Monday, February 2, 2009
Causality and Paradox
Halflings prescience is based upon the second sight among the Celts of the Scottish Highlands. This is a bit more geared towards symbolic visions which are the direction I wanted to take rather than Yoda or Paul Atreides. Also I wanted to avoid the rolling of bones or other rituals, and make it a purely biological bit of flavor. Indeed I figure most Halflings would try to forget what they see, or simply ignore them the same way we would dreams.
I will label prescience mostly as waking dreams that is a deep day-dreams. Occasionally they will be interlaced with sleep-dreams, and these are often more cryptic and more difficult to understand. Halflings will call it Filidh, other races may call it augury or something of the sort. Those particularly strong with prescience will be labeled as Taibhsear, and is both seen as a blessing and curse to the Halfling folk. I would not say strong prescience is particularly rare, but those who strive to change what they see likely are not the norm.
The chief among those with strong prescience who wish to change what they see are the Sheriffs. Sheriffs are usually self-motivated individuals who have the blessing of the general Halfling community. Many Halfling folk heroes are have been Sheriffs, but the reality is hardly glamorous and Sheriffs are usually very frustrated individuals - in that they can see the destiny they need to make, but it is inordinately difficult to change fate. Most Halflings folk generally avoid Sheriffs when they can, and more so with other races. Contrary to what other races think, Halflings do not share the same visions and they can indeed be quite different. In particular among Halflings with different alignments. Most Sheriffs are Lawful but occasionally a Neutral or even Chaotic one set out.
As a DM I will play prescience as a story trigger rather than an at-will sort of beast. Obviously it will be very easy to set up an adventure with prescience among the motives. A character walk into a Halfling village, the entire town is waiting for their arrival with baked barley-bread and honeyed meads. They ask the character when they will 'begin', and so forth. As a PC it will be likewise easy to integrate, since I can insert portents of doom, prosperity and so forth. As for the ultimate goals of prescience, I like this line from the Gaelic second sight "seeing of the unseen was primarily a means of working out the right times for actions and schemes (and for inaction equally) in the affairs of all God's creatures".
So these waking dreams will mostly be important and they can be triggered occasionally. Let’s say by strong emotion or times of danger. Also things like sight of a corpse of someone you knew, a strange and remote place, a distinctive mark or dress, sight of an unknown race. Anything in abnormal could do. In that sense most Halflings I would expect to keep things as normal as possible as rather as intentionally trigger the sometimes-unpleasant waking dreams. Some exception of course, a few are addicted to the knowledge or perhaps are just a bit mad. As I mentioned above, Halflings do not all see the same thing and they could very well work against one another. While actual Halfling vs. Halfling wars are very rare, it would not be so uncommon for two highly prescience Halflings to continually thwart one another. In particular Chaotic ones who are motivated to see things a certain way. I may put in radicals who can trigger their prescience with drugs, events or other ways. These folks would likely be quite dangerous since they would not only be mad; but motivated to change things up and perhaps know when you’re coming.
A lot of prescience I will label as symbolic. Most other races are superstitious, and they may confuse the Halflings regard for certain symbols as good luck, bad luck or an omen. In truth, it may simple be a symbol the Halfling has seen in some predetermined path (good or bad). This could be confusing to other races since it is not related to the symbol. A Halfling could be riding on a road to the Cities Afar and see a dead duck in a stagnant pond on his trail. He could smile and tell those they are with that it is a good sign and the path is true. The human miller's wife would definitely not see it that way.
One last thing in regards to causality and paradox - although Halflings have prescience, it is very difficult for them to change what they see. In particular if they see detailed things or events on a large scale. Things have to be worked out in an often painful way to be set towards a different motion. A lot of energy is needed when the fates are working against you after all. This mostly outright fails, but not always. With this in mind Sheriffs are usually very frustrated individuals.