Prophecies in Pathfinder

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Grand Lodge

How do you handle prophecies in your campaigns?

Are they strict, immovable and deterministic and the PC's have to work within their confines, or are they subject to free will and can be changed and modified by the actions of the characters, whether it be PC's or NPC's?

I find the second option more interesting but I wanted to check the waters and see what others think.

In popular fantasy you can find both of these examples. How would it work on Golarion? Are there any modules or AP's that deal with prophecies?


I don't involve truly predictive prophecies in my games at all, and I don't allow Divination effects to predict the future EXCEPT insofar as it can be reasonably determined from a snapshot of the present. For example, if there's a trap on the inside of a chest then Contact Other Plane can tell you that opening the chest is a bad idea, but it can't tell you what Bob the NPC will choose to eat for breakfast in six days.

My reason is that if you allow predictions of the future to apply to the PCs, it removes agency- "you can't decide to do that because the divination said you wouldn't!"- and if you only exempt PCs from being subject to prophecies, it breaks suspension of disbelief unless you have a good in-story reason why they are uniquely free-willed.

I tend to despise prophecy as a fantasy trope, and as a story telling device. So I love that in the default setting Aroden managed to break prophecy.

The closest to prophecy in existence in my games is the divination spell, and it's very unreliable.

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Its pretty much one of the core setting conceits of Pathfinder that prophecy just doesn't work any more. If you go back in time a couple hundred years ago in the setting, prophecies were coming true with pretty much 100% accuracy an there was nothing that could be done about it.

Now that Aroden has bit the dust *shrug* who knows. Maybe it will come true, maybe it wont? Prophecy is unreliable so that your PCs can have agency.

Grand Lodge

What do you think about the idea of "fake prophecies"? i.e, prophecies that were forged? Relatively easy to do in the context of the world? People will believe what they want to believe?

i think if you are the DM, you should handle prophecies like this;
something done by the PC's was detailed in a prophecy after the fact. give yourself time to think about what the prophecy says, you could base it off of some action they performed months ago in game play. its only just now catching up to them.
for instance, they killed a powerful dragon, the party mage scored the killing blow with a lightning bolt. prophesy could say;

"They will come from no place of consequence, together their power, their piety, their sorcery, their stealth, forged a blade so pure and swift it dazzled and blinded the eye. Burn, it will, down to the dragon's foul misbegotten heart, where a pearl will be found."

now the prophecy can be open to interpretation, i left a place in the 'prophecy' for a warrior, a divine, an arcane and a rogue, the "blade so pure" becomes a lightning bolt, though no single bolt could have felled the dragon, it took all of them to wear it down and the pearl, you ask? the experience granted these prophetic heroes wisdom.

this can then lead into a story hook, their next adventure, and after they complete that mission, another part of the prophesy is found. and so on. and if you've ever read Terry Goodkind's Wizards First Rule, you'll know about forked prophesies; a prophecy can take one of two paths, one can lead to your false positive prophecies.

there can even be misinformation in the prophecy, like where they came from "no place of consequence" is in reality the largest and most glorious jewel of the land. it doesn't have to be precise, as irl, the history is told by the winners, and prophecy is forgotten.

as for your forged prophecies, nothing is stopping you from having the BBEG follow the parties adventures after they've mucked up something he had in the works, so he devises a "false/forged prophecy" to lure them into a trap; They will go to the ______lands and strike blow for ______ to ______.

NOW GO! Let me prophitize in peace!

Lynos wrote:
What do you think about the idea of "fake prophecies"? i.e, prophecies that were forged? Relatively easy to do in the context of the world? People will believe what they want to believe?

On Galorian the default is people believe prophecies are all fake. After the Fall of Aroden lots of prophecies popped up and most of them failed. The weave of fate is loose and malleable now. Pharasma has the most accurate powers of prophecy and she doesn't reveal them because if someone knew they could use the prophecy's key lines to try and crock them.

Lets say there is a prophecy that the Golden One will enter the City of Light and unmask the Faceless One. Well, now Norgorber and his millions of worshipers have a new obsession. They could identify the Golden One. That could be...tough. Lots of false positives. Worse, it doesn't give a time frame so you get rid of all of the candidates today and we don't know if we crocked the prophecy because it could happen 200 or 1000 years from now.

City of Light? It should be Absolom. It might not be Absolom, but destroying Absolom or at least changing its nature should be an easier target than the Golden One. While we're at it we'll start a campaign of turning every city evil, because Norgorber worshipers want that anyways.

And if we do find the Golden One in Absolom or another likely canidate...either we leave him alone or ally with him. If we make him an enemy the prophecy is much more likely to come true.

Multiple different contradictory interpretations/translations of ancient prophecies are fun to play with, particularly when the PCs follow the wrong one and make things worse and then have to find a way to fix it.

what i find difficult to put to words "IN-GAME" is self-fulfilling & self-defeating prophecies.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that causes itself to be true due to the behavior (including the act of predicting it) of the believer. Self-fulling, here, means “brought about as a result of being foretold or talked about,” while prophecy refers to the prediction.

A self-defeating prophecy is the complementary opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy; a prediction that prevents what it predicts from happening. This is also known as the prophet's dilemma.

A self-defeating prophecy can be the result of rebellion to the prediction. If the audience of a prediction has an interest in seeing it falsified, and its fulfillment depends on their actions or inaction, their actions upon hearing it will make the prediction less plausible. If a prediction is made with this outcome specifically in mind, it is commonly referred to as reverse psychology or warning. Also, when working to make a premonition come true, one can inadvertently change the circumstances so much that the prophecy cannot come true.

It is important to distinguish a self-defeating prophecy from a self-fulfilling prophecy that predicts a negative outcome. If a prophecy of a negative outcome is made, and that negative outcome is achieved as a result of positive feedback, then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if a group of people decide they will not be able to achieve a goal and stop working towards the goal as a result, their prophecy was self-fulfilling. Likewise, if a prediction of a negative outcome is made, but the outcome is positive because of negative feedback resulting from the rebellion, then that is a self-defeating prophecy.

Confused? I am. I my opinion, in terms of role-playing, it is easier to create a self-defeating prophecy than self-fulfilling prophecy as the PC's can actively work toward a negative outcome, while as a DM its harder to predict PC's actions, hence my belief that a prophecy should be discovered after the fact, where you can tailor the prophecy to actions the PC's have already taken.

Hearing about a prophecy after you've done it doesn't do anything for the story. Hearing a prophecy months before you even get a clue that you could be a part of it, that excites players. And most of the time when you include a prophecy its because you put clues in on how to beat a boss or a trap. Or it gives a set of campaign goals.

In the first case, you want a detailed description. Saying that 'Aku is flattened by a Shower of Light' sounds poetic...until the players find the Ewer of Light that contains actual liquid light.

And in the later case you want to breeze over the details but give a vague roadmap of where the part needs to go and hints on what they need to get from there or who to talk to.

And this is Pathfinder, if the players skip something its fine. Prophecy isn't important.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / Prophecies in Pathfinder All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.