In the classical world, I mean in the real historical world of the Greeks and Romans, many forms of what we might term “magic” were either looked upon poorly or directly forbidden. But divination, which could be said to include both attempts to perceive the future by signs (“augury”), attempts to receive visions of other people or places in the present, and communication with spirits (or even gods), or even the spirits of the dead, in order to receive information and tutelage, was considered a highly honored science.
At the same time, the ancients were quite clear about these sciences being highly complicated, and not something that just anyone could practice. It was understood that there were both frauds who were clearly fake diviners, and also differing degrees of skilled fortune-tellers, some who had much more talent or expertise than others. Some of it was believed to depend upon benediction from the Gods (and tied to formal priesthood or initiation in mystery cults), while in other cases there was a suggestion that bloodline could influence one’s raw talent at the art.
In Lords of Olympus the Scrying Power is something that could be seen as the “real” or “ideal” version of this power that mortals can only barely touch upon. The power-levels related to using Scrying pair up nicely with this, so that mortals can only receive “the vaguest glimpses”, while the gods can gain the most clear visions. Likewise, in terms of communication, the gods have sufficient power to be able to use Scrying as an inter-dimensional communication system with one another, while mortals can only accomplish the same with extreme difficulty.
The obvious use in a LoO campaign for scrying is to allow PCs to communicate with each other and with NPCs, and (in its Advanced version) even create a magical Gate between themselves and where/who they are scrying with for a shortcut in traveling the multiverse.
But thinking about the above setting-information, a number of interesting ideas arise; its amusing to think that Scrying could also be used in a campaign as a plot device, where Mortals may try to contact a PC as part of mortal magic-use.
Imagine, for example, that a cabal of mortal mages might end up trying to use Scrying as a way to communicate with an immortal to gain said deity as a powerful patron. Or, perhaps in a more sinister motive, to use a young godling for who-knows-what unspeakable blood-rites, or perhaps some kind of a breeding program, or to sacrifice to some supposedly powerful entity.
Its even possible that this could be something weaponized in a Modern or futuristic world; where a government agency aware of the existence of the gods and the viability of magic could try to use Scrying as a way to gather information on these powerful non-human beings they don’t worship as gods, but consider potentially world-threatening beings that need to be studied and perhaps destroyed to protect the security of their civilization!
In general in a Lords of Olympus games, mortals are rarely considered powerful enough to be a real threat to even starting-level Olympian PCs. But it can be a challenging and interesting experiment for a GM to try to see just how dangerous, powerful, or influential he could make a fully-mortal Secret Order, Cabal, or Government Agency (without relying on going beyond the “rules” of the game or involving actual divine agents). In my own experience, its the type of thing players (particularly experienced players) will rarely expect.
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia
(originally posted August 16, 2013; on the old blog)