Seers believe that perfect understanding is the key to unlocking the Net of the Heavens. When the right people possess the right knowledge and insight, it opens limitless possibilities. Seers strive to direct the future by discovering everything they can about the world, especially through magical means, and sharing that information with those they believe can use it best.
There are libraries of lore gathered from across the Empire and beyond that are maintained by the seers of Urizen. Creating a detailed record of the world creates a powerful resource that they can use to complement their divinations. Honed and refined by generations of study and discussion, no subject is too plain or too esoteric to be included; everything can be quantified, charted, and recorded and to lose or waste knowledge is a dreadful thing.
Where seers excel is in using magic to discover things that are unavailable to purely mundane methods. Through ritual divinations, and even something as simple as a detect magic or voice for the dead in the right place at the right time, a seer can learn vital information. Eternals are another invaluable source of information, provided that they can be cajoled or tricked into giving it up. The eternals of the Day realm in particular can be relied on for detailed and accurate information, but seers approach a conversation with any eternal as an opportunity to learn something.
Seers are driven by the desire to know everything they can about the world, whether unearthing secrets, divining the future, or sifting through the records of the past. Some are open with their learning, sharing it with any who ask. Others are less public, working behind the scenes to dispense the valuable knowledge they have acquired only to those who can make use of it. But every Seer understands that knowledge is the ultimate resource, more persuasive than faith, more precious than gold, more potent than armies, it is knowledge that moves hearts, builds fortunes, and wins wars.
Seers have always been an integral part of Urizen, gathering and recording information from the very first days when the Urizen took up residence in their mountain homes. However their early history is often unremarked, while they curated important libraries going back many decades, few seers felt the need to immortalize their own role. Everyone remembers the sentinel who lead their forces to victory; few remember the seer who provided the vital information about enemy dispositions that made the victory possible.
One of the best known historical seers is Kala of Windward Spire who lived and died two centuries before the formation of the Empire. A voracious natural philosopher, she is sometimes credited with inventing the spyglass, and designed a number of tools to help scholars study the world around them. She is perhaps best known for her treatise Weighing the World in which she laid out a system of recording measurements that is still in use today throughout the known world. Recognised as an exemplar of Wisdom by the Imperial Synod, her studies are often credited for laying the foundations of the Imperial system of education.
Indeed, it is sometimes claimed that Emperor Giovanni sought out Urizen because he wanted to gain access to the learning and lore of the seers of Urizen. In truth, Urizen brought many benefits to the Empire, but the seers had a profound impact that endures to this day. The entire art of prognostication, using a combination of divinatory magic and careful record keeping to provide infallible briefings to the Imperial Senate and the Imperial Military Council is the most profound expression of the seer's tradition. In modern times the civil service is careful to ensure they include members of every nation, but the first Imperial prognosticators were all Urizen seers.
As a group the seers largely supported the Empire. It's resources allowed much greater opportunity to study the world, and provided new ways that their divinations could be put to good use. Wherever possible, they have commandeered the resources of the Empire, using them to hone the arts of prognostication and divination and creating a number of important rituals, most notably Swim Leviathan's Depth. The ritual was codified in the Halls of Knowledge in 134YE, but it was formulated by a trio of seers dwelling at the Weave in Operus in Morrow. According to rumours these three struck a deal with Leviathan, the details of which have always been shrouded in mystery. Some claim that the three promised the eternal access to every record ever written in Urizen, some say it was every book ever written in the Empire. A written copy of the deal between the Dweller in the Depths and the Three is believed to be somewhere in the the Spire of the Weaver but has never been found.
Seers who become too closely entangled in Imperial politics risk criticism for exerting "undue influence". The infamous example is the merrow Marius of the White Eye, a trusted confidant of Empress Varkula. Wildly unpopular, even in his own nation, he was commonly assumed to be the source of much of the information the Empress used to bribe or extort uncooperative senators. He never made any secret of his use of both magic and paid informants to ferret out the weaknesses of those who opposed the Throne's plans, and allegedly bore valuable boons from both the Court of Scandal and the Unblinking Eye. These connections were ultimately unable to protect him from the repercussions of his actions. Two days after Varkula denounced the senator for Temeschwar Ellia as a pawn of the Vyig, allegedly on the basis of evidence provided by Marius, the seer publicly drowned on his own blood. Despite her obvious motives, and the efforts of Marius' few friends, the magistrates were ultimately unable to secure a conviction.
The lesson learned from Marius of the White Eye served the seers well during the reign of Emperor Nicovar. Many of them enjoyed the patronage of the Throne, but even as they benefitted from access to Imperial resources they found it difficult to keep up with his voracious hunger for more information and many cautioned that the Emperor should be kept arms length. When Nicovar began to destroy the libraries, they distanced themselves from his actions and publicly refused to provide him with any more prognosticative support. Unlike the torchbearers, the seers were mostly left unscathed by the Urizen emperor's fall from grace. These two examples are often used to underline the importance of being seen as neutral in political matters, even if that neutrality is a matter of perception rather than fact.
We must move past indecision to action.The Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Fierce Urgency of Now
A crucial part of a seer's role is not merely to uncover useful information, but to work out what that information means, how it might best be employed, and by whom. According to the Net of the Heavens, the way to be most effective is to put crucial information in the hands of a crucial individual at the crucial moment. Unlike the torchbearers, who are often more focussed on ensuring that the truth is known by all, the seers seek out pivotal nodes and give them the information they need to determine the ideal course of action. Their arete is based around the fundamental idea of using knowledge to ensure the right person makes the right decision.
All knowledge is potentially useful, but its real value depends on how it affects things now. Ancient history is fascinating, and may occasionally prove useful, but only at the point where it can be used to provide insight into current problems. This principle is as true of mundane knowledge as it is of magical revelation. Divinations are a vital part of the seer's trade, but the most useful are those which provide clear information about the present and the immediate future. A general is much more likely to be able to make a good decision about strategy when provided with information about current dispositions and strengths of enemy armies than with any amount of historical information, vague speculation, or ominous portents.
Even the most reliable observations must be evaluated and interpreted - especially when dealing with the divinations of the Night realm or the notoriously unreliable reports of mortals. A crucial part of the seers' calling is to work out what facts mean so that they can then judge how best to use that knowledge. They must also learn to contend with what remains unknown. While it would be nice to work only with objective facts, every seer knows that this is an impossible dream. Knowledge is never perfect, and never complete. Just as the virtue of Wisdom teaches "The Virtuous apply what they have learned; Wisdom knows all knowledge is incomplete", a good seer will never allow themselves to be paralysed by indecision or doubt.
Creating a Seer
The seer archetype is intended to appeal to players who want to know what is going on, and to make use of that information. It gives you a chance to play a magician who is passionately interested in current events and uses magic to delve into the campaign and explore the many plots unfolding at events. It's also a good archetype for anyone who enjoys building up a network of contacts - to gain more sources of information and to ensure you know who to speak to about the things you learn.
Seers often pay for good information, and some become information brokers - selling the knowledge they've uncovered to the highest bidder. Most only do this with information they have no use for - it's rare for a seer to demand payment from a general in return for information vital to a campaign. That said, there are certainly seers in the Golden Pyramid Conclave order who take a much more liberal interpretation of what counts as "vital". By contrast some seers associated with the Celestial Arch argue that it's more important to be the power behind the throne, using the things you find out to pull strings and influence others. There are many different approaches to being a seer; what's important is that you accrue information and use it in pursuit of your goals.
Most seers are ritual magicians with at least some knowledge of the Day realm. There are a number of useful divination rituals in Day magic, which will reveal valuable information if you can perform them. Night magic can also be very useful, although it tends to provide more qualitative results that require more interpretation, descriptions of feelings rather than the dry facts and figures preferred by the Day realm. There are divination rituals in other realms as well, and it's worth looking at those if you have specific areas that you think will be interesting, especially Winter magic and Autumn magic. The divination rituals listed in the description of the Crystaline Focus of Aesh might be a useful (but by no means exhaustive) starting point.
As a magician, the most useful personal resource is usually a mana site. This will provide you with a handful of mana crystals at every event, which is enough to perform a couple of minor divination rituals. Almost any ritual magician will always want more mana than that if they can get it, so you can pick a different resource if you think you'll have fun trading what it gives you to get access to more mana.
If you're creating a character as part of a group, then it's a good idea to discuss what you're doing with your friends. A group of seers will have loads of opportunities to work together to perform more powerful rituals, but you'll also have people with whom you can share information and discuss who to pass that information to. But don't worry if you're the only seer in your group - if you can find out what they want to do at Anvil then you can make it your business to get them the information they need to succeed. If you're coming to the event by yourself, then it's a good idea to pick rituals that you can cast by yourself, at least until you've had a chance to meet some allies you can work with.
Playing a Seer
Seers have three key goals, to find out everything they can about what is happening, to find out everything they can about who makes the key decisions, and to get the information they have discovered to those people so that they can make the right decision. You don't need to tell everyone what you've learned, just the key people who can use the information. This key person might be you of course - there's nothing to stop you pursuing a position or Imperial title that gives you the ability to put the information you gather to good use. Depending on the position, though, you may find that the responsibilities in brings leave less time for pursuing the seer's calling of gathering information. This is the reason that most of the history of the seers presents them as supporters and spymasters rather than generals or senators.
The more you can find out about what is happening and who is in charge, the better. It's a good idea to take every opportunity to speak to people and find out who they are and what they're doing. You never know when the person you are speaking to will know some critical piece of information that they might share, or when they will turn out to exactly the right person you want to tell something to. The more people you know, the easier it will be to gain access to the right people to talk to, so it's a great idea to try and build a network of people you can share information with.
It's entirely up to you how secretive you are with the information you find out. You can play a seer who is entirely open and gives out information to anyone who asks, but you can also play a seer who views knowledge as something to be carefully guarded. You can be as canny as you want and be on brief as a seer, but you're likely to have more fun if you are telling people some of the things you've found out. You can also be highly Machiavellian with the information you pass on. Seers aim to give key people the knowledge they need to make the right decision - but it's up to you what constitutes the right decision. You can absolutely play a seer who deliberately shares information with people in a way designed to get them to make the decisions you think are the right ones.
Some players enjoy making journals and diaries, or even publishing pamphlets and books. The seer is a great archetype for this, but not something you should feel you have to do in uptime. It's easy to roleplay that your character has a library at home and that you store any books your character writes there. Whichever course you take, it's good to roleplay a deep and abiding respect for books and the librarians who curate them. All seers respect the value of the written word, so it helps to make the world feel more real for everyone as well as giving you potential allies amongst the players who do create and curate their own tomes.