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Old 07-09-2021, 02:07 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

Oracle [15] is a supernatural mental ability, which supplies information, largely at the GM’s discretion. You gain this by noticing and interpreting omens, events with hidden significance. This advantage appeared during the GURPS 3e period, but I haven’t been able to discover just when.

You usually have to deliberately look for omens, which takes about an hour, but the GM is at liberty to make them obvious. The kinds of things that you interpret as omens depends on your background and the setting, but the flight of birds, eclipses, meteor showers or thunder are possibilities: things that a higher power could influence, but are beyond the control of men.

The GM rolls twice in secret for you: the first roll is to perceive the omen, against an appropriate sense. Critical success gives you +5 to the interpretation roll, and critical failure means you’ve spotted a false omen, an ordinary event. The interpretation roll is against your IQ. Success gives you vague information, and a critical success something fairly clear. Critical failure gives you misinformation, quite possibly dangerous. A false omen tells you something based on your own fears or wishes: maybe false hope, maybe something you don’t want to hear.

Sensible limitations for Oracle include Aspected, to some particular sphere of interest, such as a spirit’s portfolio; Pact, requiring you to retain the favour of some power, and power modifiers, tending towards divine, (un)holiness, necromancy or shamanism. Useful enhancements include Inspired, +100%, from Powers p. 65, which gets you much clearer information; using a skill in place of IQ, or IQ (only for Oracle interpretation, ‑80%); Reduced Time and Reliable.

DF11 Power-Ups has Oracle (Scholarly), which requires a library to use, and Fantasy has guidance on soothsaying in general. Locations: Hellsgate has a spice that can give anyone a use of Oracle, and the nightmares aren’t that much worse than life in the city, honestly. Powers adds Oracle (Digital), which requires access to large quantities of information, but uses Research and Intelligence Analysis skills.

The specific advantage of Oracle is that it will tell you about things you aren’t aware of, and can’t form questions about. Blessed can give answers to questions (Powers, p. 65), and might be a sensible Alternate Ability.

I’m fairly sure I’ve never had Oracle on a PC, although I’ve just realised how applicable it would have been to a 1930s Romany wise-woman character I had for a while. I’m not sure if the GM would have allowed it, though.

Has Oracle guided your games?
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Old 07-09-2021, 05:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

I don't think I've ever seen it in play. Even though it has potential as a "get the players into the next part of the adventure if they can't figure out the available clues"-type of Advantage, you also need a character with a concept where it fits and the willingness to pay the points. And if it only gets used as "Advance the plot" [15], it has the potential to make a member of the party feel like they have 15 less points to work with.
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Old 07-09-2021, 05:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

One of the characters in the mythic Atlantis campaign had it, but I don't think it was ever terribly useful. (First time I ever used Reliable - Powers was still in playtest, I think - because this was definitely not an IQ-based character.) I might use the (Scholarly) or (Digital) non-supernatural versions in a highly cinematic game to represent turbo-boosted Research, but in a highly cinematic game that sort of thing is usually a job for NPCs anyway.
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Old 07-09-2021, 07:25 AM   #4
Phil Masters
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

It appears in several places in Madness Dossier, representing the ability to perceive some kind of true nature of reality. GM’d right, it could be nicely creepy there; I think that I once put it on a Taisher PC in a demo game.
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Old 07-09-2021, 09:30 AM   #5
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

I think I only ever used it once and it was hard work for the GM coming up with stuff that sounded sufficiently mystical and weird but was comprehensible enough for the players to get the point of the Big Signpost the GM was giving out.
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Old 07-10-2021, 06:58 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

I have added it to several played characters and recommend it for relevant player characters in games I run.
Its one of those meta advantages that a GM can use to further the plot and/or help the characters who are stuck on something.
Oracle (Digital) and Oracle (Scholarly) are also good in cinematic but nonmagical campaigns for cinematic researchers and you could apply it to many skills for a player to use as inspiration or mystery solving - though I'd give it a good limitation for that narrow a focus.
Oracle (Forensics, -20%) could let a detective character who investigated clues make intuitive leaps not really supported by the gathered evidence (Skill alone should handle that) and give them highly cinematic leads.
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Old 07-11-2021, 02:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

I have an impression that as written, Oracle has too many hoops and too much vagueness, thus being not worth the 15 points unless the GM goes out of the way to make it either more informative, or easier. As written, “an enemy approaches” or “a great power, long dormant, is stirring” are not helpful hints, they may as well be campaign pitches that only make sense in hindsight after the events happen.
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Old 07-11-2021, 10:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
I have an impression that as written, Oracle has too many hoops and too much vagueness, thus being not worth the 15 points unless the GM goes out of the way to make it either more informative, or easier. As written, “an enemy approaches” or “a great power, long dormant, is stirring” are not helpful hints, they may as well be campaign pitches that only make sense in hindsight after the events happen.
As written, Oracle looks somewhat like the perk 'Exposition Sense' (GURPS Psionic Powers p42 text box) - not exactly like, but it seems similar enough that more work may be needed to explain why it's worth so much... or it could be downgraded in cost to 5 points, since it is still better than the perk.
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Old 07-11-2021, 11:29 AM   #9
Christopher R. Rice
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

I wrote Kromm about this a while back. Here is what he had to say:

Quote:
> I'm having a hard time GMing Oracle (and its variations) can you
> PLEASE give me some more guidelines/advice.

Oracle is a direct GM-to-player clue hotline, dressed up with mystical mumbo-jumbo. The idea is that the GM makes a couple of dice rolls each game day, and if all works out well, these provide general information about the adventure, the story arc, an NPC, or the game world that the
GM wouldn't otherwise have offered the players.

As for how to *present* it: Think of any number of strange soothsayers in fiction. Successful discovery rolls mean flocks of birds erupt from the bushes, an albino snake crosses someone's path, a huge dark cloud appears, a single tree in summer has yellow and red leaves, etc. Then a successful interpretation roll means the GM gives out any old clue -- it doesn't have to be obviously connected to the omen in the *players'*
eyes, as they aren't oracles!

Honestly, this isn't for every game or every gaming style:

In settings where mystic mumbo-jumbo simply doesn't fit, the GM will want to forbid it.

If the GM dislikes "meta" mechanics that give information that's really GM-to-player -- however mystical the wording -- it won't be satisfying.
The GM will want to prohibit Oracle, then . . . and probably Intuition, Precognition, Psychometry, and Racial Memory . . . and possibly Danger Sense.

If the GM dislikes adventures suddenly becoming easier because somebody
took the "free clues" ability, ditto.

On the other tentacle, if the GM tends to provide free clues anyway, it would be unfair to charge points for it. At that point, simply pick the PC with the mumbo-est, jumbo-est background and tell the players, "When
I give out clues, imagine that so and so here had a mystic vision.

Oracle only makes sense when the GM believes that giving out clues that the players would otherwise have to work for is acceptable. It's really no different from keeping combat-oriented NPCs at the challenge level originally planned for the campaign when someone creates a warrior who is so much better than the other PCs that they'll just negate all the combat challenges. Or keeping the physical scale of a supers campaign the same when somebody creates "Warp the whole team anywhere, without significant chance of failure, on a moment's notice" Guy.

In all of those cases, if your natural tendency would be to ratchet up the difficulty to close the loophole *OR* to say, "I'd let the PCs have the clue/win the fight/get to the adventure anyway, because the show
must go on" . . . you have to rethink the ability in question.

So it's super meta, and boils down to whether you want to let players'
meta choices alter campaign difficulty.
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:24 PM   #10
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Oracle

Oracle is one of those things that you seem to end up giving to NPCs designed to steer the plot.
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