by S. John Ross
GURPS Magic gives a brief but detailed look at the game mechanics of divinatory magics, and a list of colorful examples for inclusion in fantasy campaigns. But the nature of divinatory magic, and its possible roles in a magical campaign, warrant a second look. Unlike other sorts of fantasy magic, which have direct and quantifiable effects on the game environment (blasting dragons and healing heroes, making stone bridges appear across canyons, etc.), Divinations and other Information spells deal only in PC knowledge, and thus require special consideration. To properly deal with magic of a divinatory nature, we must ask again the questions we pose ourselves about magic in the first place: Is divination common? Is it available to player characters? Is it regulated by law? If it is available to PCs, will it be treated differently than other magic?
Consider carefully the possible consequences of these things in your campaign. If divination is common, then things like marriages, crime and war would be affected. Knowing what opposing armies are going to do a day in advance can be more useful than a line of fireballs! The "Blessed" advantage (p. M85) suggests that the more important religious figures will have divination available. Would they marry a couple that the stars say is doomed? The uses in a courtroom are equally important and, if used, likely to cause considerable controversy.
Furthermore, divination, even more than other forms of magic, requires considerable flexibility on the part of the GM, as well as a good idea of where the story is going. It is unfair to be deliberately evasive or untruthful to PCs who have sacrificed valuable character points to be diviners. But often, GMs simply don't have the answers available, or don't want to let players use a single spell to bypass a carefully structured mystery plot. The main thing is to be as fair as possible until damage to the story is risked. Fortunately, standard GURPS mechanics offer ways around problems of this sort; there are added penalties for continued questioning on the same subject and instructions to use cryptic visions and the like for anything but yes or no answers. Visions can also be used by the clever GM to further develop an entertaining story, or as a maguffin to begin one!
Deciding what sorts of divination exist is purely a question of aesthetics in most cases, but every bit of color and definition for a setting helps. Creating new methods and the pseudo-plausible (within the context of a magical game) explanations behind them can be fun, and is encouraged. To help flesh out the state of divinations in your Magic campaigns, a few thoughts and new methods of divining follow.
Although divination is certainly a form of magic, some GMs might prefer to alter the official requirements for magery in their GURPS campaigns. One way to do this is to establish a secondary mana level, specific to the divination spells. To discourage divining, lower the level; to make it available to non-mages, boost it to high or even very high mana! Another option is including an additional advantage which could replace magery for those who simply want diviners.
Characters with this advantage are able to learn a single divination spell as if they were mages. This advantage does not add to effective IQ for any purpose, nor does it replace prerequisites, which must still be learned (but may not be cast unless the diviner is in a high-mana area or is a mage). This advantage may be purchased more than once, allowing the character to be proficient with several methods of divination.
Below is a list of several new types of divination for possible inclusion in GURPS Fantasy campaigns.
Like Cartomancy, all of these methods are personal in nature, and designed to give information about individuals or couples. Any other use of these methods, including divining information for or about unwilling and/or non-present persons, is at -5.
Atithmancy, or numerology, is divination by the various numbers that define an individual, including those derived from name, birthday and, in contemporary settings, even such things as social security numbers. If the birthday of the subject is unknown, the caster is at a -10 to effective skill. Prerequisites: 8 Air spells, or Mathematical Ability.
Chiromancy is divination by reading the lines on a person's left palm. If for some reason the left palm is unavailable, it may be done with the right at a -8 penalty. If the person to be read has no palms, specific knowledge of alien biology may allow an attempt, at the GM's discretion. ("Allow me to read your future, my son! Give me your pseudopod . . .) Prerequisites: 4 spells of each of the four elements.
Graphology is reading the handwriting of someone to gain information about them. At least 30 words are required for a proper reading, and the signature must be among them. The signature alone may be read at -5. Prerequisites: 6 each Air and Earth spells.
Lunomancy is divination by the shadows created by moonlight on the individual's face. Each casting requires at least $20 worth of silver dust to be spread on the caster's hands, and then on the subject's face. A reading takes 30 minutes. Prerequisites: 5 Air spells and 2 Earth spells.
Pedomancy is divination by examining the footprint of the person to be studied. The footprint should be in clay; special clays, or special materials mixed with the clay, may be required, or may offer bonuses. Footprints not in clay are read at -5. Prerequisites: 4 Earth and 2 Water spells.
Although Pyromancy (divination by fire) is discussed in Magic, the other three elements are not detailed. All of the methods listed below have the same prerequisite: 10 spells of the appropriate elemental college (Earth for Geomancy, Water for Hydromancy, etc.).
Geomancy is divination by examining the earth. This may only be practiced on the bare ground – you may not be in a building, spaceship, etc. It requires an area of open soil (no vegetation) at least 1 hex in size. Divination is by examining the reaction of the soil to symbols traced within it. Casting requires a silver rod to properly trace the symbols ($250); an attempt without such a rod is at -10. Casting in particularly dry or wet earth is at a penalty of -1 (for earth after a fog or brief dry spell) to -8 (for mud or sand).
Aeromancy is divination by air. It is performed in solitude and, like Geomancy, requires that the diviner not be indoors, although he need not be on the ground. In fact, being on top of a large building might be an advantage! If the Aeromancer is 50 yards from the ground, add +1 to
skill; each time height doubles, add a further +1, to a maximum of +6. He must maintain this height for the entire casting, however! In addition, note that the hard vacuum of space is no place to divine. Air, obviously, must be present. The information gained is in the form of visions or voices.
Hydromancy is divination by water, or more specifically, the motion of water. This is not the same as using water as a substitute for a crystal ball! Normally, a brook or river is observed, but underground lakes and the like work with no skill penalty. If a tub or basin is used, precious stones (at least $800 worth of blue or clear ones) must be dropped into the water to cause the motion to occur. Unlike the herbs needed for pyromancy, however, the stones may be used repeatedly. Hydromancy may be used in any setting, and does not require solitude.
Belomancy is divination by tossing a handful of arrows and examining the pattern they form as they fall. A casting requires at least a dozen arrows. Prerequisite: Aeromancy.
Botanomancy requires the burning of the branches and leaves of a tree, about 2 pounds worth, and the observation of the burning and of the ashes. Prerequisite: Four Fire spells and four Plant spells.
Gastromancy requires a willing subject. The subject is first placed in a trance, after which he will utter things of a prophetic and cryptic nature. After the spell is cast, the subject loses 5 fatigue in addition to the caster's loss, whether or not the spell was successful. Prerequisites: Hypnotism at 15 or higher, and 3 spells from each of the four elements.
Lithomancy is divination by the examination of cast gemstones on black cloth. The cloth and stones required for this spell cost a total of $1,500, but colored glass can be substituted at a -3 penalty. Prerequisites: 2 Water spells and 5 Earth spells.
Libranomancy is divination through examination of smoke from incense. It requires incense worth not less than $5 at TL4 or lower, and $1 thereafter, for each casting. The air in the area must be still while the casting takes place. Prerequisites: 5 each of the four elements, or 7 each of Fire and Air.
Copyright © 1997-2018 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved.