Encyclopaedia Arcana #51: Advanced Divination (Part Four)

Divination can be used for more than combat and social interaction – it also helps with movement and with certain types of codebreaking.

Second Sight

By focusing their vision into the short-term future, diviners can sense their surroundings.  They observe the various futures in which they move in different directions, and see what happens.  Some directions end in a collision, others are unobstructed, and by piecing together the different possibilities a diviner can assemble a mental map of an area.

Diviners can’t literally see in the dark.  They wouldn’t be able to sense “there are a bunch of Lego blocks on my bedroom floor” – instead what they’d sense is that walking barefoot in that direction leads to sudden pain, hopping on one leg, swearing violently, and falling over.  This means they can’t, for instance, read in pitch darkness, as all they’d see would be varying futures of them staring blindly at nothing in particular.  However, they can sense things that wouldn’t be visible to the eye even in broad daylight – if the floorboards ahead were rotten and about to break, they’d see themselves crashing through them if they walked in that direction.  This particular ability makes diviners quite good at climbing, leaping, and similar feats of physical agility, as they can sense whether a handhold is stable, whether they can clear a jump, and so on.

The same technique, slightly modified, is also useful for stealth.  It’s easy for a diviner to tell whether a particular action will set off an alarm, and by the same token it’s only slightly harder for a diviner to tell whether a particular action will attract somebody’s notice.  Diviners who practice this skill learn to categorise futures in terms of whether they’ll be detected, visualising the possible futures in terms of areas of movement;  these directions will lead to detection, these ones won’t.  Of course, this is limited by the diviner’s ability to perceive whether they’ll be detected – if the consequences of detection aren’t immediately obvious, the diviner will have to look further into the future to tell whether they’ve escaped notice or not, which narrows their focus.

One of Many

The stealth abilities of diviners lead in to one of their signature tricks – the ability to pick out correct solutions out of a great number of possibilities, which makes them very good at guessing codes and passwords.

The problem with path-walking is its narrow focus – you can only study one future at a time.  This is fine when you only have two or three choices to pick between (such as which direction to turn in) but is less effective when you have thousands or millions of choices (such as inputting a code).  The solution is a specific subtype of precognition, grouping futures to pick out the one desired.  If a certain group of futures are similar enough, it’s possible to group an almost unlimited number of them together, matching like with like.  The futures that aren’t identical stand out against the crowd – it’s like spotting one white thing in the middle of a thousand black things.  This only works if the ‘wrong’ futures are almost identical – one ‘access denied’ message from a wrong password is the same as any other, but one wrong person looks completely different from another wrong person.

Divination in codebreaking is a complex subject, and there are various tricks and counter-tricks designed to make a system impregnable to diviners (and others designed to let a diviner access just such a system).  Further details are beyond the scope of this article, and will be covered elsewhere.

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