V is for Vulture
Vulture, black cat and other animal omensThe Old World is grim, perilous and highly superstitious. Omens, signs are everywhere for people skilled in divination crafts. They are everywhere for people living in fear. They are everywhere for the fanatics looking for justification to burn someone. Animals are much represented in these omens or sayings. True and wrong, here are some example to set a tone of darkness and ignorance.
Vulture, crow and raptors are typical sign of bad omens. Usually death is near or incoming. This is obviously right as these birds can be seen from far away circling above dead bodies. Their presence is always sign that somebody is going to die. If not that death magic or evil eye was watching and someone will die sooner or later. Later being always true, given enough time.
Magic practitioners have familiars like black cat or anything else. Anyway the relation between animals acting unnatural and use of magic is a fact for common folk. Given how much hate and fear of magic they have, it fueled a lot of sayings and superstitions. If cow milk is turning blue, if chicken eggshell is soft, if wild animal leave an area, if birds stop singing then it is for sure because of magic. It’s a clear sign to seek shelter, barricade doors, keep fire on and have people watch over during the night. You never know what can come after such events, so better be prepared.
Predicting the future being about love, business, travel, harvest or destiny is a tradition well implemented. Using rabbit bones, reading into chicken internal organs, observing dove flights, ants path, insect-made galleries in a dead tree, owl pellets are the most common methods. Much more exists, darker, bloodier and weirder. Divination performances are sometimes done by people and for people with an agenda. Better not be on the collateral damages side of such agendas.
Why should game master bother? Setting the tone is only the start. Superstitions are a great tool to have players’ character react. One way or another giving them signs and omens is about leading and misleading them where you need. Peasants accusing characters of evil crimes based only on omens is daily life in Warhammer. After a while players should also start using that trick. For sure agitators, charlatans and demagogues must do it. By facing and using these omens, players will experiment a new level of storytelling, less fighting, more intrigue, always observing their environment, never take anything for granted.