuracy. I have a Seer in my world who keeps telling party members that ‘there will be a death in the next two minutes’. As a GM I can be fairly certain that if the party is about to sneak around the corner into a Drow partrol then that prediction is likely to come true but also dividination is vague. Yes the death card comes up but you never know whos death. The seer casts rune stones for her divining and that is not something that you can do in the pitch black while everyone is trying to be quiet. Divination I think works well. The other option is harder to handle.
There is the sort of thing I mean. this is the first level spell from the Seer base lists.
1. Intuitions I – Caster gets a vision of what will happen in the next minute if they take a specified action.
So the party are about to burst through the door and confront the bad guys body guard. Does the vision include the death of one of the party? What if it doesn’t but as it turns out it should have done?
As a GM you should have a reasonable idea of relative difficulty of each encounter but there is always the chance of a freak accident or the dice gremlins prevent the main fighter in the group from rolling anything about a 06.
You could argue that the simple act of knowing the future changes the future and what the seer saw was one possible and the most probable future at that moment if the seer had not cast the spell and the party forewarned. The spell above is the first level spell but at fifth level the Seer can see five minutes into the future and at 15th they can see one minute for every level so that could easily extend into the half hours.
Imagine the Seer casts Intuitions I while the party are preparing to kick in the door. He or she sees that the guards are caught entirely by surprise and a fight ensues with the party winning at the time the vision ends. The Seer does not tell anyone what he saw. The door flies open, the magic user casts fireball, fumbles and the attack goes off at ground zero blowing up the party. Surely the Seer would have seen that? The arguemets over the Seer changing the future do not really hold up as the plan was formulated before the spell was cast and not changed as a result, it is not even a case of the plan being delayed even by 10 seconds. Everything should have been as the vision showed.
I don’t know the right solution to this but this is what I am doing currently.
For the duration of the spell if there is a game changing dice roll I pick a number from a random number chart and use that instead. So if the player fumbles his fireball I change the dice roll. The players all know that once magic has been invoked then their fate is already ‘written’. As soon as the sixth round is over then all dice rolls stand.
The table above is an axample of a random number table. You just start at row one column one and if it is a d100 you want just take two columns. There is even a nice 00 at row 14 column 7/8!
This has worked well so far as the players know I am not ‘fudging’ dice rolls or fixing things. It is literally just the few rounds and the few critical freak rolls that get changed.
I also use this table for subtle perception rolls. If the party all walk past a secret door but no one is explicitly looking for it I will just pick their dice roll from the table. I think my players are paranoid, as soon as the GM picks up his dice the pary draw their swords.
It is easy enough to create something like this is a spreadsheet but I find I barely use a single row in a weekend and at three weekends gaming a year a single page will last me 10 years.
does anyone else have any ideas on how to handle a player knowing the future?
p.s. I am on holiday/vacation next week. I will still see, read and approve all your comments but there may be a bit of delay. I don’t spend my entire holiday glued to my phone.
2 thoughts on “You’re far too keen on where and how, but not so hot on why”
Fortunately for me, when I started my RM2 experience, we were already firmly rooted in the Elemental Only Gaming World, so the Futures and Divinations weren’t an issue. However, RMC-II does have Divinations as a skill and it is open to everyone, and RMC-I has awesome Tarot Cards included in the back, and C&T1 has Chaos Dice and there are certainly other things available that allowed for divining what could possibly happen. I can’t say that I haven’t been exposed to having to deal with the “future.”
In one of the later Companions, RMC 5-6-7 range, there is an excellent Divinations section. It allows the GM to choose from “Good”, “Neutral”, or “Evil” decks/outcomes, or “Chaos” where the GM rolls a die to determine if the card shown is Good, Neutral, or Evil. The one thing that is stressed is that the results is only a suggestion to what may occur in the future. It’s as muddy and indistinct as can be. The future is not set in stone and can be changed at any moment with a fumbled roll. The GM can make it as descript or as accurate as he sees fit.
Sadly, it was always situational so I can’t give a general example that covers all situations. In the most recent game I ran, I had the players roll General Perception. I knew at least two of the PC’s had Divination as a skill, so I said “You se a black crow come out of a nest in the roof top and it flies from left to right (meaning West to East). None of the players even asked to roll for Divination. had they, they would have divined that an animal coming out of the safety of it’s home is the sign of danger and that a bird flying from West to East meant bad things were coming. They probably should have avoided the town, but they did not and they paid a heavy price.
For your example of the Seer who can see up to 30 (or more) minutes into the future, I would say “Which time range are you really focusing on?” Meaning, do you want to see what happens at the 30 minute-ish mark, or the 20 minute-ish mark, or the next 5 minutes. If he chooses the longest range, and as GM knowing there is a battle coming up, I would respond with “Your party is emerging from the cave/forest/dungeon bandaged and with a sense of loss, but the spirits are upbeat with a strong sense of accomplishment. There are a few bodies with heavy wounds but they seem to be well tended and on the mend.”
If the Seer went with the 15 minute range, I would say something like “Your party is battered and exhausted. You can feel several heavy wounds battering your senses yet the tingling feeling of healing magic being applied. There is a heavy sense of loss, and very few feel glory or accomplishment. There is a heavy sense of worry and concern for the wounded.”
…and so on down the time line.
I’ll try to find the Companion that has the really detailed Tarot/Divination cards in it. I know it was not RMC-I Tarot of Many Teachings, even though that deck is tons of fun.
I am inclined to give more detailed information if at all possible otherwise there is a danger of devaluing what is otherwise a 15th level spell. I have seen GMs who when confronted with the player having exactly the right but obscure spell to completely bypass what was meant to be a major challenge just find a way of negating the effect rather than dealing with it. I don’t think that is fair. If someone was going to fireball the villain the GM would not make up some excuse such as fireballs being made of hot air so it floats to the ceiling. They would just accept a face full of flames. We had this is in a recent session where we wanted to know what had happened in an ambush. the range cast a spell that allowed him to talk to the rocks to find out what had happened. Because the GM wanted to players to accept the sole surviver into the group he didn’t want us to know the true of the situation. In that case the GM said that you simply did not understand the rocks point of view or only saw vague images going back millenia. It basically competely negated a 20th level spell.