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    The Dark Art of Subjective Divination
    Posted on Mon, December 03, 2001 by Toran
    MerricB writes "Mages have long debated the theories behind how magic works. The most problematic of these has been the arts of divination, which often invokes questions of free will versus premeditation. One branch of the divinatory arts, subjective divination, is quite obscure but has been revealed to be of greater importance than once thought, as the following essay shows...

    Author: MerricB

    The Dark Art of Subjective Divination
    An essay by Cirrem, the Dreamer-Minstrel.

    by MerricB (
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    There exist three branches of divinatory magic: that which deals with what was, that which deals with what is, and that which deals with what will be. Of those three, the third, which deals with the future, is the most problematic. The problem is not that seeing the future is difficult - it is, but those of enough skill can do it - it is because the very act of seeing the future will cause the future to change.

    One must understand that history does not flow along a fixed path, with everything predetermined, however much the followers of Pholtus would like us to believe otherwise. Free will is not an illusion, it is the very essence of our ability to change the future. However, to be able to change future events, we first must be aware of those events. Such is the core behind prophetic magic.

    A single person seeing the future may change events if they want, though it is difficult to properly predict the outcome of their changes. Alternatively, a seer may lock themselves into the actions they perceive, and thus change nothing - though being prewarned of anything that may come.

    If two people see the future, then the future becomes wild and uncontrollable, because their actions will interfere with each other's view. Prophecy assumes that only the seer will be aware of the future, it cannot predict the actions of another seer. The more people using prophetic means, the muddier the vision becomes, and the more unexpected future actions get. Certainly, predicting events of a mere half-hour in the future when you are the only seer in the vicinity will be extremely accurate, but with range comes inaccuracy.

    The true art of prophecy comes when you can see the effect your actions will have and can thus choose between several futures you want to come true. Obviously, a lowly peasant seer is unlikely to be able to choose a future where they become king, as it relies on forces beyond their control, however with more power, you can affect more and more of the world.

    Once again multiple seers will distort this ability. It is only when you are a True Seer, with a certain level of power and influence, and there are no other seers in the world, can you control the future absolutely.

    The Cult of Vecna speaks of this phenomonen as Subjective Divination, and it was a key factor behind Vecna's attempt in 581 C.Y. to become the Chief God of Oerth to whom all other deities were subservient.

    Vecna's plan was very simple: as he possessed the power of a True Seer, if he could cloud the ability of all prophets on Oerth to see the future, his own version of the future would be easy enough to impose on Oerth.

    Your humble correspondent must admit no knowledge of the exact means that Vecna used to remove prophetic magic from Oerth. It is known that the removal was not instantaneous, but instead was a gradual process that was centred on the City of Greyhawk - it is quite possible that an artifact hidden below Castle Greyhawk was discovered and used by his cult, but I can not confirm such a supposition.

    In addition to blinding prophetic visions, Vecna also manipulated the stone circles of Tovag Baragu into diverting the normal links between the outer planes and Oerth into reaching back into the past where his army waited. This removed the influence of most of the gods from Oerth, and their own prophetic powers could be not be brought to bear.

    We were extremely fortunate that Vecna was not fully aware of the powers of Iuz, perhaps dismissing him as a mere cambion - without Iuz's interference its seems likely that Vecna would have succeeded in his plans.

    Unfortunately, Subjective Divination remains a possible threat to the future of Oerth. It is my hope that this essay will foster the knowledge of the threat posed by divinatory means, and disarm any further attempts by dark powers to use it for their own ends.

    This article is inspired by a couple of throw away references in the module "Vecna Lives!", and how those references were seized upon by my players. :) I've added a lot of things I've gathered from my reading from the Dune series by Frank Herbert as well.

    Note: Magical Theory"
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    Re: The Dark Art of Subjective Divination (Score: 1)
    by chatdemon ( on Mon, December 03, 2001
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    Ooh, great stuff!
    I must now steal this for my NPC Ilbrysis to scare the intrepid heroes with the next time they come asking her to divine the outcome of their latest master plan, hehe. I really like the fact you've tied in vecna without delving into necromancy or various detached body parts, I think he can be an excellent villain if we, unlike the TSR/WotC designers, avoid the stereotypes and treat him as a mysterious individual, not just another lunatic lich lord.

    Re: The Dark Art of Subjective Divination (Score: 1)
    by Kirt on Sun, October 02, 2005
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    Wow!  Definately a new take on things, a fresh look.

    I would be interested in seeing this expanded, with spell descriptions and such.


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