Playing an Oracle
In the same session where I threw my players into free fall combat, I also tried an experiment from a purely roleplaying perspective.
In another more recently established gaming group, we had a game where the DM brought out a deck of playing cards. He started the game by doing something seemingly trivial: his half elf warlock inquisitive, Nalit, was showing off a card trick.
Later the Elf Warlock goes missing, and as our band of inquisitives left the city to explore the outskirts of civilization, our DM would lay out clues: cards from Nalit’s deck were found where an abandoned car was. A card was found in the hands of the village crazy. Cards were found outside a cave where “the dead things” came from every night.
It definitely set the mood for the entire session, and I was impressed by how having something physically present made it that much easier to immerse myself in the game.
Thus inspired, I brought out my personal tarot deck and created an NPC – an albino human named Zenith, who was a fortune teller from one of the lower discs of the floating city Stratican.
The important thing about Zenith and her tarot was that I needed a way to educate my players while making it believable. One of my players had chosen “BIRTH – PROPHECY” as a character background, and as a DM I immediately jumped all over that.
Earlier in the session, his human artificer Carn not
iced a strange black smudge on his palm. Except, when he tried to rub it off, it wouldn’t come off. As time passed, the mark began to grow. My player had a feeling of what was happening, but I didn’t want to make him roll an arcane check and just tell him, “You know you’re manifesting a mysterious dragonmark.”
So, enter Zenith. I lighted small candles, turned off the kitchen lights, and sat down in front of my players. “You have reached Disc Cobble, and you notice that unlike the higher discs, the air is less fresh, and there are fewer magic torches that light the streets. You find Zenith’s tent easily enough, and you see an albino human female sitting at a table. She is dressed in white, and she is calmly shuffling a deck of cards,” I drew the cards out of the pouch and began to shuffle, “What do you do?”
I picked out two cards for the important NPCs that my players had to protect. Then I drew out a card each for my players. As a real tarot reader, I had to concentrate and keep in mind that I was reading for the characters, not for the players at the table. (So in other words, I had to concentrate on the warforged warden Slam, and not on Matthew my delightfully geeky boyfriend.)
Imagine the goosebumps when the wind blew at the candles, and the cards began to appear. My player’s character, a Deva Avenger who worshipped the goddess Sehanine Moonbow, had the moon card reveal itself from the deck. All my players went through similarly eerily accurate cards.
For the last character, I pulled out the Death card. The players started really freaking out at the table.
“Oh, do not worry my child. Death is natural, this card merely represents the natural transition of life, a limbo if you will. There is simply something you are letting go of that must replace it. Let me see your hand.”
Of course, Zenith the oracle had to freak out. For here it was, what the prophecy had foretold! One bearing the dragonmark of Death, a mark that has not been seen since the start of the Last War, almost a century ago. This dragonmark was a sure sign: the human artificer in front of her was what the prophecy spoke of, one who was destined to become The God Killer. She told all of this to Carn.
Which made the revelation all the more believable to my player, and definitely set the stage for the rest of the session.
The look on their faces when I said “God Killer” still makes me laugh to myself, days after the game 😀