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12-13-2012, 09:05 PM   #11
Sindri

Join Date: Nov 2011
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Flyndaran The power of personal will can overcome even destiny and the fates.
Well maybe it can but if so having personal will sufficient to overcome destiny and the fates is likely to have other effects beyond a divination screen.

12-13-2012, 09:13 PM   #12
arnej

Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ft Collins, CO
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Sindri We are playing a game and that implicitly involves me playing with them. What's more realistic people abuse things like crazy. Nobody ever didn't do something because it "wouldn't be sporting to the laws of physics." If their abuses of divination lead to a bad result it means that they way I set up divination was badly done... thus this thread.
One thought I've had over the years that seemed to allow interesting divination while avoiding the "hal maneuver" was simply to insist that divination attempts could not be yes/no questions. Open-ended questions would work well for descriptions or portents, but not binary "If I do X, will Y result?" scenarios.

If instead you asked "What will happen if I do X?" you could get an interesting answer that can guide your steps in the future, which is kinda what divination is for, no?

arnej

Last edited by arnej; 12-14-2012 at 12:10 AM.

12-13-2012, 10:11 PM   #13
hal

Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Buffalo, New York
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Sindri Hmm let me see if I've understood this. Al views X at X-100 and gets whatever information. Bob views X at X-50 and sees it as if Al had not acted. Then Al receives retroactive knowledge of how things change based on Bob's actions. Is that right?

Sort of, but not exactly what the picture is that I'm trying to paint... It isn't "retroactive" in the sense that somehow, Al's picture changes...

Look at it this way. X will happen at T=0 because that is how things will happen based on the present events occurring/have occurred at T-100 units of time. The moment someone took a peek at T=0 from the moment in time at T-100, said individual can more or less see what occurs at T-99, T-98, T-97,,, T-3, T-2, T-1, T=0

Now, Bob decides to peek at the future at T-50. This is where things get FUZZY. As GM, you can't state with certainty what will or wont' happen, especially if both Al and Bob are played by two players. You as GM are NOT able to see the future, hear the thoughts, know the motivations of real people, let alone how the dice will roll. Yet, you are being asked to portray a GODLIKE thing - knowledge of the future!

So, let's say that Bob sees that Event X is something he doesn't want to occur as it will. He tries to change it. Al already knows how Bob will change it, and has the perfect COUNTER to it (assuming that Al wants something different than Bob). Each "possible future" that Bob can envison, Al's divination has already seen, and countered in order to ensure that the event Al wants to avoid in a particular fashion, doesn't happen. So, as GM, you know that there are MANY things that Bob might try, but Al's divination has already found the LIKELY event that will occur unless Al intervenes to change it.

Put another way? Call it a "Temporal High Ground" event where Bob's events can percieve Al's intentions, but is powerless to stop it because of Al's free will.

As GM, you can note that this kind of "Divination War" honors both "Free will" and enshrines "immutable future". Both Diviners have free will to change what they perceive, but the laws of temporal behavior rewards the one who gains the temporal high ground, and punishes the one who has a lesser standing to change the future based on their perception of the future. Now the funny thing is?

Any expert (ie skill 16+) in divination has a a better chance to peer further into the future than an relatively unskilled diviner. But even a relatively unskilled diviner has a chance to gain the Temporal high ground with a crit success.

Example:

Peering 100 days into the future results in a penalty to divinatory skill of -6. A skill 11 spell caster using this spell, could attempt to peer 300 days into the future, suffer a -7 to their skill of 11, and then have the player roll a natural 3. A player with a mage whose skill is 21 in divinations, could attempt to cast divination some 100 days into the future at skill -6, and need a 15 or less to cast the spell successfully. The skill 11 mage with the crit trying to peer 300 days into the future, has the temporal high ground over the mage who tried to peer 100 days into the future. It wouldn't matter whether the second mage made his roll by 1 or made it by 10 - he'd still not have the Temporal high ground to counter the mage who made his attempt some 200 days earlier.

As for divinations in general? Might I suggest the following thoughts to consider for your campaign?

 12-13-2012, 10:52 PM #14 hal   Join Date: Aug 2004 Location: Buffalo, New York Re: Designing How Divination Works What is the source of knowledge that is being tapped into via the divination spell itself? Is it a God of Knowledge? Is it an impersonal machine/golem/computer of the multi-universe? Is it GOD? Is it tapping into a horrific deity who forces the questioner to lose something of great value? How you answer those questions, will determine how divinations should work within the framework of your campaign world. I've been running GURPS campaigns since 1986. DIVINATION coupled with 20 questions and a high skill will generally ruin not only the game master plans keeping things hidden about the future, but also makes it nearly impossible to hide things as a player character from other NPC's who have access to NPC mages with high divination skill levels. In short, it can be a problem not only against the GM, but also against the player characters. If you want, send me an email and I'll give you a few personal "for instances" from campaigns I've run since 1986. I find that writing via email with out a limit on the number of characters I can post in a single setting, gives me room to give out more details. ;)
12-14-2012, 01:47 PM   #15
Sindri

Join Date: Nov 2011
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Quote:
 Originally Posted by hal Sort of, but not exactly what the picture is that I'm trying to paint... It isn't "retroactive" in the sense that somehow, Al's picture changes...
Not in-universe certainly but doesn't it involve retcons out of game? Al gets a chance to have done stuff whenever something changes the results he got before.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by hal So, let's say that Bob sees that Event X is something he doesn't want to occur as it will. He tries to change it. Al already knows how Bob will change it, and has the perfect COUNTER to it (assuming that Al wants something different than Bob). Each "possible future" that Bob can envison, Al's divination has already seen, and countered in order to ensure that the event Al wants to avoid in a particular fashion, doesn't happen. So, as GM, you know that there are MANY things that Bob might try, but Al's divination has already found the LIKELY event that will occur unless Al intervenes to change it. Put another way? Call it a "Temporal High Ground" event where Bob's events can percieve Al's intentions, but is powerless to stop it because of Al's free will.
This sort of transforms divination from a way to gain information that you can try to use to defeat the enemy to a way to warp the future through observing it. For one thing normally just knowing what Bob is going to do wouldn't automatically allow Al to defeat him. For another a scenario where both Al and Bob know each others intentions but Al wins because the universe wants him to rather than because he had more time to prepare seems would feel quite strange as one of the participants. Interesting flavour though.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by hal What is the source of knowledge that is being tapped into via the divination spell itself? Is it a God of Knowledge? Is it an impersonal machine/golem/computer of the multi-universe? Is it GOD? Is it tapping into a horrific deity who forces the questioner to lose something of great value? How you answer those questions, will determine how divinations should work within the framework of your campaign world.
I probably won't end up with a one source for divination spells thing. For one thing many of them like the augmented reality ones to detect various stuff probably shouldn't be drawing on a source of knowledge at all but just using magic to produce it. For the spells that do they will probably vary much as much as any other magical stuff. Some might focus on developing long term relationships with various entities and asking them while others might summon up local things and talk to them and others with access to magical guilds will contribute and draw upon stores of knowledge like Snowcrash's CIC that they can browse through or do direct question divinations on and yet more will focus on scrying to get information themselves. So yeah I see divination styles as being varied.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by hal I've been running GURPS campaigns since 1986. DIVINATION coupled with 20 questions and a high skill will generally ruin not only the game master plans keeping things hidden about the future, but also makes it nearly impossible to hide things as a player character from other NPC's who have access to NPC mages with high divination skill levels. In short, it can be a problem not only against the GM, but also against the player characters. If you want, send me an email and I'll give you a few personal "for instances" from campaigns I've run since 1986. I find that writing via email with out a limit on the number of characters I can post in a single setting, gives me room to give out more details. ;)
Sure!

12-14-2012, 02:36 PM   #16
Genesis

Join Date: Dec 2010
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Sindri I'm not sure I understand. My players don't think they are clever, they are clever. If they weren't clever, I wouldn't be gaming with them. A substantial part of the point of gaming for me is getting together with friends and testing our cleverness. ... We are playing a game and that implicitly involves me playing with them. What's more realistic people abuse things like crazy. Nobody ever didn't do something because it "wouldn't be sporting to the laws of physics." If their abuses of divination lead to a bad result it means that they way I set up divination was badly done... thus this thread.
What I meant here is sort of what hal has gotten at - giving the players a chance to go 20 questions with your plot can kill it pretty quick.

Apart from that, player/character separation is pretty important in the games that I run (although obviously people have different reactions to this). Don't let clever players use their knowledge of the fact that they're in a game to abuse oracular abilities. Clever players should be using their cleverness to play characters - gaming the divination system isn't necessarily a flaw in the system; it's just as much a flaw of RP (you can't game the world in most settings, anyone who does so is participating in bad faith).

Quote:
 It's definitely important to keep in mind how divination works in fiction and historically but the aim of the thread is really functional design rather than aesthetic design. I'm not sufficiently drawn to any one style of resolving divination such that that will be a part of the feel of the world and thus justify itself purely on aesthetic grounds so above all the way divination works should prioritize not producing unintended consequences due to realistic usage that interfere with PCs going around and doing PC stuff and ideally encouraging that sort of stuff. Fictional and historical divination is especially problematic since the protagonists rarely do much in the way of divination themselves instead of going to someone else. ... They do? Being sent trouble doesn't come to mind as a common problem for diviners. Sure they fail to understand things all the time but I can't rely on the players misunderstanding. I could just make up prophesies and then manipulate things later to achieve them but I'm honestly not super fond of prophesies in the first place so taking a risk and spending effort on them doesn't really appeal to me. And of course if the intention isn't for the PCs to extract information from divination then what's the point? It's not like they will sink valuable resources into divination if that's the case or be happy if they do. Certainly if divinations in and of themselves interested me I might throw them in anyway, but they don't really. They are just means to an end by allowing additional avenues for researching stuff and testing wits against villains and whatnot. If I could reliably produce prophesies where people go "Wow that's totally cool and makes sense and we totally didn't guess that beforehand." sure that would be a fun addition but I don't trust my ability to do so and the penalty for a poorly handled prophesy is worse than the payoff.
I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of a mythological/fictional/anything setting with divination where knowledge of the future doesn't routinely come back to bite the bum of people who act on it, actually. You're right that diviners are often spared the worst of the fireworks (except for all the cursed ones, like Kassandra, etc.), but that's mostly because they're not the ones that are trying to cheat fate - they don't often act on their knowledge. But everyone else, from Oedipus, Agamemnon, and Cuchulain to Macbeth, gets screwed. Heck, the entire Harry Potter series happens because of the various misinterpretations and unforeseen consequences of acting on a single prophesy! Gamers, knowing that they're gaming, have a tendency to be wary of traps set by GMs. My point was that you shouldn't let their cleverness spoil one of the Great Lessons of Prophesy in Fiction: knowledge of the future can only serve to doom those that act on it.

I gladly admit I'm making an aesthetic argument here - but I think this points to a mechanical solution: knowledge of the future is a 'cheat' for players, so you shouldn't feel bad using it to 'cheat' as a GM either. It might be on one of the PC's sheets, but it's still your tool. Give the players whatever information you like, however you like it. Don't let them use it to try and 'outsmart' you - remember you're not the adversary, despite what players often think. You're there to craft a rewarding story, divination be damned.

Anyway, that's why I'm arguing against a strict mechanical solution to divination: it invites player abuse and doesn't serve the purposes of the story. Where the purposes of the story are furthered by divination, the GM should allow the story to be furthered, by all means - but if you put concrete rules to it, and the players know them, it turns divination from a maddening and vague glimpse into a tool to be perfected. Divination can't be perfected.

I had an idea for a game where all the PCs would be precogs of some sort, and divination mechanics would be a central aspect of the game, but that's a very different sort of story - and I certainly wouldn't let those mechanics bleed into other games, where the focus isn't on fortune-telling.

12-14-2012, 06:02 PM   #17
Sindri

Join Date: Nov 2011
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Genesis What I meant here is sort of what hal has gotten at - giving the players a chance to go 20 questions with your plot can kill it pretty quick.
In which case the plot was either meant as a quick diversion or was a bad plot. Building a good plot involves building it around the capabilities the characters have at their disposal whether that's cell phones or divination. Now you put limits on stuff to reduce things that kill plots you like but once you've settled on how they work you just deal with it.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Genesis Apart from that, player/character separation is pretty important in the games that I run (although obviously people have different reactions to this). Don't let clever players use their knowledge of the fact that they're in a game to abuse oracular abilities. Clever players should be using their cleverness to play characters - gaming the divination system isn't necessarily a flaw in the system; it's just as much a flaw of RP (you can't game the world in most settings, anyone who does so is participating in bad faith).
Abuse of out of character knowledge is abuse of out of character knowledge. It doesn't really have anything to do with whether they happen to be divining at the time. Other than that unless people are using their knowledge of a trope in a world where it has never been recognized to do divination about the vizier (and even that's questionable.) or something there is extremely little that can be done to game the system that involves bad roleplaying instead of entirely realistic people abusing the hell out of the way the world works as is entirely reasonable.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Genesis I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of a mythological/fictional/anything setting with divination where knowledge of the future doesn't routinely come back to bite the bum of people who act on it, actually. You're right that diviners are often spared the worst of the fireworks (except for all the cursed ones, like Kassandra, etc.), but that's mostly because they're not the ones that are trying to cheat fate - they don't often act on their knowledge. But everyone else, from Oedipus, Agamemnon, and Cuchulain to Macbeth, gets screwed. Heck, the entire Harry Potter series happens because of the various misinterpretations and unforeseen consequences of acting on a single prophesy! Gamers, knowing that they're gaming, have a tendency to be wary of traps set by GMs. My point was that you shouldn't let their cleverness spoil one of the Great Lessons of Prophesy in Fiction: knowledge of the future can only serve to doom those that act on it.
No they were screwed. Divination didn't screw them it determined the nature of their screwedness. That's the whole point of unbeatable destinies. Cheating fate doesn't make things worse, it's simply impossible to do.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Genesis I gladly admit I'm making an aesthetic argument here - but I think this points to a mechanical solution: knowledge of the future is a 'cheat' for players, so you shouldn't feel bad using it to 'cheat' as a GM either. It might be on one of the PC's sheets, but it's still your tool. Give the players whatever information you like, however you like it. Don't let them use it to try and 'outsmart' you - remember you're not the adversary, despite what players often think. You're there to craft a rewarding story, divination be damned. Anyway, that's why I'm arguing against a strict mechanical solution to divination: it invites player abuse and doesn't serve the purposes of the story. Where the purposes of the story are furthered by divination, the GM should allow the story to be furthered, by all means - but if you put concrete rules to it, and the players know them, it turns divination from a maddening and vague glimpse into a tool to be perfected. Divination can't be perfected.
I certainly am the adversary. Just because I wear other, often contradictory, hats and operate under an odd code of honour doesn't mean I don't sit down at the table to outsmart them. As for crafting a story, I wouldn't be into RPGs if I wasn't amused by my stories getting shattered by players acting like strange frenzied beasts in the presence of plot.

If all divination was doing in a setting was being a way for me to impart vague hints instead of a tool I wouldn't even bother having it. Having people without access to revelations who are pretending or have persuaded themselves that they have prophetic abilities give hints is much more interesting. The point of having divinations for me is having fun with it as a tool.

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Genesis I had an idea for a game where all the PCs would be precogs of some sort, and divination mechanics would be a central aspect of the game, but that's a very different sort of story - and I certainly wouldn't let those mechanics bleed into other games, where the focus isn't on fortune-telling.
I don't really do variable rules focus so I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts you had.

12-15-2012, 05:52 PM   #20
kirbwarrior

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Dreamland
Re: Designing How Divination Works

Since Divination is an information-gathering skill, why not just do the same thing you do with those skills? Figure out what the skill is allowed to help you find out, and tell the players the results.

As for messing with the future, do note that, when you allow Divination to your PCs;

1) The future is immutable, and there is nothing the PCs can do about it.
2) You just gave PCs a way to mess with time.

Let them know which one is true (or at least assumed) ahead of time. That will modify the reason they take Divination. And if 2 is true, then npcs will also have it, and everyone who can affect the future will be trying to, regardless of how unreliable it is.

One campaign I had 1 was true, but it gave the players a chance to deal with it when it came (The prince will die for instance). It even let them plan ahead so as to minimize the consequences (Tell the prince he will die and by who, Prince goes and brings army against killer, killing every minion of them. Evil loses, even though Prince dies). It was very neat.

And yes, no matter what, I know that knowing of the future requires a mindful gm with good memory (and note taking!).

Quick side note: Affecting the past is far more annoying as a GM than affecting the future.
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Quote:
 Originally Posted by cosmicfish While I do not think that GURPS is perfect I do think that it is more balanced than what I am likely to create by GM fiat.

 Tags brainstorm, divination, fantasy, magic, scrying

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