GameJoy: GM Advice – ‘Consulting the Bones’

I run a lot of Ravenloft, and Tarokka card readings have become a staple of my games. It’s a great way of introducing a random element of foreshadowing to any session or game.

However Tarokka is very specific to Ravenloft and its world, and it’s nice to have a means of handling fortune telling in other fantasy worlds that are different from the tarot-inspired cards.

Here’s a method I’ve started using based very loosely on bone reading and divination through animal spirits. It uses four six sided dice and follows similar rules to poker or yahtzee:

When characters are unsure of the path ahead, or they want their futures or fates revealed to them, they must consult a seer at the edge of the woods. This seer rolls a handful of animal bones into an obsidian bowl: knuckles, jaws, teeth, fingers, and other marrow-filled pieces. For a few gold pieces, the seer rolls these bones and consults the spirits to read what their alignment in the bowl foretells…

Game Masters roll 4d6 and use the following table to determine the fortune. The rules are similar to poker hands:Rolling The Bones Fortune Results

  • No matches. “Woe to you. There is a black spot upon your future, and you are surely doomed!” (or fill in with anything relevant to the adventure’s plot).
  • Small straight “The romance in your future is destined to end in heartbreak, unless you seek divine intervention”
  • Large straight “The romance in your future will be fruitful, if you have the guile to seize it!”
  • One pair, odd “A formidable challenge is approaching. When the time is right, you must stand your ground”
  • One pair, even “The challenge on it’s way is too much. Fortune favours those who know when to flee”
  • Two pair, odd “Betrayal will come when you least expect it, be on your guard”
  • Two pair, even “The one you believe will betray you, they will. Trust your instincts”
  • Three of a kind, odd “Disappointment awaits you in your latest endeavor. Take what you can to avoid it”
  • Three of a kind, even “Your latest endeavor will succeed, but only if you’re willing to give up something to get it”

Clerics who follow nature, death, or grave domains could also use this method as a way of channeling their deity’s will and receiving information from them. Doing so uses up a 1st level spell slot.