Divination Card Stories

GGG made a post today (20-Jun-2023), https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/3400795 , looking at some of the stories behind divination cards.

Here’s my three.

Note that while The Price of Devotion fits my naming convention, it’s not one of the cards I commissioned. It’s a great card, but it’s not one of mine.

The Price of Protection

This divination card has been broken multiple times by game changes, and each time GGG have changed it to something I’ve OKed that maintained the core theme.

The card has always been tied to the Elder in theme and was very loosely inspired by the game Darkest Dungeon, which is set in and around a mansion eldritch horrors have taken over after a foolish owner invited them in.

In the 3.2 to 3.8 era of the Atlas – Elder Chateau Map (T16)

This card was added in 3.4

In this Atlas era Voidstones did not exist – instead you could earn multiple Shaper’s Orbs which were each like a Voidstone but applied only to one tier 1-10 map of your choice per Orb, and one Elder’s Orb, which could raise any map you desired to Tier 16.

T16 maps were much rarer than they are today and the gameplay loop for the less obsessed endgame player focused on tier 8-13 maps, with occasional higher tier maps thrown in. Today those same players might run tier 16s, with an occasional tier 16 map enhanced with scarabs and Delirium layers thrown in.

This scarcity made tier 16 maps quite exciting drops. For example, in patch 3.3 I traded for my first Headhunter, and each Doctor card was worth about 30-33 tier 16 maps.

Your Elder’s Orb was a key strategic resource and even though it was only 10-15 chaos to respec which map it was on, players almost universally used it on the very best possible maps. This made T16 versions of unremarkable tilesets extremely scarce.

My goal here was to create T16 versions of a map that otherwise would not exist, because it was never worth using the Elder Orb upon.

In practice, players often turned this card in then applied Horizon Orbs until the map was an above-average tileset. Not my original goal with the card, but a smart way to make the best use of content that was too precious not to use but that wasn’t exactly what you wanted.

The 3.10-3.15 era of the Atlas – Chateau Map with Watchstone Count 4

3.9 removed the Elder orb and the card went offline for one league while a new version was worked out. In this era the Atlas was broken up into regions which each had their own Voidstone analogues, and the card came back in 3.10 granting a Chateau map which was at the maximum possible tier.

Because high tier maps were much less valuable in this Atlas era, this card was likely not on your loot filter during these leagues.

3.16 Breaks It Again – Elder Guardian Occupied Map, Corrupt Rare Modcount = 8

3.16 saw about one third of the maps removed from the Atlas, and a rotation system implemented, in preparation for the major shakeup of 3.17.

This broke all divination cards that awarded specific map tilesets. It wouldn’t have broken cards for maps like Atoll or Dunes that are always on the atlas due to having a unique map based upon them, but the unique Chateau map, Perandus Manor, had also been retired. In 3.16, the card didn’t drop.

At this point I reached out to Hrishi at GGG and originally suggested changing it to a “Guardian Occupied Map” intending this to mean a Conqueror, or an Elder Guardian, or a Shaper Guardian – the 12 member group I collectively call “Atlas Minibosses” now. I had the terminology wrong there – Elderslayers are not actually guardians, and Shaper guardians don’t occupy a map. Hrishi counter-suggested exactly what the card is now, and I agreed – especially as locking it to Elder guardians fit the art so well.

Player Determined Drop location: Unique monsters guarding Vaal Vessels in either the Vaal Temple map, or monster level 79 and higher Vaal side areas

Drop frequency: Common (player testing found 126 of this card from 1012 bosses). It’s a monster drop and not a strongbox drop, so it is not duplicated if you allocate Vault of Mysteries on your Atlas.

It also drops from the exact same Exarch altars that drop “The Trial”, at about ΒΌ of the drop rate of that more common card.

The Price of Prescience

This card is in many ways the modern-day version of what The Price of Protection was in 3.4 – access to content that’s very much on the harder end of what is available in game, and that otherwise might not exist in any meaningful quantity even in a trade league.

Trading for it has become popular with magic find groups that have an aura-oriented support character on days 1-3 of a league. With the poor gear that exists at that point of a league, only people with an aurabot can realistically defeat the tough monsters found in a 100% delirious Vaal Temple and claim the very juicy scarab, map, currency and/or divination card reward layers you often find one or even two of on these maps.

Of course, the Vaal Temple map bosses do not mess around at all and even the trash monsters can be wrecking balls with 100% delirium, so running these maps requires you to bring your A-game.

Storyline wise, at the time I commissioned this card, I’d recently read, reread, replayed or rewatched several pieces of fiction that dealt with prophecies of horrendous fates – Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books, the films 12 Monkeys and The Butterfly Effect, and probably most of all the 1990s classic RPG Chrono Trigger. Thus begun an embryonic horror story in my mind set in Path of Exile’s world: the trickster god Tangmazu visiting Kurgal and showing a true, utterly unchangeable vision of the future. Kurgal wasn’t watching his own ‘civilization’ fall but instead watching Atziri and the Vaal fall, having already been forgotten himself.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work lorewise. I’d interpreted Kurgal as an intelligent lich, but in the cannon lore he is not intelligent enough to comprehend such a vision.

After I learned this, Aul came up as the obvious replacement.

In the card’s art, Tangmazu is showing Aul a vision of a world where he and his entire civilization are completely forgotten, and other civilizations are being ground into the dust.

Did this vision ever occur in POE cannon? That I do not know. All that matters is that some in-world historian either believed it did, or fabricated evidence that it did – and that historian’s story wound up on a divination card.

Player Determined Drop location: Unknown! I’ve been unable to find any video of this card dropping except from sources that can drop any divination card at all (such as rare monsters that convert all of their drops to div cards, or Diviner’s Strongboxes) or from Eldritch Altars. Rumors that it drops from Elderslayers fought while the player is under the effect of the Delirium mirror were quashed when a player tested 144 of those maps and got none. It does not appear to drop from any Aul-related content either.

Drop frequency: Uncommon. Like The Price of Protection, it drops from the exact same Exarch altars that drop the common card “The Trial”, but seems to be about 30 times rarer than The Trial.

The Price of Loyalty

In 3.6 spoiler season, the card Arrogance of the Vaal was announced and I loved its high variance nature.

Most of the time, you’d get a non-endgame unique such as Goldrim, with corruptions that add little to the item’s power.

But sometimes, you’d get a true jackpot.

I realised the same could be true but with more jackpots if the unique was specified to be one that was already good enough to use, and that had the potential to be almost best-in-slot with the right corruptions on it.

Once I settled upon two-implicit krangled Skin of the Loyal, I tried to think of a storyline.

I wanted a horror story and imagined the RPG cliche of an ‘evil cult’ people willingly join, and asked myself “What is a cultist singing up to this thinking before they join? How does the reality live up to their expectations?”

The cultists pictured on the card truly believe that they are the “Chosen One” who will channel Chayula’s terrifying power to dominate the world. In reality – they are loose ends to be disposed of, after their skin and souls are used up creating garments for someone much more important in Chayula’s cult than themselves.

Don’t join evil cults in RPGs, folks.

I set the ilvl to 25 so that people wouldn’t feel compelled to level an alternate character to 20 to 44 to turn this card in. The most synergistic corruptions this item can roll require either level 1 or 20 and higher level ones such as the level 45 “4-6% reduced fire damage taken” just dilute the pool.

3.15, 3.16 and 3.17 changes massively improved Skin of the Loyal.

First 3.15’s support gem nerfs mostly missed Empower Support, making it go from a reasonable choice of support gem to the unquestioned best support for most spell gems. Empower Support is much more sensitive to gem level bonuses that affect supports, such as the one found on Skin of the Loyal, than most other support gems. Anything that makes Empower more appealing to use makes Skin better.

Next, 3.16’s Determination and Grace overhauls made the 100% increased global defenses far better than it had been. This same patch also improved the related unique Skin of the Lords.

Finally, 3.17’s addition of Awakened Empower Support added new appeal to this item for the very, very wealthiest of players. Whilst Awakened Empower level 5 is not something you try to acquire until you have Mageblood and maybe also a mirror tier weapon, it’s still a huge upgrade over the more accessible (but still semi-chase) Empower 4. And again – anything that makes Empower better makes the Skin uniques better.

Player Determined Drop location: Zilquapa, Architect of the Breach in the present-day Temple of Atzoatl, monster level 77 or above.

Drop frequency: Staggeringly rare. This card has always been quite rare, but 3.21’s Breach overhaul made much rarer, a true chase card. Most of the Breach uniques were made about 10 times as rare at the same time as being buffed, but the already very strong Skin uniques just ate the rarity nerf. Someone who opened almost half a million Stacked Decks in 3.21 got 16 House of Mirrors, 13 Unrequited Love, 25 Apothecary… and only 10 Price of Loyalty. Card is RARE.

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