Monster Prestige Class : Sybil
Steeped in ancient lore, or maddened by divine inspiration, the sybil is a reclusive prophet. Questers make the difficult journey to a sybil's remote and hidden lair to ask for a glimpse of the future.
A sybil is exceptionally talented in divination, not through arcane study or devoted service to a deity, but through a mystical focus that borders on insanity. The traditional exemplar is the sphinx with its famous riddle, but any being with the innate talent for prognostication might follow this path. Some fey, celestials and even devils become sybils; these last do so largely to torment and mislead mortals.
The sybil is by her very nature solitary. Such beings rarely, if ever, leave their lairs, although a mysterious purpose may send one in search of lost knowledge. In these rare instances, sybils might form temporary alliances to meet the immediate objective.
To qualify to become a Sybil, a character must fulfill all the following criteria:
- Alignment: Neutral
- Skills: Concentration 10 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 8 ranks, Sense Motive 8 ranks.
- Feats: Empower Spell-Like Ability,
- Special: Must have an innate spell-like divination ability
Skill Points at Each Level: 6 + Int modifier.
All of the following are Class Features of the sybil prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A sybil neither gains nor loses proficiency with any weapons, armor, or shields by gaining levels in this class.
Divine Insight (Su): A sybil is able to touch the essence of reality, albeit in a mind-bending way. She gains an "insight score" equal to her level in this prestige class that has three effects.
- Add the insight score to Wisdom when determining bonus spells or save DCs when casting divine spells or using divine spell-like abilities.
- Subtract this score from her Wisdom score when making any other checks or saving throws involving Wisdom alone.
- Once per day, the sybil can add her insight score to Wisdom when making a check or save. She must choose to use this power before making the roll.
Reclusive Insight (Su): At 2nd level, a sybil learns to focus inwardly and discern hidden truths. By spending 24 hours in complete solitude, she gains two additional effects of her insight score for the next 24 hours.
- This score is added to her Intelligence score when making any checks that depend on Intelligence, such as bardic knowledge.
- This score is subtracted from Intelligence to determine bonus spells or save DCs when casting arcane spells or using arcane spell-like abilities.
Riddle (Sp): Beginning at 3rd level, a sybil gains the gift of prophecy and can see more clearly as she increases in experience. However, the truths she sees are couched in mystery. These revelations are always accurate and carry no cost in experience points or material components, but demand a price be paid - answer the sybil's riddle. A correct answer earns the questioner the benefit of the specified divination spell, with no chance of failure. An incorrect answer, however, carries a penalty which is more severe the more difficult the riddle becomes.
Conundrum: At 3rd level, a sybil begins to express her gift of prophecy. The riddle is a simple one. A correct answer earns the benefit of an augury spell, with no chance of failure. An incorrect answer causes the questioner to take 1 point of temporary damage to an ability score of the sybil's choice. The sybil can use this ability once per day per class level.
Mystery: At 5th level, a sybil's prophecy becomes more precise. The riddle is moderately challenging. A correct answer earns the benefit of a divination spell, with no chance of failure. An incorrect answer causes the questioner to take 2 points of temporary damage to an ability score of the sybil's choice. The sybil can use this ability once per day per class level.
Koan: At 7th level, a sybil's prophecy is uncanny. The riddle is challenging. A correct answer earns the benefit of a commune spell as cast by a cleric of the sybil's character level (the sybil contacts a powerful extraplanar being of like philosophical bent). An incorrect answer causes the questioner to take 2 points of temporary damage to each ability score. The sybil can use this ability once per day per two class levels (round down).
Enigma: At 8th level, a sybil can supplement prophecy with preternatural knowledge. The riddle is difficult. A correct answer earns the benefit of a legend lore spell, but it requires only 1d4x10 rounds to gain an answer about a person or item at hand. Detailed information about a person, place, or thing requires 1d4x10 minutes to retrieve, while rumors require idio days to garner details. An incorrect answer causes the questioner to take 2 points of temporary damage to each ability score, to a maximum of -8. Ability scores are not reduced below 1. The sybil can use this ability no more than three times per week.
Apocrypha: At 10th level, a sybil's preternatural clarity is near infallible. The riddle is nearly impossible. A correct answer earns the benefit of a discern location spell, but the sybil need not have come into contact with the person or thing sought. An incorrect answer bestows 2d6 negative levels on the questioner. The sybil can use this ability once per week.
Lesser Geas (Sp): At 4th level, a sybil can use lesser geas once per day as a divine spell cast by a cleric of her class level (include any cleric levels).
Mysterious Lore (Ex): At 4th level, a sybil gains access to a special lore check much like that of bards and loremasters, but she is restricted in how it can use this ability. She adds her insight score (see Divine Insight, above) to the die roll, which stacks with any levels in bard or lore-master, but on a failure she loses the benefit of her reclusive insight ability until she can spend another 24 hours solitude.
Geas/Quest (Sp): At 6th level, a sybil can use geas/quest once per day as a divine spell cast by a cleric of her class (include any cleric levels).
Limited Wash (Sp): At 9th level, a sybil can use limited wish once per year as a divine spell cast by a cleric of its class level (include any cleric levels).
|Sybil||Hit Dice: d4|
|4th||+2||+1||+1||+4||Lesser geas, mysterious lore|
One of the most difficult tasks in roleplaying, whether as DM or player, is using riddles effectively. Too often, a riddle is either childishly easy - or worse, a hoary cliche - or so obscure as to be incomprehensible to any but the creator. Here are some ideas on how to present effective, challenging riddles that are appropriate to the situation's difficulty.
Look to examples from myth, folklore, and even popular entertainment. (Don't forget the challenge of the Keeper at the Bridge of Death in Monty Python and the Holy Grail!)
The sphinx's riddle is well known and therefore unsuitable, but consider lesser known sources, such as pronouncements by the Oracle of Delphi. An example is the Oracle's answer to the Athenians who came seeking advice against the Persian conqueror Xerxes: "The wooden wall will save you and your children." The statement is ambiguous, but the solution Athens came up with - building a fleet that ultimately turned the Persians back - fulfilled one interpretation of it. A riddle need not have only one answer, and the way it is interpreted can be the foundation for adventure.
In the divination spell, the Player's Handbook contains useful advice on prophecy that can help you cast a riddle or oracular pronouncement in an appropriate way. The Defenders of the Faith class book for clerics and paladins supplements this, and can be helpful (if you have the book).
Fairy tales are a wonderful source of inspiration for riddles and prophecies. Often the hero is required to answer a question or solve a mystery, which makes a great adventure theme to place in the mouth of a sybil. You can find numerous folktale resources on the Web, including many non-European tales (which are likely to be less well known to American or European players). Riddles are often a topic of interest for mathematicians; for example, the works of Douglas Hofstaedter (Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid), Lewis Carroll (The Universe in a Handkerchief), and Martin Gardner (various) contain many useful conundrums.
Finally, collections of riddles and puzzles (often aimed at children, but not necessarily) are available in bookstores, online, and in libraries. They are a good place to start when constructing a riddle of your own, and a great source of simpler questions.
Examples of Riddle Types
Conundrum: This is an easy riddle, and a "chestnut" can do well here. For example, this is a traditional Haitian riddle: "They serve it food, it stands on four feet, but it can't eat." The answer: a table. This riddle could be used to drop a hint to the party about an altar.
Mystery: A somewhat more difficult form, examples of mysteries can be found in folklore and literature. One of the riddles told to Bilbo by Gollum in J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit, "What has roots as nobody sees,/ Is taller than trees,/ Up, it goes,/ And yet never grows?" The answer: a mountain. This might lead a party to a lost dwarven city or a dragon's lair.
Koan: Now things are getting tricky. The best source for inspiration for this riddle type, not surprisingly, is a collection of fables or real-life koans. As an example: Draw a line and tell questioner to make the line shorter without touching any part of it. (The usual answer is to draw a second, longer line.) A lateral thinking puzzle works just as well, though, such as this classic: "A woman has a brother who was born at the same time on the same day in the same year. Yet they are not twins. How is this possible?" Answer: They are two of a set of triplets. The puzzles should ideally force the listener to think in an unaccustomed way and can help present an offbeat sort of adventure,
Enigma: Such posers ought to be very difficult to answer, and a good one requires some thought and research. Philosophical and religious riddles are good models for enigmas, since they are intended to lead the solver to a higher awareness. Here is a Mongol example, which refers to particular stars in the sky and might hint at a cross-planar expedition. (In this case you would probably replace the specific real-world references with equivalents found in the game world.)
Behind the Altal and Khangai Mountains
There are a hundred thousand horses, they say.
There is a group of seven loners, they say.
There is a group of six which flock together, they say.
There is a group of three which form a file, they say.
There are two which set black and white apart, they say.
There is one left behind, they say.
(The "hundred thousand" is a reference to all the stars sky. The "seven loners" are the stars that make up the constellation Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper. The number of stars is reduced in each line of the riddle. The "one left behind" is the North Star, which can be found in the night sky by extending one side of the Ursa Major trapezoid.)
Apocrypha: A "nearly impossible" riddle is even trickier to construct than to solve! One way around the problem is to present a riddle that is no riddle at all, such as Bilbo's famous stumper to Gollum in The Hobbit: "What have I got in pocket?" By all standards, Bilbo cheated - but Gollum accepted the question and tried to answer, thereby validating the challenge. Similarly, the challenge of Rumplestiltskin to name him is virtually impossible, perhaps not really a riddle at all - but with immense reward. If you don't feel like breaking the rules, try referring to unusual items or an unfamiliar culture, perhaps adapting a real-world riddle to subjects found in the game world. This is a great way to begin a search for an artifact or a piece of ancient, lost lore - something to build whole campaign around.
Source: Savage Species