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Seeing the Future


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#1 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 01:49 AM

So, I've been working on something for this for the game I'm designing, but most of the elements are not game specific, so I figured I'd share this here. It was inspired somewhat tangentially by the Dune thread.

 

Ironically, I always kind of disliked the idea of this power, now enjoying modelling it.

 

So, the problems with characters seeing into the future are many.

  • First, it suddenly puts the whole narrative into the GMs hands instead of contributed to by the players
  • Second, there's absolutely no way to make any such prediction come true without intrusive amounts of GM intervention
  • Third, it means suddenly making up things one didn't plan and giving them a lot more weight than the normal stuff done on the fly
  • Fourth, it forces the GM to reveal things that may actually reduce the suspense level of the game or make the rest of it all kind of just going through the motions
  • Fifth, it, unlike most powers, because of the previous points, imo takes away from instead of contributing to the game

So, how to deal with these problems?

 

My idea was, essentially, to take the basic ideas underlying most divination and apply them to the problem.

 

Now, it would be horribly cumbersome to force a tarot, i ching, or khabbalic reading mid game and also apply it to the world and its personages they are playing. But, the basic ideas are applicable.

 

Use randomness to create a combination of things that allows the GM to look at the combination, find what is similar to what is already in store, look at what is not, what seems to have no use, and come up with a vision.

 

Now, true to the game, it doesn't matter what form of seeing the future one has. If it is related to time travel, then we can assume that the future, like the present, is comprised of countless bundles, some of which may be splitting off at the time one is observing, some of which are merely timelines so close to the one one is looking at to have intruded in on the view, etc. If it is done through dreams, go all David Lynch. If it is mystical, go all 'this dream produced by the director of the TV show Hannibal'.

 

So, if I have a player who can sometimes see into the future, we will set up some flash cards. When she wants to scry into the future, she defines either the person or place she is checking out(we'll presume the time is generally accurate, but not pinpoint accurate). I pull aside the card from the appropriate deck, people, place, whichever one.

 

Some cards are people. Some people are characters, some are types, like mother, sister, teacher, stranger, etc. Some are people they have met or know well. Some friends, some enemies. That's one deck.

 

Some cards are places. Real places, types of places. Of course, in each deck, there are some things only the GM knows.

 

Some cards are relations, types of interactions. Rivalry, conflict, hate, love, misfortune, betrayal, loyalty, loss.

 

Now, in the game I'm working on, the ability is measured in D6s, so you roll, you automatically get three picks plus whatever die result. Obviously Hero would do this differently, but the point is, you pay for the opportunity to add elements to the vision, you pay for a broader view.

 

Now, if the Scryer picks only people cards, then all she will know is that, more than likely, these X people will be together at the future point, or at least tied together somehow.

 

If she picks only location cards, then she only knows that these places are somehow important regarding this future point.

 

If she picks only relation cards, she will be presented with images that convey the sort of relations, but not know who or where.

 

Now, she does not get to look at the cards.

 

Say she picks three people cards, two relation cards, and one place. She then chooses(without seeing the cards' contents) which of the people there are tied by the relations. She could tie two of the people together by both relation cards, or assign one to two different pairs, with one person having ties to each of the other.

 

Now, the draw, she can do in game, but it should be assumed that this is an in-between game thing to give the GM the chance to look at the results.

 

The GM's role is to first, avoid as much as possible completely erasing any result within.

 

From there, the GM should consider the match of people and places. If one of the people is far too difficult to explain being in that place, but has a relation card with another of the people, then the GM should draw another place card and that one person will be in a portion of the vision that is actually elsewhere with the person they have a relation with, but the person they have a relation with should still, if not discounted by the GM from being in the first place, be in the first place also for that part of the vision.

 

From there, the GM can decide on which ways the relations go. These two have a hate card between them. Does A hate B, B hate A, or is it mutual? Thought should go into which things may contribute or not interfere most with the game.

 

Does this interpretation present interesting opportunities for in-game interactions? Does it actually flesh out this previously minor villain in an interesting way? These are the main things the GM is hoping for.

 

Then, the next session, the vision is presented sans cards. It is presented in broad ways, a pastiche of events that seem only half real, some things represented more by seeing the hate in an eye than in dialogue that details plans that must later be repeated.

 

Now, this doesn't get rid of the problem of how to make things happen, but it presents a very broad interpretation of what happens. It also shapes the story in a way that is not dictated by the GM alone, and also makes anything revealed too early hidden further in the broadness of the vision.

 

Further, the GM gets a new view of the landscape, and, frankly, the more the player uses the power, the less they end up being sure of. And the more they may fear actually causing the parts of the visions that they want to avoid by suddenly moving events against the people who somehow become part of it.

 

If a player attempts the same subject for a vision, they will simply get a repeat of the same vision.

 

Anyway, that's where I'm at on thinking through the process.



#2 Christopher

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 03:09 AM

Predicting the future is solved simply, by just following the "Uncertainty Principle" as part of your world build:
"The more precise the prediction, the less precise the reality. And vice versa."

I actualyl wrote something on the mater:
http://www.herogames...inty-principle/

 

Unfortunaltey the thread dropped into the archive of hte Forum.


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#3 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:03 AM


 

Unfortunaltey the thread dropped into the archive of hte Forum.

Who could have predicted that?


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#4 Christopher

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:05 AM

Who could have predicted that?

Only our Local God, Dan Simon. Or the Admin, as some keep faultily calling that job ;)



#5 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:20 AM

Ironically, I had been meaning to read the first link in your sig, and hadn't even noticed the second.

 

Do you mind if I copy that into here and attribute it to you/make it a quote of you?



#6 Christopher

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:51 AM

Ironically, I had been meaning to read the first link in your sig, and hadn't even noticed the second.

 

Do you mind if I copy that into here and attribute it to you/make it a quote of you?

I do not mind and would indeed like it.



#7 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 09:04 AM

Posted 07 October 2013 - 11:31 PM

Prophecies, Predictions - while a common element in Fiction it usually fails terrible at the gaming table.

The reasons are somewhere between the differences between works of Fictions and the game table and players intentionally doing the opposite of what Story/GM want.

 

Indeed the comic I linked brought the problem back to my mind. But there is a surprisingly simple solution for the prediction dilemma in RPG's.

"Niobara's Uncertainty Principle"*:

The more precise the Prophecy, the less precise the realiity.

The less precise the Prophecy, the more precise the reaility.

 

The name is a rather obvious allusion to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and that is surprisingly on spot:

Heisenberg's principle says "it is impossible to measure a quantum, without also affecting it". In specific it is impossible to know the exact position and speed (wich means direction as well as movement speed in physics). The only way to measure position it is to shoot another quantum at it and look where the two hit. Wich means the measured quantum is no longer on it's path.

Just to make it harder: The smaler a quatum is (the shorter it's wavelenght) to more energy it carries. And if you want to measure somethings position precise you need so shoot something smaler at it, wich means you affect it even more.

 

Now the process of Prophecy is similiary:

You cannot make a prophecy (that is taken seriously) without the very process altering the timeline.

If you make a prophecy that is not taken seriously or not precise enough, what you predicted will propably still happen.

 

If the predicted event happened, the prophecy was not precise enough.

Most common in "trying to avoid X, leads to X happening". The prophecy only said that X would happen, not that it happened because you were trying to prevent X (a very important detail, don't you think?).

 

On the other hand if what you predicted doesn't happen, then you were propably so precise that you derailed the timeline.

Or you were wrong all along. Nobody can tell, not even time.

Naturally your prophecy is only precise (and taken seriously) if your prophecies come true often enough. Wich only happens while nobody takes your seriously or if you predict stuff not affectable by your prophecy (like the weather or natural dissasters).

 

A special case is that very short term predictions can come true and be predicted true:

"You are going to have a heart attack after I finish telling you that you are going to have a heart attack."

**

 

But those short term predictions are also pretty useless, because you lack any time to act on them.

 

 

Hope you can use this if you want to try prophecy in your game. If you think you got an example where this Law of Predictions fails, tell me off it and I will try to show that it does apply.

 

 

*That is what it was called in the game system I lifted it from. Niobara was a famous magic theoritican of her time, so you should pick someone similar for your campaign - not exactly the Newton or Albert Einstein of Magic, but a contemporary (less well known  colleague).

**The game system I lifted this from was "The black eye" (like D&D for germany). In this game the namesakes "Black eyes" are retorcogntiive Crystall Balls. It was written next to this rule "That the attempt to use a black eye to look into the future let that much cosmic energy flow into the artifact that it exploded - wich it reliably predicted!"

From here:

 

http://www.herogames...inty-principle/

 

The setup I discussed above is alot about a mechanism to minimize prophecy being just the GM having influence or the players getting dirt, Christopher's writeup above, imo, is interesting and useful for how the content can be displayed once it is known and what effects one can expect.



#8 InfiniteKarma

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 10:25 AM

The best way to use precognition powers, IMO, is to follow "show not tell," similar to Christopher's suggestions.

 

Rather than having a player get told the future, his character is told the future, but takes precautions showing that he knows what's coming. Bill and Ted, for example, left themselves keys and set traps for the villains, by traveling back in time "off camera", because they knew how events would unfold.

 

If I were to build a powerful precognitive, a VPP to represent preparations the hero made in anticipation of the future he's trying to avoid, with the understanding that those powers are meant to be extremely specific and effective, is my build of choice. And probably high DCV and defenses, with the FX of "always sees it coming."

 

The FX of the build in general is that the character knows how everything is going to happen, and can act and react with all the (moderate to huge, depending on power level) advantages that provides, but the player acts like he knew things would happen that way the entire time.

 

And then rounding the build out with an actual precognition power with uncontrolled, so the GM can give explicit plot cues when it's good for the story.


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#9 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:11 AM

The best way to use precognition powers, IMO, is to follow "show not tell," similar to Christopher's suggestions.

 

Rather than having a player get told the future, his character is told the future, but takes precautions showing that he knows what's coming. Bill and Ted, for example, left themselves keys and set traps for the villains, by traveling back in time "off camera", because they knew how events would unfold.

 

If I were to build a powerful precognitive, a VPP to represent preparations the hero made in anticipation of the future he's trying to avoid, with the understanding that those powers are meant to be extremely specific and effective, is my build of choice. And probably high DCV and defenses, with the FX of "always sees it coming."

 

The FX of the build in general is that the character knows how everything is going to happen, and can act and react with all the (moderate to huge, depending on power level) advantages that provides, but the player acts like he knew things would happen that way the entire time.

 

And then rounding the build out with an actual precognition power with uncontrolled, so the GM can give explicit plot cues when it's good for the story.

But, if a player does not take uncontrolled, I think there is value in having a more systematic approach than the GM decides, and I think it's more helpful for some GMs in many ways to have such an approach. And I'm not sure Christopher is suggesting not showing the prophecy as much as understanding the consequences of specificity. Maybe I'm reading him wrong.

 

As for the build you discussed, that's clever!

 

I will say, for that style build the GM should pay for the precog power, if it's really a plot hook and not a power.



#10 Christopher

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 12:40 PM

And I'm not sure Christopher is suggesting not showing the prophecy as much as understanding the consequences of specificity. Maybe I'm reading him wrong

I can not parse this question.



#11 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 07:57 PM

I can not parse this question.

I'm not sure I understand?



#12 Amorkca

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 10:56 PM

I'm not sure I understand?

Exactly!! His point too!!!


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#13 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:48 PM

Ah! I was just saying I didn't really think his write-up was about 'showing, not telling' as much as 'here's what tends to happen, based on how precise the prediction'.

 

This was in response to the previous post, where Infinite Karma mentioned a build that implied an ability to see in the future(a build that I think is pretty cool), but wasn't so much a direct 'prophesy- 20AP' thing. Infinite Karma had referred to Christopher's approach as showing, not telling, but I didn't really see it as related to whether it was shown or told.

 

Thanks for translating!



#14 TheDarkness

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 12:12 AM

I just think it's worth saying, although I started this thread on an idea I had for producing prophesies, I think the thread is perfectly suitable for looking at different views on that as a power and as an aspect of a character.

 

So, Christopher's essay on how making it specific or general impacts how it may play out.

 

Infinite Karma's post on how to make a character whose abilities stem from knowing what's going to happen.

 

My view on making the prophesy itself something the person who has the power has an impact on, and creates a chance for the GM to gain unexpected glimpses into possibilities in their world that they may not have seen.

 

One think occurs to me regarding Niobara's Uncertainty Principle. If the prophesy shows something the characters want, then they might try to make it happen that way, which may help or harm. But for GMs, there is the interesting option of what happens if their enemies get their hands on the prophesy? How would they try to affect its outcome? What new game opportunities might that make?

 

For Infinite Karma's build approach, what other powers and skills might we find fit that well?



#15 massey

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 01:29 PM

I'd suggest telling the player that anytime he uses a vague and open-ended "see the future" power, he's at least got to give me until the next session to figure out what is going on. No fair using it at the beginning of the night and expecting an answer beyond "hey it turns out, everybody is dead. How do you like that?"

If the player insists on using a Clairsentience, see into future type power, (or anything else that requires the GM to make decisions -- I don't care about a +5 DCV for "seeing where the attack will go" type power), then I'd probably give pretty vague statements that don't have many details. Be a jerk about exactly how the power is built.

"You're looking two weeks into the future to see what happens? Exactly what time? Okay, you've got 300" of range with this power. This lets you see stuff within about a quarter mile of your location, which is currently your base. You spend a lot of time looking. It appears that MegaGirl is watching The Bachelor. There's a dog wandering around outside. Traffic is pretty bad. Nothing important seems to be happening. Nobody is watching the news or anything. You appear to be typing a very stern response to someone on the Internet. How much longer do you want to watch this?"

Basically if you demand really accurate info, you're subjecting yourself to the GM being petulant.

#16 steriaca

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 05:41 PM

If I would do a Precog character, I would do a basic see into the future build and then focus on buying powers based on the special effect of seeing into the future.

If I was wise, I would prehaps build it with such limitations as "Only Through Dreams" or something similar. Give the GM a break by giving the GM more control of the power. Tuxedo Mask kinda had this power (seeing that his future self, King Endymon, gave him psychic flashes in his younger selves sleep, eventually resulting in Tuxedo Mask gaining the power Tuxedo La Smoking Bomber).

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#17 TheDarkness

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:14 PM

Totally agree with Massey's point on time being a necessary thing to give the GM.

 

The main point I don't necessary agree on is on precognition as GM fiat in cases of its reasonable use(this is all assuming the GM is allowing the power).

 

At that point, it becomes the GM's power, not the character's, and the character shouldn't have to spend any points on it.

 

This is part of the reason that I alluded to even a 'scientific' precognition having accuracy limits, having elements that can be wrong(oh, this other timeline or divergent reality and ours must have been close at that point, so there's apparently another timeline where that element happened, this allows for the same vagueness of dream visions and such).

 

If the character spends points on an energy blast, that blast is useful in game, even and especially where its use foils us evil GM's nefarious plans. It is not GM's fiat paid for by the player.

 

This is why I am constructing a mechanism for production of the content of the vision. It makes it easier to define the vision next game, leaves the actual meaning vague, AND allows for the vision to alter my vision of the story as GM, just as any other use of a power can.

 

Further, by having a fair number of 'generic people' cards in the deck, the content may very well include people that the hero does not know at all, by having people only I know as GM in the deck, they will have an even greater chance of having a vision whose content they cannot fully understand, and the same with places.

 

Further, if I do introduce some elements as GM's fiat, the player can likely tell, oh, this vision has more elements than I actually drew from the deck, my GM shenanigans sense is tingling, but they will not necessarily know WHICH elements are the ones they drew from the deck, and which are my introductions.

 

This way, its use is not abdicating the normal balance of both GM and players affecting things, plus allows for the vision to have utility to both GM and players for how they view the story and potential action.



#18 Hugh Neilson

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:27 PM

I'd suggest telling the player that anytime he uses a vague and open-ended "see the future" power, he's at least got to give me until the next session to figure out what is going on. No fair using it at the beginning of the night and expecting an answer beyond "hey it turns out, everybody is dead. How do you like that?"


This is reasonable. At the same time, the GM may have to be willing to call the game early when the player reasonably wants to use the power.

If the player insists on using a Clairsentience, see into future type power, (or anything else that requires the GM to make decisions -- I don't care about a +5 DCV for "seeing where the attack will go" type power), then I'd probably give pretty vague statements that don't have many details. Be a jerk about exactly how the power is built.


Seems reasonable that the player will also be a jerk in return. Is that also OK?
 

Totally agree with Massey's point on time being a necessary thing to give the GM.
 
The main point I don't necessary agree on is on precognition as GM fiat in cases of its reasonable use(this is all assuming the GM is allowing the power).
 
At that point, it becomes the GM's power, not the character's, and the character shouldn't have to spend any points on it.


This.

If you don't like the power proposed by the player, disallow it. Work with the player to come up with a version he and the GM can both work with, or disallow the concept entirely. But if you let the player spend the points, to me this is a commitment you will let the power work, and have game effects, commensurate with the nature of the power, and the points invested in it.

#19 TheDarkness

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:39 PM

In fairness, it's a power with NO mechanism for its use, so GMs are all making it up on the fly.

 

And thus, this thread. My contribution to the future. Or, the first step in my evil plan.

 

The future is a choose your adventure book. SPOILER: you die.



#20 TheDarkness

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:02 PM

Another thing to consider, is, in a game with precognitive abilities, you will have their opposite.

 

If the master villain knows an enemy can see into the future, how will he or she respond? A powerful magical item at their keep to prevent scrying into it? Having their base located completely outside of the timeline?

 

In a fantasy game that has some people in the world who can do this sort of thing, rulers would likely place a premium on having those who have visions of the future in their employ, and ways to prevent being scryed upon.

 

This would then mean that some wizard orders might be quite aware of a lot of what's going on, not by virtue of scrying, but by virtue of supplying wizards who protect meetings from scrying present at a lot of important things.

 

This actually gives me ideas for my master villain, Kaiser Mayhem. He's a scientific genius, but saw the foil that magic could make of his plans and has learned much in that realm.