Why do oracles have curses?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Is there any reason other than "the designers thought it would be cool"? Also does it bother anyone else that a good aligned deity would put a curse on an innocent person? (let alone someone who was presumably a loyal follower)? That said, I could see them cursing someone and making them an oracle if they did something really bad as punishment.


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The design of the Oracle is based on the Oracle of Delphi. This is a priestess that is given visions by the gods but is also sinking into insanity, quite possibly by the visions given to them by the gods. So being an oracle is both a blessing and a curse.

Revelations are the blessing side of the class, and the curse replaces the madness the Oracle of Delphi experienced.


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There is also the "in setting" reasons, an answer that you could arrive to by following the built in clues. Divine power is not meant to be channeled by mortals without some form a middle man, or buffer, between them and the source of the divine power. Deities serve this purpose for clerics, nature and nature spirits for those of the nature persuasion. Paladins channel divine power through aligning themselves with the forces of Law and Good, rather than warping those powers to their own will. Oracles are linked directly to the divine source of power, similar to sorcerers are with Arcane magic. This takes a toll on their nature and manifests as a curse. Mortals are designed to inhabit the material universe (which Arcane magic is a part of) and divine power is the stuff of the outer planes. The stuff does not mix very well.

As far as "good" deities being involved in the power delivery and their "moral obligations", that is not really relevant. Oracles have a curse because of their direct link to the divine, not because a good deity cursed them.

Shadow Lodge

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Because in myth and legend as well as real life there is a tradition of figures giving up normal attributes or coming from unusual backgrounds in order to tap into divine power. Good examples---

Moses having a stutter (something removed from movie versions) could be seen as a Oracle "Curse".

Simularly, The great peacemaker of the Iroqious Confederacy is said to have a stutter.

Odin giving an eye for wisdom.

Tiresias loosing his sight but also having the experince of living life both as a man and woman.

Joan of Arc could be considered to have a campaign specific "wrong gender" curse.

Francis of Assisi's voluntary poverty could be seen as tied to his holiness.

The Itako, blind Japanese mediums.

Beserkers, loosing themselves in frenzy to tap into Odin's magic. Yes, it is the Barbarian's class but it is also a "divine madness".

Many cultures consider madmen to be holy.

Cassandra, being cursed to never being believed.

Now you may not see all these characters as Oracles, but you can see why all of these could be inspirations for an Oracle Curse. I think these experiences collectively are what the curse mechanic is trying to emulate.


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One could also use the "curses" for flavor, being blessed by a deity AFTER being "cursed" by someone/something else.

I'm playing a Rage Prophet (CG) at my current party (starting as Barbarian) and the background story was that as a barbarian, I tried to buy time to fight off a demon invasion in a small city, so the civilians could flee. During these fights, I got "cursed" (the Lame curse), but the heroism in my deed got me blessed by a dragon deity (Animitas, NG) which allowed me to miraculoulsy survive the invasion and live to fight another day.


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Apsu, the lawfull good god of dragons, doesnt have oracles because he believes cursing people is wrong even if you give them power in return


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People always assume curses come directly from deities, which is not necessarily true. Yes, there are some recommended deities, but those are suggestions, unlike the domains associated with a Cleric's deity. I've never played my Oracle as a direct agent of a deity. I see them more as the divine version of the Witch, who has a mysterious patron, which is also unknown. Neither of those higher powers can revoke those given powers. The Paladin, Cleric, Druid, and Inquisitor can all lose their powers if they don't follow a specific code, but an Oracle is stuck with it forever. You don't give power to someone if you don't have a way to take that power back if they're no longer working for you. That's why I don't connect them to a deity in my mind. I usually treat their source of power as a spirit (like the Shaman), concept or an element (like the Witch), rather than a tangible source.

As for "why do Oracles have curses," that's been explained. The original oracles from Greek mythology had a curse, so that's why. Staying true to the source material.


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My headcanon:

Normally, there isn't a way of containing the power of 9th level spellcasting at low levels. Prepared casters get around this by not taking in that much energy at low levels. Psychics do something similar, building up their power incrementally through their discipline. Sorcerers have their bloodline to contain the power, which itself is allowed to be more expressed at higher levels when its use as a buffer is not as necessary.

An Oracle needs to have this power dumped on them all at once (so that there is no need for future contact between Oracle and patron), so something needs to be removed so they don't overload. The secondary benefits improve with level because a lack of other abilities is no longer needed to contain the magic.

Silver Crusade

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I expect that there almost as many reasons for the oracles' curses as there are oracles.

See my story for one reason.


What is your story?


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The idea probably came from Greek mythology. Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy, but cursed so that no one believed what she said.

Unlike most divine casters Oracles do not have any limitation on their behavior. They are not required to have a deity, and gain no benefit even if they do. Who grants them their power is unknown and it may be more than one deity. Even the oracle does not know what the source of their power is. It is even possible for the oracle’s source of the oracles power is opposed to their deity.

In some cases the deities sponsoring the mystery may actually be opposed to each other. The Flame mystery for example lists both Asmodeous and Sarenrae as deities.

Curse was probably a poor choice for the description of the class ability. Burden would have probably been a better word, but does not sound as cool. Curse implies it is all negative, but the case of the oracles curse the benefits will eventually outweigh the negatives.


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Curses don't necessarily need to be "curses" if you come up with certain character backstories. Here are a few ideas:

- A character swears a vow to Iomedae for the power to protect their loved ones and promises to never lie as a part of this vow. (Curse - Legalistic)

- A sailor dedicated to Besmara had their leg bitten off by a shark years before any divine powers showed up. (Curse - Lame)

- Deafness would normally be a rather severe handicap on the battlefield. But Gorum saw the dedication of a warrior, deaf since birth, and granted her divine strength as a reward for her constant convictions and struggles. (Curse - Deaf)


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See Blind Seer for some insight (ba-dum-cha) into this trope-so-ancient-its-an-archetype.


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Yqatuba wrote:
Is there any reason other than "the designers thought it would be cool"? Also does it bother anyone else that a good aligned deity would put a curse on an innocent person? (let alone someone who was presumably a loyal follower)? That said, I could see them cursing someone and making them an oracle if they did something really bad as punishment.

Don't think of it as the good gods actively cursing the oracle, think of it more as they are a channel for a deity's power, even against their own will and that channel both harms them and empowers them.

For the most part, deities do not actively provide power to Oracles, as they also can not remove it from them either. Further, there is a lots of variability as to how to ascribe the power of witches and oracles, as someone previously mentioned.

I prefer to imagine the oracle as being a channel for deific power, but not actually linked to any deity. And since a deity isn't actively providing the power, they also aren't actively providing the curse either. It's some strange twist of fate that has allowed a mortal to tap into power there weren't meant to have.


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The brilliance of flexible creativity. Interpret it however you want. I like to see curses by good deities, as a a god's constant reminder of their presence and your purpose on earth through them. I guess Paizo's team had to assign some word to define the mechanics of the class and decided on curses, since they technically are drawbacks. But it is up to the player, or rather the character themselves how they want to view or categorize it.

For example, an oracle of Sarenrae "cursed" with blindness might not even interpret it as a curse. At a group campfire moment, claiming,

"The great lord of light has not bestowed me with an affliction my friend. The gods give and take, there is balance in all things. Though my eyes may not report what lies before me as do yours, my god has allowed me to see the world with my heart." Casts Spark on the wood assembled, followed by a smirk. "It is not with our vision that we feel the warmth of the Sunlight."

Silver Crusade

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For most Oracle PCs the "curse" is far more a net gain than an actual problem. It's absolutely astonishing how few PCs get a curse that in any significant way negatively impacts their character ☹️.

A point lost in many of the explanations sbove


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I played an oracle years ago and in his backstory he explained that the curses are the result of a moral being touched by a god. The moral body is not capable of ensuring such a touch without some sort of detriment as you are infused with raw divine power.


Fnipernackle wrote:
I played an oracle years ago and in his backstory he explained that the curses are the result of a mortal being touched by a god. The mortal body is not capable of ensuring such a touch without some sort of detriment as you are infused with raw divine power.

Fixt Fixed that four you.

EDIT one: guess you could say, "fixed"

EDIT two: let's see if I can get these to appear in the correct order

EDIT three: NOPE! also to revert this to an alias

EDIT four: tradition by this point; also, to point out that this post was made after my Tacticslion post, that currently claims to be 2 minutes ago, while this claims to be 3 minutes ago.


Yqatuba wrote:
What is your story?

He meant for you to read it on his character page.

I'll go ahead and copy/paste it here:

Quote:

Originally from Taldor, Dorsin Salic thought a hasty departure was in order after the death of his friend. Dorsin had practiced that shot dozens of times, and he always hit the target. Well, almost always. If Dorsin and his friend had not been drinking, holding the target while Dorsin showed off his skill with the crossbow might not have seemed like such a good idea. And Dorsin's aim might have been better.

Dorsin left everything behind in his flight, including his name. Dorsin fashioned a new name from "anonymous" and "nobody" in an obscure language.

Wracked with guilt, Nonnie sought the opportunity for redemption. With the chance at redemption came a price. Spirits of the dead haunt Nonnie, and he swore an oath not to kill living creatures.

When he came to Absalom, he met a paladin of the Silver Crusade. Joining that group seemed the best thing to do. Perhaps they could help him in his search for redemption.

If you click the green part (his name) you can go to his page and and read "About Nonnie Kaneis" - you can do this with anyone's name. The color indicates kind:

- blue: primary account name (yours is "Yqatuba," while mine is "Tacticslion")

- green: PFS character (I don't have any, but Nonnie is apparently officially sanctioned for PFS play)

- red: alias name (there is a tab each person has that lists their aliases; these are alternate names you can post under).

As an example of using an alias...


Anyway, trying this out: this is also me trying to show off my aliases in the proper order


A'rright! Seems to have worked.

Anyway, Aliases are used for various purposes. Most people use them a either jokes, references, or methods of having multiple characters in PbPs.

So I might have a few different things for NPCs, one to indicate I'm a GM (in fact I do) or other such things.

A few, like the poster you might see around called "Drejk," prefer one of their aliases to their original name, and post (almost) exclusively under that alias. Others, like the poster captain yesterday use their aliases as an extensive series of jokes and do all sorts of nonsense with them.

EDIT: oh, you can always see an alias' original name by clicking on said alias and following it "back" to the original. Clicking on a person's name also lets you read lots of old posts by them, and other information about their posting history and how they interact with the forums as well.

Hope that helps!


(These last four posts have been severely off topic, but have been in an effort to explain something that some might not know about how the forums work.)


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One way to explain it is the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. When she was born three fairies showed up each bestowing a gift and the fourth a curse.

The same thing appears in Greek myth were the three Fates appear and declare a curse, and a god appears with a blessing to counter it. Like in the tale of Meleager and the burning brand.

In Greek mythology oracles were typically cursed, either because they tricked a god into granting them their powers and were punished for their deceit, because they offended one god and were punished while being rewarded with their gift by an opposing god, or they abused the gift by revealing secrets the gods didn't want revealed and paid the price.

Some famous oracles like this are Cassandra of Troy and the Sibyl of Cumae (both granted power by Apollo but punished for tricking him), Tiresias punished by Athena with blindness for offending her but rewarded by Apollo with prophecy for his devotion.


I personally always favored the "divine accident" type of origin story. In other words, a portion of a deity's power hit the oracle purely by chance. This might happen in a bunch of ways. Perhaps the PC was at the epicenter of a miracle; they witnessed a battle between powerful outsiders; they heard the unfiltered Word of (insert deity here); a future saint was martyred in their midst.

I also favor the "atonement" type like in Nonnie's story. Like, imagine an oracle that was "just doing his job" and had to be the one who executed a powerful prophet of a deity, since the local government dubbed the prophet a heretic. This lowly soldier was even ordered to gore the prophet in his side with a spear. The soldier felt terrible guilt afterwards and has tried for years to atone; as both a blessing and a curse he's afflicted with a preternaturally long lifespan and has to watch all his loved ones fade, but the spear he carries is an unbelievably powerful weapon against evil.

I don't know; do with this what you will. The bottom line is that an Oracle's curse represents something they were made to give up in order to wield the unique powers they do.

One final suggestion I'd like to make is the "Altered Human Super Hero" origin. What if a cleric's cart, carrying a dozen or so potions of Oil of Blindness, suddenly got loose on the streets of Absalom. A young boy with a Brawler for a dad spots the runaway cart barreling towards an old beggar struggling to cross the street. "Look out!" young Matthias cries as he dives forward, knocking the old man out of the way!

There is a brilliant crash and the brackish, oily ooze of the potions is found congealing around the young Matthias' eyes. He's rushed from the scene to a healer who in turn delivers him to the mother he's never known... a nun in the service of Pharasma. The boy learns to deal with his blindness here thanks to his mother's care, and the intervention of a strange monk of a militant order of the Lady of Souls... an order dedicated to wiping out an evil organization of enemy monks called The Hand...

Ok, so that's a bit tongue-in-cheek but the idea there is that the power of a deity was bound into a substance which in turn afflicted a mortal with that power. It could be referred to as a "radioactive" substance, and thus be delivered by a potion, a bomb blast, a vermin's bite attack, etc.


Has anyone else used the "made an oracle as punishment" background? I was thinking you could have someone who did something really dumb an burned their temple down (which killed people in the process) and is made an oracle with the burned curse.

Silver Crusade

Yqatuba wrote:
What is your story?

Originally from Taldor, Dorsin Salic thought a hasty departure was in order after the death of his friend. Dorsin had practiced that shot dozens of times, and he always hit the target. Well, almost always. If Dorsin and his friend had not been drinking, holding the target while Dorsin showed off his skill with the crossbow might not have seemed like such a good idea. And Dorsin's aim might have been better.

Dorsin left everything behind in his flight, including his name. Dorsin fashioned a new name from "anonymous" and "nobody" in an obscure language.

Wracked with guilt, Nonnie sought the opportunity for redemption. With the chance at redemption came a price. Spirits of the dead haunt Nonnie, and he swore an oath not to kill living creatures.

When he came to Absalom, he met a paladin of the Silver Crusade. Joining that group seemed the best thing to do. Perhaps they could help him in his search for redemption.

You can click on my name above to see the character's desceiption.

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