|The Sigil of Othimar, The Third Oracle of the Plateau|
Dodgy, dubious advice that may well be lacking in merit is far more commonplace than farts in a feedlot. It is important to not overplay the veracity, accuracy or soundness of an oracle's pronouncements. Sure there are all sorts of spells for divination in most games, but most forms of traditional divination aren't spells, they are skills, techniques used to gain answers and advice. Using a pendulum, asking the magic eight-ball, consulting the Tarot, casting a horoscope, throwing the runes, picking up yarrow stalks, flipping a coin, cracking open a random book...these and more, far more besides are all forms of divination. None of them are spells. There's no reason to rely on spells when we have such a vast array of techniques to draw upon and there are so many ways to make hay from one single skill or class ability or technique.
Learning the divinatory arts can either be as simple as picking up tips from the household help like those impressionable young girls in Salem who just wanted to know what their future husbands were going to be like. They used an egg and a glass of water. It's a simple technique. It's a bit of folklore that they learned from their house-servant.
Never underestimate the power, nor the utility, of folklore.
Pretending to see the future, to give the impression that one knows something that is about to happen is a powerfully seductive thing. People who are as hard-nosed and skeptical as they come will fall for this. It is one of the things that can be manipulated by marketing, advertising, politicians, preachers, or stock analysts. Consider this--in today's supposedly rational, educated, technologically advanced world, we still have people wagering on the lottery and highly paid math whizzes and other shysters speculating of the future availability of various commodities. The financial markets are set-up as a hardcore economics-based form of competitive divination.
And they call us weird...
Cassandra we recall by name, but the Oracle at Delphi, well, we've lost the roll call. Books of predictions sell tons of copies. Astrology is still in the newspapers, even the online versions. You can get a lot of free beer doing Tarot readings, if you don't mind working that cheaply. Ouija boards are still available and now we have revised and newage-ified versions complete with crystals to save us from negative influences. Hah. Divination is big business. Projections of earnings and market share are just that--what we think might be so in the future--best guesses, informed or pulled right out of the butt--it's divination.
There have been too many pious clerics getting honest answers from their deities. There's just too much cut-and-dried, even definitive Yes or Now answers in what passes as magic in most role-playing games to suit my tastes. I want more intriguing ambiguities that can be further explored and unravelled, less of the random cryptic meaningless sentences or homilies or cliches or sayings* that could have been lifted from the script to Sucker Punch. Instead of divination spells, I want to return divination to its folkloric roots, to go back to the techniques and the sort of cultural cachet that once made books on Western Geomancy very popular reading material in Old Europe.
We've taken one approach to this in how we have developed the Haruspistadium in Riskail. It is a place where full-contact divination is carried out on a competitive basis. Some of those cackling hags, especially the ones from Ashadan, are particularly cut-throat.
We're in the process of developing another approach for Jalamere, one that will develop organically along with the rest of that setting. And then there is Book Nine. If we could accurately predict the future, we'd have foreseen that it would be delayed and put on the back-burner until we wrapped-up other projects. It will see the light of day, eventually, but for now the Nine Oracles of the Plateau will have to wait their turn. Patiently. They at least are supposed to be able to see the future...
* Not that there's anything wrong with some babbling mendicant spouting empty platitudes, cryptic or not. In fact a random table of platitudes, koans, sayings, etc. might not be such a bad idea...