Interested in adding a bit of wonder and mysticism to your campaign setting? Try weaving star signs and omens into the night sky to allow players to get a glimpse of what the future holds!
If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds like divination,” you’re right–historically, reading portents in the stars is a type of divination, but you don’t have to limit knowledge of its practice to magic-users in your game. Like knowing the signs of a storm, adventurers might recognize the major constellations, as well as their lore and meaning.
We’ll be using the LoreSmyth’s original campaign setting, Savage Dawn, as an example, but the following tips on how to use star signs and omens can apply to your games, too!
Use Subtlety to Create an Air of Mystery
The key to making star signs and other omens feel immersive is subtlety. You definitely don’t want to treat your portents like a binary switch, where this constellation always means someone is in danger. Instead, explain to your players that one star sign can have multiple, related meanings.
In Savage Dawn, the constellation of Baradunn the Serpent is a portent for fierce storms, but also symbolizes death and poison. It’s not a good omen, but its exact meaning is up to interpretation: perhaps the party will be hit by a wind storm soon…or suffer the death of a party member.
Foreshadow Major Plot Points
If you’ve got something big coming up, like the introduction of a new villain or some major consequences from the party’s actions, a great way to create anticipation and tension is to foreshadow that event in the stars. The constellation Varusk the Bloodied, for example, hints at upcoming bloodshed or violence.
Foreshadowing an event, having a party anticipate it, and then having it play out is especially powerful because you’re using the same tools as a traditional narrative (see: “Chekhov’s Gun”). You don’t need to explicitly tell players that they feel ‘a sense of looming dread’–foreshadowing intuitively creates that feeling.
Play Off Your Players’ Expectations
Once players feel like they have an idea of what the future holds, they’re going to base their plans around that knowledge and start looking for hints that their suspicions are correct. As a DM, this allows you to have some fun:
- If a party has spotted an omen of deceit, plant a shady NPC in their path to distract them from the real threat
- If the party expects a bloody fight, play off their heightened wariness to create a tragic misunderstanding
- Sprinkle imagery related to a given star sign throughout a session to give clues to the correct path
It’s fun to subvert players’ expectations, but don’t rely on trickery too much!
Want to Learn More About the Star Signs in Savage Dawn?
If you’re looking to incorporate star signs or omens into your setting, take some inspiration from Savage Dawn–you can download the free Starter’s Guide for the setting here! You can also check out the Savage Dawn Wiki, where you can learn about the connections between the setting’s gods, stars, and world.