So, anyone ever think of using an I Ching for an oracle?

edited March 2008 in Story Games
Each hexagram has its own traditional meaning, so different oracles could pattern off of those, and create more specific instances of those archetypes for the kind of oracle. Say you wanted to redo Vincent's "Blood & Sex" oracle with the I Ching; the three of spades reads, "A camp-wanton, pretty and pliant, prone to drink." That might provide you with a good "Blood & Sex" version of hexagram 54, "Kwei Mei," or "Marrying the Maiden."

You just flip a coin six times, and there you have an oracle. You've got 64 hexagrams, as opposed to 52 cards in a playing deck, so you have a comparable amount of diversity in your possible outcomes. I think something like this might end up working well for my game, so I wondered if anyone else had thought of this or tried it out?


  • I've been playing around with the idea of using an I Ching-based system for resolution for a while. My first stab at it is here. Essentially, I renamed the trigrams "runes" and turned them into playing cards; pairs of cards correspond to "glyphs" that must be interpreted by the players to resolve the in-game action. The glyphs are just the hexagrams renamed and repurposed.

    But the neat thing about the I Ching is its fludity; I'd like to somehow incorporate the notion of moving lines into any use of the hexagrams. One thing I've been toying with recently gives each player three coins. You flip your coins and push them forward one at a time, alternating with the other player. The result is a hexagram that determines the initial disposition of the scene. Then taking physical, mental, or social action lets you flip one of your coins to its other side, changing the hexagram to one that is hopefully more favorable to you. But your opponent can take action, too, transforming the hexagram even further.

    This would probably work in a game involving a very mannered or stylized set of encounters among antagonists; with the right color, maybe a game about netrunning in a cyberwar between China and the United States?
  • Yeah, incorporating moving lines would be essential, to my mind. That way, you don't just have a reading of a situation, you have a reading of one situation on the threshold of changing into another situation.

    Which is cool because then you've got the potential for an automatically built in conflict between people who want the change to happen, and people who don't want the change to happen.
  • Everyone here knows how the I Ching works, right? You've read Philip Dick's The Man in the High Castle, so you must.

    The idea is that you use some random result generator to produce a hexagram of six binary-coded lines (solid --- or dashed - -). The Chinese used yarrow sticks, which I suppose were flat pieces of wood that you could flip. Modern advice is to flip three coins six times, so that if you have more heads than tails on a flip you get --- (a yang line) and if you have more tails than heads you get - - (a yin line). There are 64 possible results, each of which is tied to its particular oracular meaning.

    For example:

    - -
    - -
    - -

    combine the trigrams "Li" (fire) and K'an (water) to form the hexagram Wei Chi (Before Completion: "We see a young fox that has nearly crossed the stream, when its tail gets immersed. There is no advantage in any way.")

    But if the top line were a moving yang line (which would happen if you'd thrown three heads -- a 1 in 8 chance), then first there would be an additional meaning associated with Wei Chi, specifically, "The topmost line, undivided, shows its subject full of confidence and therefore feasting quietly. There will be no error. But if he cherishes this confidence, until he is like the fox who gets his head immersed, it will fail of what is right. 'He drinks and gets his head immersed'--he does not know how to submit to the proper regulations."

    Additionally, the moving line transforms Wei Chi into K'uei (Disunion: "Notwithstanding the condition of things...there will still be good success"), which layers another aspect onto the situation.

    Note that the probabilities of getting a moving yang, a "young" (static) yang, a young yin, or a moving yin are 1/8, 3/8, 3/8, and 1/8 respectively, which means that you could generate trigrams with 3d8 read separately, reading 1s and 8s as moving lines. So imagine a game where you throw d8s to determine your trigram in a given situation, and you rolled against an adversary each time, so that read one way the resulting hexagram applied to you and read the other way (e.g., bottom to top) it applied to your adversary. Then you would take physical, mental, or social action to alter one or more of your dice up or down (potentially transforming it into a moving line, or into the opposite sort of line), as would your adversary.

    The oracle that resulted would determine the outcome of your actions, and narration rights would be determined by the face value of your dice. Nice and neat.

    Whew! I've been meaning to get that off my chest for a while!
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