Creating a mystery cult out of a breakthrough (Not an ancient cult)

So I've seen other topics on here about mystery cults being formed around ancient ideas or philosophies.
Most notably this one:

However lets say that I, as a Bonisagus have developed a frankly concerning Major breakthrough and I want to create a new mystery cult about it (partially so the knowledge may survive the rather horrible enemies I made in the process of getting it, and partially so that initiation scripts can be laden with requirements of secrecy, restraint and morality)

I've already spent 20+ years on the breakthrough its self.
How do I go about creating a mystery cult lore score for this cult?

Is the only way, to take 4-5 practice exp every season until I've got enough?
Should having developed an original breakthrough (independent of any existing cult or traditional magics. Which seems rather tedious as the cults traditions would just be what I decided they would be rather than requiring further original research?)

Note that I'm not talking about an initiation script yet, just the Skill (Mystery Cult) Lore which is then used to make the initiation script.

Should the breakthrough points be converted into Cult Lore exp upon the development of the breakthrough?
As the "originator" could you just spend a season making up the traditions of the cult and get it at a certain set level?
What if I put off creating a cult and developed a second breakthrough in another 30 years? Could I then package both together into a single mystery cult at different levels for different initiations?
What if I learn a "common" mystery like Vulgar alchemy from a text? Could I integrate that into the same cult?

Imagine going back another thousand years to the bronze age people of Europe. A mystic develops a breakthrough like Fertility lore through a crude form of arcane experimentation probably taking them 20 years to discover it. How did they learn the extra steps needed to create their mystery cult, which seems to be an entirely different process to the breakthrough its self?

Basically, should you start with some exp towards a mystery cult if you are solely responsible for the discovery of the breakthrough the cult is intended to teach? Maybe creating a cult could use accelerated exp whilst anybody learning it learns at standard exp rates? Or start with breakthrough exp? Or something else?

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Doing it all by yourself is really rough. In our Saga we did it as a group, with the most gain coming from writing Tractatus that we passed around to the others to read. Since our group is large (8 people) and good writers (3 exceptional, 2 good, 3 average) this helped a lot.

Once you have a score in the Ability then any time you are doing an activity even remotely related to it in which you only get exposure experience for the season, sink them into it. Doesn't see like much and it will take you a long time, but every little bit helps.

Really this is only something you should try in a long running/fast paced Saga. Ours is closing in on 120 years of game time and 6.5 years of play time, with all of the Magi at Archmagi power level (and 2 actually with that rank). It took us 20 years of game time to get the mystery cult formed and with ability levels where it could actually function.


I wouldnt sweat the cult lore score too much.

Just play it out in the game and have your character come up with some interesting principles and traditions for their cult. Recruit new cult members. In the beginning they might be purely social cult members (i.e. just people who want to be part of your characters awesome group, but not having any mechanical benefit from it).

Make up some rituals and some other cultic stuff.

As a story guide I would probably just give you a score in cult lore or make a separate rule for initiating followers for cult founders. I think in many cases it makes little sense to speculate too much about the cult lore score for a cult leader, since often the cult lore represents insight into the weird logic of the cult leader.


I would not allow any of these in a game I was sole SG in and argue against any in a troupe game.

Creating a cult lore is about inventing (read “discovering” in the mind of the seeker) a mystical/philosophical framework that is linked to the secret knowledge of the cult. Even with a new discovery, linking it to ideas and symbols is what is important to making it a Mystery Cult Lore. It’s not just saying “I think the color blue is important and so are triangles,” it’s “discovering” the true/essential meaning of those symbols and coming to a correct linkage to the new secret knowledge you wish to both share and hide. So if I were to create a house rule to emulate this chaotic process of doing research, meditating on it, doing more research, connecting it to some divergent ideas, synthesizing a workable worldview, determining the symbology important to your new cult, etc., I would probably take inspiration from the research rules in Covenants but only use a simple die and common relevant abilities for use in the roll might be:

  • Artes Liberales or Philosophiae for those cults of a philosophical mindset or linked heavily to the ideas of a particular philosopher (Empedocles’ idea of little replicas of the organs of the parents combining in the mother or Plato’s world of forms)
  • Area Lores for those cults linked to cultural traditions or myths of an area (Wales or Brittany Lore for a cult based on Arthurian legend)
  • Area Lores pertinent to a historical period or Org Lores to a historical organization such as The Order of Mercury (possibly a reason to seek out time-lost folks)
  • Theologies for those linked to a religious practice (Theology: Judaism for something linked to Kabbalistic and rabbinical thinking which was undergoing a flowering right around the standard start time of the game, particularly in Iberia)
  • Crafts or, maybe, Professions for those that use a more physical metaphor (think speculative masonry)
  • Music, perhaps, though maybe that’s better as Artes Liberales in this context

I would steer away from Realm Lores. Not exactly sure why but they feel too much about how that realm actually works rather than the stories and symbols of human culture.

So that comes to:
Int + Relevant Ability + Simple die + some library or source bonus

I feel there should also be some sort of malus related to your current score in this new lore, so the higher your score the fewer new symbols you can “discover” as being linked to the worldview.

Int + Relevant Ability + Simple die + Lib Bonus - Current MC Lore score [Minimum of 0]

Which, on the first roll when your MC lore is 0, leads to a maximum of 20 + Relevant Ability if that directly translates into SQ it seems way too high of a range so I’d probably halve the Int + Relevant Ability + Simple die + Lib Bonus and, maybe, double the malus for current MC Lore score. Just the halving means a max of 13 on that first roll if your relevant ability is a 6 which seems a decent high point for this. I’d prefer having a chance to botch this roll but I think the possibility of a multiple explosion on a stress die is a terrible possibility if a Stress die is used.

(Int + Relevant Ability + Simple + Lib Bonus)/2 - Current MC Lore Score (x 2?)

Additional rules around this mechanic should probably be that the cult creator is the only one able to use this method and that the ability chosen as relevant ability can’t be changed.

Anyway, that’s my probably over complicated idea because just plugging away at 4xp from practice every season doesn’t fit, in my mind, to the mental work of creating a working mystical manifesto sacred text creed.

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One could, if you decide you want to create a new cult, use the exposure XP every season to invest in your cult lore. It's a slow process, but by the time you complete the Breakthrough, you could have a score of 3-4 in the cult lore, which isn't that bad.

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Personally, I object to relating Original Hermetic Research to Mystery Cults. It would be as if Einstein, having discovered the theories of relativity, wanted to use it to create a new church, and started researching its theology (EDIT Why did I first write technology?).

Bonisagus' theory is a self-sufficient, individualist, and academic approach to magic, where the magus is in full control of their power. I like to think of mystery cults as, well mystic, depending on phantom powers defeating human theory. The mystic has to commune with the powers-that-be and negotiate for power, where the hermiticist conquers the world in a Baconian way.

Turning to the other and totally independent question, of how to learn a previously non-existant cult lore, I would rely on practice and story xp first and foremost. Practice would depend on the nature of the Cult; some Cults would favour ancient libraries while others could gain more by hugging trees. It would be inclined to grant more than 4xp for exceptionally good narratives, but 4xp is ok as the norm, because this is supposed to take a long time.

Creating a new Mystery Cult should be arduous, intriguing, and the basis for many sessions of exciting play,

This may call for quests, for ancient libraries, tombs, and sites of power. I would be inclined to allow more than five story xp in the cult lore after a good story, and even go beyond the max 10xp for a story season. Rather that than boosting downtime xp.

But all of this stems from my not seeing the point of making a new cult downtime. If I wanted that, I would play boardgames instead.


If I wanted to set up a new Mystery Cult, I'd look for a Lab Text for a CrMe Ritual to boost Presence. It takes a lot of Vis, but for initiations raising your Pre from +0 to +5 is as good as taking your Cult Lore from +5 to +10 - that's 200 XP, or 50 seasons of practice.

That goes without saying, but if I were SG, I would say that those only be available to the Cult of Heroes.

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I've seen other people say that too. But am I missing something - this is just a standard Hermetic spell, isn't it? There's a CrMe +Int spell in the main rulebook. So I don't see how it can be a cult secret.

If the GM wants to say "you can't find the text, you'll have to design it yourself", that's certainly OK. At that point you are requiring high Arts and a lot of time, which may well fit the story of founding a cult better.

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The specific spells listed in HoH:TL p103 are specific to the Cult of Heroes, and rarely found outside that cult.

The guidelines are available to other magi though, and other spells that do the same thing can be invented.
Like Gift of Reason (Core p148) which does the same thing as the spell Intelligence of the Followers that the Cult of Heroes use.

As @ErikT said, there is some implication from its being listed in a Cult section. As you said, it is a core guideline so anybody could invent it, if they can muster the arts.

Thus my take is that L60 spells, in general, are not easily available. Few people take an interest in the high-level stat boosts, and most of those few happen to belong to the Cult of Heroes.

I generally object to spells on redcap mail order, simply because it is boring, and therefore I deem high-level spells in general to be hard to find. Not necessarily impossible, but rare enough that the redcaps do not find them. After all, the redcaps are not supposed to hold a copy of the Great Library of Durenmar, even if they may conceivably have a big library with a copyist service at Harco.


That certainly seems reasonable. A Cult can have secrets that aren't technically Mysteries.

My mage is currently trying to get a CrCo ritual to improve his Quickness, because he's had enough of losing initiative rolls. But I feel as if getting it is using up a favour from the GM that may not be recoverable. Take that to the limit, and all major characters would have all stats at +5, which doesn't seem desirable, even for high-level play.

Boosting all stats to +5 yourself is expensive in time and vis. If you are paying others to cast the rituals then it is horribly expensive in vis and warping. You are talking about 8 to 48 different rituals with a combined ~40 castings.

The least time invested way to do it yourself is to just create eight "up to +5" level 55 rituals that only work on you (R: Personal) but that would result in a vis cost of ~240 and still take years to a decade to invent if you can't buy spell text. Adding R: Touch would let you cast them on others but take more time and inventing lower level versions would let you reduce the total vis cost but take more time.

If paying for casting the warping will reduce a Magi's lifespan by decades. Then there is the risk of botches if the rituals are not mastered, no matter which way you go. So Flawless Magic, a season of practice per ritual, or paying someone to cast who has one of those two. And those ways to avoid botching would have been a House Rule until the newest errata dropped less than a week ago.


If stat boosting really was popular in the Order, you could get casting tablets for the L55 Per version.

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I can see maybe the lower level presence boosting being common enough, at least among the mystery houses, where one is supposed to be a mystagogue.



Come to think of it, in one of my sagas there is a cult called Servants of the Common People, built by one of the beta-SGs on the canonical Rusticani, Tres (sp?). They rely largely on self initiation, so the members can buy copies of the scripts.

They can also provide stat boost lab texts, but they must not be copied. They have been stolen from the Cult of Heroes, and they fear that additional copies could incriminate them. I imagine the situation may not be unique.

That doesn't help with the vis cost or chance to botch. If anything it makes them worse. You are still looking at the ~240 pawns of vis (now with a specific amount of each type) and now also have to buy eight high level casting tablets. The cost of casting tablets is YSMV but it is seasonal work for a Magi so will most likely be in vis. Based on (individual rather than Covenant) vis income you are most likely looking at some multiple of decades to even save up enough vis for all the castings.

As for botches, using a casting tablet pretty much nixes any chance of Flawless Magic or spell mastery helping prevent it. You are looking at 7 botch die per casting (barring things like Cautious Sorcerer, foreign aura, etc) which gives a 5.2% chance per ritual casting of it being a botch. That gives you a little more than 2 botches on average. "Creo Corpus botches often inflict damage instead of healing it" and "Creo Mentem botches might create inappropriate emotions in the caster's mind". So instead of boasting a stat, Corpus might decrease it and Mentem instead adds a bad personality trait. One of those botches will require resisting twilight. At least two more castings (another 12+ pawns) and hopefully the botches/twilight did not mess you up to much. This is just averages, any given Magi might get horribly unlucky and explode.

I am not saying that stat boosting would not be used. Just that the idea to boost all stats to +5 is horribly expensive in multiple categories and dangerous. Anything that reduces the cost in one area normally makes it higher in others and/or more dangerous.


Of course it is expensive. Even with Mercurian Magic, just the casting is expensive.

Casting tablets would be sold for vis, but once you get to +5 you can sell it on, and even if you don't, the cost is negligible compared to the casting, and it saves you the seasons to learn the spell and the warping of having someone else cast it.

Botches is a serious risk. It is actually 12 botch dice for the L55 ritual, isn't it? You would probably have a familiar with a good Golden Core before you try it, but one would still expect close to one botch in ten castings. That is about one tenth of the warping points you would have from having somebody else cast it, which again favours the casting tablet.

Anyway, I would argue that these rituals are not that popular. I think they must be quite taxing on both body and soul. But if they were popular, there would be a market for the casting tablets.

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Ach, you are right that it is 12 botch die. I actually messed up the vis cost, it should be roughly doubled to ~440 pawns, and that messed up my botch die calculations.

I think we are arguing from two sides with the same actual goal, that use of these rituals is not that popular. I will concede that if they were, casting tablets would be on the market.


I have to take Troy's points that boosting all stats to +5 is harder than I was making out. (However, the latest round of errata says "However, if the maga has mastered the spell, there are no botch dice in a calm situation, as for Formulaic spells", so the botch risk at least is reduced in that situation.) And I think my characters would be willing to take 1 Warping for +1 to a useful stat. (Caveat: I've not played an old mage facing Final Twilight yet.)

It seems plausible to me that many Mystery Cults would use spells to increase people's Pre (maybe not all the way to +5), and maybe one other "favoured" ability, such as Com for a group of poets.

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