An example of using oracles for your RPG - two pages worth of oracle tables from the Ironsworn: Starforged RPG.

S3E16 Oracles for Role-Playing Games

In this podcast episode, we look at Oracles for role-playing games. Oracles are a kind of random generator popularized by solo RPGs like Ironsworn and the Mythic Game Master Simulator. However the idea of oracles – in which you role some dice to determine a course of action or inspire some aspect of your game – have been around since the hobby’s earliest days. We talk about those early inspirations, how you can leverage oracles in your own game, and how to create your own campaign-specific random tables.

We’re joined on this podcast by Chris Miller, Former Overlord of the Secret Lair, coding guru, and man least likely to be eaten by a grue. Before talking Oracles, we discuss the various video and role-playing games we’re playing.

The Game Room

The Library

  • Cory Doctorow Novel-o-Rama
    • Chris talks about his recent Doctorow readings.

Main Topic: Oracles for Role-Playing Games

  • What is an Oracle?
    • “In Ironsworn, an oracle is anything which generates random results to help determine the outcome of a move, a detail in your world, and NPC action, or a narrative event.” – Ironsworn, p. 165.
    • “(especially in ancient Greece) an utterance, often ambiguous or obscure, given by a priest or priestess at a shrine as the response of a god to an inquiry, also the agency or medium giving such responses.”
      • In this case, the agent is the dice, and the deity is … well…you decide. Let’s call it Fate.
      • The use of an oracle implies predestination, something is “supposed” to happen.
      • Interesting, then, that consulting an oracle in RPGs is exactly the opposite, a specific decision of “random” chance so that the player need not decide.

Oracles in Different Game Types

  • Why use Oracles?
  • Drawing inspiration from randomness
    • Oracles in Solo games
      • Solves for the blank page problem.
      • Gives a channel for creativity to flow into. “Your ship has a critical issue,” causes the creative mind to try to solve the issue, or at least define it.
      • Game specific mechanisms
    • Oracles in Co-op games
    • Oracles in Traditional, Game Master-driven games
      • You cannot plan everything
      • Two ways to use in GM games
        • Spur of the moment in game – implied common usage
        • Supplement planning, even wandering monsters. – This gives the GM’s brain a break, since wandering and random encounters are a staple of some games’ module writing.
      • Specifics

Random Generators

Creating an Oracle

  • How to create your own oracles and not feel like you are cheating/lazy
    • ChaptGPT is helpful, but terrible at math
    • Understanding the Bell Curve and Probability – a deep rabbit hole indeed
      • Straight numbers lead to very random things
      • More dice can mean more of a theme
    • Oracles that remember
    • Winging it
  • Other Ideas

Oracle Resources


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