Did you know that 9th century Turkic shamans came up with a d4-based divination system that you can straight up use in your games right now today? They did! The Irk Bitig (“Book of Omens’) is exactly that, using 3 sequentially rolled d4s to generate a fortune and a prognostication for it. Like so (further commentary below):
(Yes, this chart is slightly fucked up: it has more than one entry for a couple of rolls and is missing entries for a couple of others. You want knowledge from 12 centuries ago to be transmitted faultlessly, or do you want to embrace the weirdness?)
|Like, this guy can probably tell a fortune or two|
This is great as an in-game divination chart: the crone at the crossroads, once her palm is crossed with silver, can inform your players that ‘it rains and the grass grows’ (2-3-2), and that this is a good omen: and it’s sufficiently vague to act as a prophecy in most situations. It also has all the right imagery for a steppe-campaign, or for any campaign that features a vaguely steppe-style culture: orcs as Mongols, elves as Mongols, they both work.
But these fortunes are not just useful in-game: they also function externally to the game as adventure hooks, and there is a powerfully pleasing synchronicity to doing this. You can have the wayside witch prophecy ‘a woman drops her mirror in a lake’ (1-1-2) and make it sound metaphorical, and then you can straight-up have your players accosted by a distraught maiden who has lost her enchanted mirror in a nearby mountain lake. It’s a trap, of course: the lake is the abode of a witch, or it is 777 feet deep and utterly lightless, or the maiden is a flesh-eating horse-spirit out to drown her prey. ‘A poor man’s son returns home after earning some money’ (4-2-3) is a tasty recipe for tension in the next village.
Some of them are a little more cryptic: ‘a bear and a boar fight together and are both injured’ could just be a wilderness encounter for the party to cautiously creep past, but it’s going to be more fun if the bear and the boar are a local abbot and a bandit leader, with their rivalry dividing the valley. ‘Heaven decrees that a slave girl becomes a queen’ (3-1-4) is an entire goddamn campaign in a single sentence. Do the party elevate her? Are they the ones who discover her, Heaven moving through her to effect its ends? Do they work against her? Is she, in fact, a party member? Can she refuse Heaven’s command? Can you refuse the deep witchcraft of using 9th century steppe magic on your players? You cannot.