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Story Hook: The partyfulfilled an ancient prophecy, fortelling the messiah. But depending on interpretation, any of them could be the messiah.


Suggestions/House Rules/Homebrew


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As stated above. A campaign idea I've been trying to expand on. I would love any ideas you guys have.

The basic premise is, something the party does early in the adventure (not too early of course) fulfills a church's ancient prophecy. That prophecy also foretells that the one who completed the something would be the messiah that will do a different something.

The twist is, that the party completed the something together. So technically, any one of them could be the messiah. Made worse, is different factions of the church interpret the prophecy differently. In faction (A) they believe that the messiah is obviously the fighter, and anyone who believes otherwise is a fool and not a true believer. Faction (B) knows better though, as it is obviously the wizard. Only he is smart and wise enough to possibly bring about a different something. Etc. etc.

So, the party has to protect the (town, country, world) from a great danger, keep the church from destroying itself from infighting over them, and maybe along the way bring about the messiah's task.

I love the idea, and obviously it is in the very early planning stages so feel free to go crazy with it. I'm happy to hear any idea and shamelessly steal it.

Dark Archive

What exactly are you asking for?

Do you want a wording of the "prophecy" to make it suitably ambiguous?

Do you want what actions (a certain side, either the party or the church) could take to bring resolution?

How many people in the party? Do you just want the confusion to be with two of them, or all of them?

Is this something that has already happened? If so, do you have more data? Or is this still in development?

I'm sorry, what exactly is the question here?


How aware of the different something are the players? You may end up with players telling the church "You're wrong, none of us will do this because some old dude said we would 1000 years ago," and trying their best to honour their end of that.


This is still very much so in development. (I'm likely a 6 months to a year out from ending my current campaign.) The question I am asking for is any suggestions to expand on the base idea. The idea is that because of the action they did together as a group. They have fulfilled the prophecy. So every member of the party qualifies as the "messiah". The confusion is just an added story bit to let each character have a chance to shine. As they slowly grow and gain followers that see that one person as the messiah. I'm looking for any kind of story hooks.

What could the prophecy be?
What might the prophecy foretell them doing?
What action a low level party could accomplish, but would not be so common that others had done it before?
Would you enjoy this idea if you were playing in this campaign?

As to how aware they would be. I think that would come down to how much investigation they put in to it. I'm thinking that why there is so much confusion is because the original prophet's words were never written.

I'm thinking that the prophet was considered insane all throughout his life. He was very vocal, and hard to ignore. But no one took him seriously. Then he predicted his own death, and died immediately. Over the next few years, every single thing he predicted came to pass. So the people at the time were suddenly scrambling to remember everything he said. Thus, there is a lot of confusion as to the exact wording of the prophecy.

The church is good aligned (or at least good leaning) so this messiah should foretell something amazingly good happening.

In answer to your question. They certainly have the option to say that, and try to ignore it. It can even fall to the background of the ongoing story. But, the church knows the prophecy is unfailing. So even if the messiah does not believe in his destiny, or denies it. That will not stop them from believing it and acting accordingly.

Dark Archive

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Heh. Prepare for many Holy Grail and Life of Brian quotes. =) Also, sounds kinda like how we view Nostradamus.

A prophecy can be confusing in several regards.
(Also, for a good example, there's a Random Prophecy Generator because internetz of course there is.)

(I imagine that TVTropes.com would have something to say about this, but I leave that wonderful time-sucker to be your own decision.) Two of the most usable can be:

1) Current wording.
A prophecy always has odd wording. Maybe it says "the red-headed one", but then when they do the thing, the cave gives off an odd red light, making all their heads look red.

Maybe it says the chosen one will "heed the roar" and when the beast dies, it roars loudly. Or when the chalice placed upon the pedasle, it sinks and a loud sound is heard.

(I'm focusing on The Thing being the killing of a unique beast because Pathfinder, but it could be anything.)

Where are the characters from? Do they enter the country from the East? Or the temple? Or the monster's cave? Then it's "The chosen one will come from the sun". Which could also mean they have blond hair. Or red hair. Or are a fire-sorcerer. Or worship a deity with a sun-device.

2) Previous translations.

Since his words were written down, might they be mistranslated? Maybe the current version that says they "will slay the beast as the autumn rises" is mistranslated. It turns out "slay" in Ancient Aramaic, can also mean, "render harm" or even "be present at one's death."

3) "Would you enjoy this".

IMHO, I really don't depend on the GM that much for my enjoyment. So long as the GM is putting forth a good effort, there is enjoyment to be had. I could have Brother Aterro go grocery shopping, and he'd be cursing the price of lettuce. "This is a heresy against the Emperor! The foul Xenos that have caused this plague upon the Imperium of Man shall RUE the day they allow so much silver to be charged for a single head of arugula! You there! Grocer-Boy! I deem you HERETIC and you shall bring your leader-manager before me lest I call EXTERMINATUS upon this entire mini-mall!"

Heh. =)


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I like the idea that there are different representatives of the different churches in town because they've all figured out that the prophesy will come to pass, but each has regional variation on their holy texts, so where one might say "Master of Swords", the other might say "Master of Words". That way, there could be some interesting shenanigans where the party splits up after fulfilling the prophesy and each party member is approached by a different faction representative that says "Hail, prophesied one! you have done [Insert thing here]! You are our hope! The ancient prophesy of our religion says that you will do [insert second thing here]!"

Of course, in keeping with the themes, each faction's second thing will be different as well.

I also think it might be interesting to have a couple of NPCs who are also selected as the prophesied ones that let it go to their heads and start trying to create a holy war with the other factions. Then, you could have each faction propping up their savior, and the PCs would have people doing things in their name or misinterpreting what they say/said to promote their own factions.

Or something like that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Atlas2112 wrote:
Heh. Prepare for many Holy Grail and Life of Brian quotes. =)

If anyone did that they'd be a very naughty boy (or girl).


These sorts of things are best reverse engineered by you. Where do you want your players to go? What changes will they go through in order to get there? Once you know their destination, you can figure out what they had to do to get to that point and your campaign will unfold from there.


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"When the goat turns red strikes true"

and

"How will I finally be returnin' ta me beloved dwarven homelands?"

Actually a spoiler:

If you can spontaneously become Rich Burlew, please do.

Otherwise, notice the ways these both play out (if you looked at the spoiler for the second one). The first one is a case of unclear wording with multiple interpretations. There are multiple "goats", multiple meanings of "turns", and multiple ways to parse it. People don't quite remember the exact wording every time, either. The misinterpreted version is: "When the goat turns red, strike true." The goat is one of a chimera's heads, the turning is it metaphorically "turning red", or getting angry, and "strike true" is an imperative. The initial and correct way is "When the goat turns, red strikes true" -Comma added for clarity of interpretation. The correct interpretation has the goat as a guy with a goatee, turning is said guy turning traitor, and the last part is parsed "red strikes true", so the redheaded party member makes a lucky 1 in 20 shot. Within this, you have slight and subtle alteration of the exact words ("strike" vs "strikes", rephrasing, reference to idioms like "turning traitor/turning coat" and "turning red", imprecise and symbolic language ("goat" for "goatee", "red" for a redheaded person), and no specific time constraint.

As for the second one...

Durkon, and spoilers:
This one follows a technically true definition. It is initially misinterpreted because assumptions based in this world fall apart due to magic. Normally, "posthumously" means you're dead (although people in certain situations might be able to be revived from clinical death) However, death is not an absolute in D&D/Pathfinder. Durkon himself has brought the dead back to life. So being raised as an evil vampire is an actual possibility, and his return to the Dwarven lands is much worse than he otherwise thought. This is somewhat similar to the case of the Lord of the Rings Witch King's death. "No living man may hinder me!" is his somewhat prophetic claim, and thus he is killed by a woman (not a living human *male*) and a hobbit (not a living *human* male) using a blade made by long dead men who fought the Witch King (not a *living* human male). Multiple cases may apply! A case of dramatic irony at its finest.

Feel free to include words that can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically in your own prophesy. If someone is "burning the midnight oil", they could be working late at night, or they could be literally setting fire to oil that would be used to light lamps at midnight. A "cup of joe" could be a cup of coffee, or you could have a piece of Joe that is in a cup, or Joe, shrunken down to mouse-size so he could fit in a cup. Alternatively, say something unclearly, in a way that invites multiple interpretations. "Elv's ha' left the building" can be "Elvis has left the building" or "Elves have left the building". In person, consider slurring your words and only saying the prophesy once (if you decide to say it). Homonyms are amazing for this, although similar words work as well. Otherwise, have people interpret the situation from a text with small differences. A tablet with a series of scratches could read "MINE" or "NINE" if one of the scratches is unclear. "ROLL could be read as "12011" with poor writing. And "roll" is part of the idiom "taking roll" "Roll" is also a homonym with "Role", so "taking roll of the soldiers" could be "taking 12,011 of the soldiers" or "taking (the) role of the soldiers". Having a single source who has died/faded into obscurity, and a dozen different interpretations (including a verbal history) might help obfuscate. Having other multiple-meaning phrases such as "man of steel" would also help. If you could assign nicknames, family names, or pseudonyms to party members, this could go a long way towards making a prophesy confusing/able to apply to any of them. A "man of steel" could be a warrior, a man who lives by the sword (a steel implement) and his armor (another steel implement). A more dubious interpretation is a blacksmith, a man who works with iron and steel. Or you could have Superman, commonly dubbed "the man of steel". "Stalin" means "man of steel" as well. And since this is fantasy fiction, you could have a literal man made of steel - probably an iron golem, although the X-Men's Colossus might count (although he's technically osmium?).


If the prophecy was originally composed in an older language, the word translated as "messiah" could easily be more ambiguous than the current text implies. Maybe the original uses a word that is the same in both singular and plural forms? That allows for the possibility that ALL the PCs could be the messiah(s) at once.


Ok imagine 5 different narrative junctions.

You do not have to flesh these out in advance - rather let them develop organically during play, and spend some DM time reflecting between sessions.

Each iteration, choose a single word in the prophecy to change in light of new events. You can hash it up to translation, interpretation, what have you.

Just careful not to paint yourself into a corner.


Do you intended for one of them to be the messiah in the end?


Tim Emrick wrote:
If the prophecy was originally composed in an older language, the word translated as "messiah" could easily be more ambiguous than the current text implies. Maybe the original uses a word that is the same in both singular and plural forms? That allows for the possibility that ALL the PCs could be the messiah(s) at once.

(Bolded for emphasis)

This can be true even in modern languages. Afterall, Japanese, Chinese and a few other languages spoken today don't have a difference between plural and singular when you write without context.

E.G.: "Sakura" can be a name, cherry blossom (one of the petals), cherry blossoms (the tree), or cherry blossoms (many of the petals).

In order to determine whether it is singular or not, the speaker/writer usually adds "bon", "hon", or "pon" dependent on what the noun is along with a number.

Ex: "Senbonzakura" = 1000 cherry blossoms

In other words, you could have the prophecy translated from a foreign in-world language where those things are vague and have it still be true. Much less, like other people in the thread stated, homonyms are very useful... especially when people mix together similar sounding words from different languages.

e.g.: "Yume ni" and "you many" - pronounced almost identically, but mean completely different things (Yume being dream or, if you take it a step further, bow (as in a bow and arrow))


Kenky wrote:
Do you intended for one of them to be the messiah in the end?

To be honest. I don't know yet. I think that will depend on how the rest of the story goes.


You might want to look at the Troll Augur's prophecy in The Asylum Stone part of the Shattered Star adventure path. It's a basic prophecy that refers to the party's current circumstances and goals, but then reaches off to further remote possibilities of the upcoming parts of the adventure path.


Personally, I'd let the players know about the premise, look at the characters they develop (possibly with restrictions imposed by you, of course), and then write the prophecy. And I'd start the game at the moment when they look around and realize that it literally took all of them to get the darn sword out of the stone. And I don't mean that the wizard did some basic Detect spells and the bard buffed the fighter, but the fighter pulled it out: no, I mean that somehow they were all tugging! (It doesn't have to be a sword in the stone, of course: in fact, that trope doesn't even work well.) There they are in this isolated spot, and the bard realizes that they've fulfilled the prophecy... roll opening music and begin your campaign! Just my 2cp, of course.

Are there actual deities in conflict over this prophecy? If there's conflicts in "the church" are there deities in the PF-sense at all?


Dryad Knotwood wrote:
Tim Emrick wrote:
If the prophecy was originally composed in an older language, the word translated as "messiah" could easily be more ambiguous than the current text implies. Maybe the original uses a word that is the same in both singular and plural forms? That allows for the possibility that ALL the PCs could be the messiah(s) at once.

(Bolded for emphasis)

This can be true even in modern languages. Afterall, Japanese, Chinese and a few other languages spoken today don't have a difference between plural and singular when you write without context.

E.G.: "Sakura" can be a name, cherry blossom (one of the petals), cherry blossoms (the tree), or cherry blossoms (many of the petals).

In order to determine whether it is singular or not, the speaker/writer usually adds "bon", "hon", or "pon" dependent on what the noun is along with a number.

Ex: "Senbonzakura" = 1000 cherry blossoms

In other words, you could have the prophecy translated from a foreign in-world language where those things are vague and have it still be true. Much less, like other people in the thread stated, homonyms are very useful... especially when people mix together similar sounding words from different languages.

e.g.: "Yume ni" and "you many" - pronounced almost identically, but mean completely different things (Yume being dream or, if you take it a step further, bow (as in a bow and arrow))

Or perhaps a more relevant word: Party.

Oxford English Dictionary wrote:

Noun

1. A social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.
‘an engagement party’

2. Aformally constituted political group that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government.
‘draft the party's election manifesto’

2.1 A group of people taking part in a particular activity or trip.
‘the visiting party will be asked to conform to safety procedures whilst on site’

3. A person or people forming one side in an agreement or dispute.
‘a contract between two parties’

3.1 Informal A person, especially one with specified characteristics.
‘an old party has been coming in to clean’

Verb

informal Enjoy oneself at a party or other lively gathering, typically with drinking and music.

It can be a group or a person. It can be a verb. It is a common roleplaying and legal term. It is similar in spelling to another noun (part). It rhymes with multiple adjectives that can be be used as identifies "the hearty", "the warty" (instead of "the party). Seems pretty useful to me.


bitter lily wrote:

Personally, I'd let the players know about the premise, look at the characters they develop (possibly with restrictions imposed by you, of course), and then write the prophecy. And I'd start the game at the moment when they look around and realize that it literally took all of them to get the darn sword out of the stone. And I don't mean that the wizard did some basic Detect spells and the bard buffed the fighter, but the fighter pulled it out: no, I mean that somehow they were all tugging! (It doesn't have to be a sword in the stone, of course: in fact, that trope doesn't even work well.) There they are in this isolated spot, and the bard realizes that they've fulfilled the prophecy... roll opening music and begin your campaign! Just my 2cp, of course.

Are there actual deities in conflict over this prophecy? If there's conflicts in "the church" are there deities in the PF-sense at all?

I have thought of that too. I plan to have a base outline for the prophecy. I want the original one that marks the coming of the messiah to be very obvious. Like, all fires in the world turn blue for a day the moment it is fulfilled, or, all divine casters lose their connection to the gods for 24 hours, etc. Something undeniable that it has been fulfilled and the world over knows something happened. Only those that studied the prophecies would realize what. That church would then begin to find out who.

The rest of his prophecies regarding the messiah can be more ambiguous. Especially the fact that no one wrote his prophecies when he spoke them, and people were having to remember the words of a crazy person they were trying to ignore years after he spoke them.

I'm also thinking that due to the fact that his prophecies were 100% accurate. It stands to reason that people would have tried to use this to their advantage. The second son of a king making up a prophecy that he was to rule in place of his older brother. Twisting the words so that it has to be talking about him.

With that said, a lot of the arguments from the factions could be from one faction citing a prophecy about the messiah that the other factions believe to be false prophecies attributed to the prophet, and other things like that.

As far as gods. Yes, there are gods in this world. The gods take a very hands off approach to the material plane. They grant clerics and the like their powers. But direct conversation and direct intercession is very rare.

The only god that seems to take an active role is the god of prophecy, but even she has been silent since the prophet's death.


DM_Kumo Gekkou wrote:
The only god that seems to take an active role is the god of prophecy, but even she has been silent since the prophet's death.

It might help to know a little more about her. Is she Pharasma? A different goddess?


In this world, the gods each have dominion of a single domain. The gods rarely show themselves in any sense. The high priest of a church will be lucky to even speak with an angel of the god he serves in his lifetime. Still the hand of god can still be felt. Clerics receive their powers, as do paladins from prayer. Prayer to a particular god may find their situation resolved in a mysterious, divine way.

Most believe the gods act in their own way in a celestial realm, and the material plane is just echoes of their actions. Others believe the gods resolve their differences by pitting their followers into situations and gambling on the outcome. What is diffinitively known about a god is mostly legend, superstition, and ones own personal belief.

That having been said. The goddess of prophecy is said to know all things, but is powerless to change them. She wants for nothing, and tries to achieve nothing because she already knows the outcome. She only takes action in the times she foresaw herself taking those actions. She is the truest neutral there is, because all of time has already happened from her perspective, even as it unfolds. (Think the seen in Watchmen on mars for how she perceives time.)


DM_Kumo Gekkou wrote:

In this world, the gods each have dominion of a single domain. The gods rarely show themselves in any sense. The high priest of a church will be lucky to even speak with an angel of the god he serves in his lifetime. Still the hand of god can still be felt. Clerics receive their powers, as do paladins from prayer. Prayer to a particular god may find their situation resolved in a mysterious, divine way.

Most believe the gods act in their own way in a celestial realm, and the material plane is just echoes of their actions. Others believe the gods resolve their differences by pitting their followers into situations and gambling on the outcome. What is diffinitively known about a god is mostly legend, superstition, and ones own personal belief.

That having been said. The goddess of prophecy is said to know all things, but is powerless to change them. She wants for nothing, and tries to achieve nothing because she already knows the outcome. She only takes action in the times she foresaw herself taking those actions. She is the truest neutral there is, because all of time has already happened from her perspective, even as it unfolds. (Think the seen in Watchmen on mars for how she perceives time.)

So basically, people who all their lives have been refusing to act are suddenly scrambling to do so. Amusing! Confusing for them, indeed. But presumably, I could be a player in your game and write up a cleric of a different god -- and find that a faction in the prophecy church is claiming that I (and my god) are the key to saving the world -- just as another faction is pooh-poohing that and claiming that the rather unscrupulous rogue I happened to be with is the savior. Hmmmm.

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