Hermetic Initiation Scripts

So hey folks as part of my continued personal campaign story setting project, hehe, I decided I want to go back a bit towards Heru's apprenticeship (which right now has a bunch of notes but isn't super detailed out) and sort of 'play' it as well. One of those elements is me coming up with ideas, both story wise and script wise, for how and when he initated into the various Hermetic virtues that he has access to.

Now, this all might be game breaking if it was an actual campaign with a bunch of players, but since I am both the ST and the player, hehe, I figure whatever, let's have fun. That said, i do want there to be fun and adventure and good use of rules.

Plus, even more to me, having interesting Initiation Scripts for these virtues give me, as ST and player, awesome ideas for the scenes I can have the magus undergo.

I will say that I am 'annoyed' by the whole Cult Lore thing, especially as how I can't use Hermetic Order or Magic Theory or something as part of it. I figure these virtues are literally Hermetic in design and they should be available.

Buuut, instead of me getting to annoyed I figured maybe I could use this as an opportunity for there to be a 'public' Mystery Cult in the covenant (Lumen Montis, I made it up) in the Greater Alps Tribunal that could basically have a set up for such things. Of course, me saying that, I now also need to think of a cult that could exist that would be fun and useful but not too demanding as I don't want Heru being tied down with having to do too many things with said cult later on.

Oh, as a note, due to the covenant where he was raising providing access to ritual Creo Corpus magic that increases Characteristics, the magus pays for all boosts from 1 to 5, those of negative are paid for by the covenant to get them reduced to at least zero, the teacher will have Presence 5. (Obviously, this is not a vis rare saga, lol.)

So, with that said, here are the planned Hermetic Virtues I was thinking of him finding a way to get - Affinity with Magic Theory, Affinity with Mentem, Affinity with Vim, Cautious Sorcerer, Flawless Magic, Inventive Genius, Puissant Magic Theory*, Puissant Creo, Puissant Terram, Spell Improvisation, and Secondary Insight.
Cautious Sorcer, I should note, might come from him witnessing the accident that caused the maga his family worked for when he was a child to go into Final Twilight and turn his parents, and unborn baby sister, into stone. (Random note, they were 'freed' by his own parens years later, though the sister was transformed into a magical human due to the effects.) (Ooh, thought, maybe the initiation can have him go back to said ruined tower to investigate what happened.)
He also has Binding the Gift, which I actually already created an initiation for (its a magical version of the Merinita virture he got on his own merits), and Magical Memory due to him having cast the ritual Memory Palace spells.
*Gained as a member of House Bonisagus.

His Hermetic Flaws include Deficient Imaginem and Difficult Spontaneous Magic. (I don't object to the idea of others but honestly none seem super interesting to me based on the character.)

I should note his main Virtues are The Gift, Hermetic Magus, Alluring to Magical Beings, and Comprehend Magic.
He also has Hermetic Prestige in part due to the work he did to get the Baths of Baden enhanced for magi.

His General Flaws include Ambitious, Close Family Ties Dependent, Driven, and Lecherous.
He also gains Fostered Apprentice since, well, he was fostered.
He will also have Magical Being Companion after he frees the minotaur in the ruins of the Temple of Mercury regio. Said being, named Asterius, will join him on his adventurers. hehe

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or ideas or whatnot. I really do want to make the Initiation Scripts make a lot of sense and be fun to rather than scarring. But I do want it to be accurate to both the rules and the spirit of the rules, though that said I am totally open to bending said rules and spirit for my fun, hehe.

But yeah, any thoughts on this would be great! You all know your stuff and have a lot of good ideas and so I look forward to hearing things.

PS. 2 things. 1, I decided that for his adventurers in the Levant Tribunal I will go the Flying Castle of Thomae route because while Blood and Sand had some nifty stuff in it, glad I bought it, well glad I bought ALL the books, nothing jumped out at me as 'Heru would go chasing this".

  1. When Heru goes to Egypt I am thinking of having his covenant site, connected by Mercere Portal obviously, be in the Siwa Oasis. I absolutely adore the information there, including the facts about the Zaggalah (looked them up, in real life they are trying to wipe that element from history, so sad, but I digress). My 'issue' is the location, I was hoping something more central and Nile based for all that it really is perfect. But it did make me wonder, is there any potential for me to move the location somewhere lese in the region, or is it so unique that it has to be there. Because if so, well, I think Heru knows where he is gonna have a future base camp. hehe

This is also one of those (many, many) things that has come up in a recent thread, but I have been unable to find it. Basically the idea that the OoH can be interpreted as one big mystery cult is controversial. Especially the idea of treating Order of Hermes lore as a mystery cult lore is very controversial.

Personally I do think that it is a very interesting idea to treat the entire order of hermes like a mystery cult. It does have a lot of things going for it in terms of resembling a mystery cult. Especially if we think along the lines of the later renaissance Rosicrucian order or any of the other secret alchemical/hermetic societies. The OoH is clearly modelled on such societies even though historically they are more associated with the 1500 and 1600's. (I know that the supposed secret (hermetic) societies like the Rosicrucian order probably never existed. The important part is that people in the past wrote about them as if they were a real secret society with mystical knowledge based on hermetic principles. Maybe they even believed in them)

Opening the Gift to hermetic magic would be a mystery rite if it was done by any other group in ME. The OoH also has a shared and secret understanding of how the world works, shared cosmology, secret rituals that outsiders are not permitted to see or know, you could probably come up with a few more.
I could even see an argument for using magic theory as a mystery lore. However Magic Theory is already extremely useful and I would not use it as a mystery lore simply because it is good enough already without being able to grant virtues. However on the flip side of this, the entire premise of Ars Magica is that the OoH dominates the magical landscape of ME precisely because hermetic magic is OP, so you could argue that letting it be even more OP is kind of in line with the premise of the game.

Just be aware that if you do treat the OoH as a mystery cult you are straying outside the official party line. There is nothing explicitly forbidding you from doing so but it is not officially endorsed either.

There is a lot to digest in your post. But I have tried anyway. So here goes.

I will reply to last part of your post first, because it is the simplest.

If you like the Siwa oasis, here is a way to base your covenant in the oasis and still have it on the Nile:

The following is a piece of flavor text, it does not represent Ars magica canon or real world history. It is merely inspired by it.
The Nile and ancient egypt were basically equivalent. In a mystical sense the Nile was ancient egypt. Where the Nile was, so was ancient egypt. With the coming of the dominion the mystical Nile has become much diminished but it is still possible to find and navigate the mystical Nile. There is a regio-river system that connects all the places where ancient egyptians once settled. This regio network takes the form of a wide, slow moving river system with banks protected by reeds. Anyone who tries to land on the riverbanks invariably find themselves lost in the reeds and always end up back at the riverbank. This regio can only be accessed by sailing on the Nile or any source of freshwater near where ancient egyptians lived. In those places where ancient egyptians once lived without sources of freshwater that are sailable by reed boat such a source must be reestablished to enter the regio network. The lake in the Siwa oasis is a notable entry to the regio network.

Otherwise you can just accept that travel to the Nile from the Siwa oasis is as is. The ancient egyptians managed to travel to and fro, so why should other be able to?

Regarding the mystery cult, virtue situation.

If you decided that in your game either the OoH is a mystery cult or your character is a member of a mystery cult. Depending on how far you are willing to stray from the canon rules you are going to run into problems. You could in principle initiate any of the virtues you want, however you would be hard pressed to inititate all of the virtues you want.

I made a tally of your characters virtue/flaw balance:

Assuming you want to keep it canon: (if you dont want to keep it canon then you can do whatever you want).

By my reckoning you are 7 virtue-points short.

In addition you want 2 major hermetic virtues, which means that you must initiate at least one of them.

Additionally you want affinity with 2 different forms, which means that you must initiate one of those too.

I didnt count Magical memory, magical being companion and Hermetic prestige as those were gained through play and so dont need to balance and also dont need to be initiated.

Regarding the flaw situation you have 2 story flaws and 3 personality flaws. Those are also 1 too much in each category if you want to keep it canonical. Maybe those 2 flaws were gained through inititation?

If you want to initiate 7 points worth of virtues including at least one major virtue then you are going to have to acquire some flaws above and beyond what you have done already. It is very hard to imagine a cult that is able to initiate so many virtues without some more flaws.

Such a cult would require a mystagogue with high Presence and very high mystery cult lore and many virtues, as initiating virtues that the mystagogue does not have is more difficult. Which would either mean that the cult is most likely very old or that the cult is a sort of power-gaming fever dream. Remember that mystery cults are about secret knowledge about deeper layers of meaning in the world.

What secret meaning does a mystery cult transfer by initiating e.g.

secondary insight
affinity with mentem
puissant creo
Binding the gift
spell improvisation

If you dont invent a secret religion (or secret interpretation of another religion) around your mystery cult and give it a purpose then it is just a game-mechanical vehicle for power-gaming. This secret religion must have some narrative to it, what does it do? why does it do it? You will have to answer these questions and more if you want a mystery cult. And if you want a mystagogue with Prs +5, high mystery cult lore (perhaps puissant + affinity mystery cult lore) you will have to answer questions about why that mystagogue is there and willing to help. Such a person could amass lots of power wherever they go because of their miraculous ability to give away hermetic virtues for free.

In canon there is nothing explicitly forbidding the existence of a mystagogue with Prs +5, mystery cult lore +20, and a convenient list of virtues. Who leads a mystery cult where you can get initiated into all the virtues you want without having to do a lot in return. But once you go there, there is also nothing to prevent your character conveniently finding a magic items that can cast every spell an infinite amount of times every day with +50 penetration, or having a library with level 25 quality 20 summae on every art. These things could in theory exist, but if you decide that they do then you have changed the setting more than if you had just decided that your character could start with 7 extra virtue points because he is special and the hero.

I gather from the considerable number of threads you have opened about the adventures of your character Heru, that he is already a larger than life character with a resume to rival Bonsiagus. That is fine, it makes sense that you want to explore as much of the setting as possible through your one character. I see no problem in letting your character be a Bonisagus and have Comprehend Magic and Binding the Gift. However your character by nature and purpose violates a lot of the core principles both of the game and the setting. Realistically he could not exist within the setting, and if you wanted to play him in my group I would not allow it. Because virtues like Comprehend magic and Binding the Gift exist to make players of pralixian or merinita characters to feel special. If you give all of that to one player in the group there will quickly be nothing left for the others in that group. But you are not playing in a group and so the meta-game rules do not apply for you. That also means that most of the advice you can get both here and especially from the books is not useful to you, since you dont follow a core assumption.

TL:DR: You can create a "mystery cult" that will give your character what he wants but only on paper.


@Euphemism thank you for the comments, I appreciate them.

Interesting, very interesting. I like the idea of the regio network, it is a nifty one. It also sorts of makes the Siwa Oasis even more of a mixing point location, that despite it being in the middle of 'nowhere' it is in fact connected.

That said, honestly, I will probably do either two things. One is to just deal with it and so his main base is in the desert of the Siwa Oasis. Two, not only will he have a base there but maybe another small site somewhere on either the banks of the Nile or that of the Red Sea. (That said, I need to stop myself from having a reason to create a Suez Canal in 1200. Though, hmm, looking it up it seems some version has existed since anquitity and also that it was Venice who wished for me and maybe, just maybe, Venice could be like "Canida, if you aid us on building a canal we will give your island indepenence." so hmmm.)

Anyway, random ideas aside, interesting stuff there.

Hmm, well, honestly the restrictions based on not overwhelming the player party can be ignored, because Heru is the only player party member. This is particularly pertinent to social flaws since he is the only person who stories generate around.

Secondary Insight - This one is the biggest hurdle I have actually. I like it cause it represents his sort of prodigy nature but at the same time its not as thematically as the others.

Affinity with Mentem - I figure he gains this from all his work with Memory Magic and such. That and he undertakes some training with another master in the covenant. Its a story I would have to think on the detals of but it could be fun.

Puissant Creo - Him being a Creo master is one of those core things actually. Like to me its part of who he is. He creates things out of magic.

Puissant Terram - This I think is probably something he gains from his master, who I envision as a master of earth among other magics.

The Binding the Gift Virtue is totally a self-initiated virtue, one he created during his apprenticeship. I even have the initiation script I designed for it. It involves sacrifice of time, vis, enchanted items, finding magical, faerie, mundane beings to focus around, becoming one with the familiar, etc etc. I also totally have him hiding the nature of the virtue till he becomes a full magus and then when he reveals willingly getting peacefully interrogated by House Merinita so he can prove to them he didn't steal their actual work. Which, besides seeing one with said ability and asking them very general questions, he didn't.

Spell Improvisation - Hmm, honestly, this goes with his sort of Flawless Mastery ability. The idea is that he knows his spells so much that when he casts spontaneous ones similar to those he knows a part of his greater understanding of magic is applied.

Yes. I agree with this, very much so. I think that is why I have been hesitating. Most of what I have done till now flows logically. (I mean Heru travels into an area and there is an event, that is something PCs have happen all the time to them). But for him to have been a part of a covenant with a mystery cult that just so happens to have a grab bag of nifty tricks seems random.

So yeah, I'm with you. I don't exactly like this. (Its too bad that Virtues can't be bought with experience like in most games, lol, then there wouldn't be an issue. hehe)

On this yeah, there have been a lot of posts. I hope they have been interesting rather then annoying. If they have been of the later I will cut back on such things.

While the whole paragraph is on point, nothing in it I can disagree with, this sentence is something I want to comment on. So basically, the truth is I am the type of person who wants to know, and be comfortable with, the rules as written before I go changing things. I need to know that officially its x before I go and make it y.

You are write, in an actual game with other players him being the super special snowflake with all the virtues would not fly. I would never do this. But because I have not really been able to play or run Ars with anybody I decided I might as well have fun with all my books, and so this project began like a few years ago. I put it on the shelf when my mind went other directions only to pick it up again now when I was between 'projects'. Beyond anything else its been fun opening and reading and commenting and such on the books, espeically since Ars is effectively dead from a publishing standpoint.

So yeah, while there is nothing stopping me from doing anything I want I really do want to hear other's opinions on things. Opinions that make me go, "hmm, right, that is a good point, let me not do that."

Like your points on the mystery cult, yeah, it seems to gamey, to mechanical for him to have a mystery cult in his training covenant. Which means I need other ways to go about it.

I could do the route of self-initiation of these virtues. Maybe he didn't realize it and so sort of created things like Hermetic Foundations as a Cult Lore that later on I can have him go "oh wait, hmm, what did I create" and such. That could be cool. I could have him sacrifice vis, time, training, maybe his master's time at one point, and maybe get ordeals and go on quests. This could be an intriguing and interesting thing.

I should note I am not against him having other flaws. But the problem is that looking through the ones in the book I can't see him having most of them. It makes sense he has an issue with Imaginem (his powers go towards the 'real' and so something as emphereal as illusions are like wtf to him) and spontaneous magic (he is so used to knowing the details of his magic and so when he tries to do something off the cuff he needs to take a moment) but some of the others, they just don't work.

I think this covers what you say, but if I missed something you think I should answer, feel free to question. But yeah, thank you for commenting, i really appreciate it, I really am grateful.

So yeah, thanks!

PS. Looking things up for Heru's trip to the Levant Tribunal I decided that the perfect place for him to settle in his in the valleys of Mount Lebanon, in particular the Kadisha Valley. The area has been occupied since time immemorial and is known for its legenday environments so I think Magic aura would be pervasive. I don't know, and can't find what the Romans or the world of 1200s called the local geographic features but it seems like a very fitting place. Plus the mountains are probably tall enough to house griffins that knocked down Thomae's Ffying Castle, hehe.

When I listed the virtues for your mystery cult, they were just an example. I just picked some random virtues from the list you gave until their values added up to 7 points. I did this because, whatever way you slice it, you are going to have to pick 7 points worth of virtues and come up with a cult that can initiate them.

However we both overlooked a way to gain virtues. You say that virtues cannot be bought with XP and that is true. They can however be bought with Vis, under the right circumstances. Take a look at the rules presented in RoP:M on page 26. Essentially if you can find a way to the magic realm you dont get experience points, but you can gather vis there, and the vis you gather in the magic realm can be used to buy virtues. But the vis from the magic realm is special and you cannot do it with any other vis, and you have to buy the virtues right then and there.

Self initiation would not work as that would be pretty much guaranteed to result in flaws gained, and lots of them.

I really dont mind your posts, in fact I quite enjoy reading about all the shenanigans you cook up in your one man campaign. I just wanted to let you know my assumptions about your game, and the source material that I base my assumptions on. I would also play fast and loose with the rules if I were playing on my own.

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On the virtue list, that makes sense yeah.

I will add I tried choosing some other flaws and I just had to discard them since they felt like they were there cause I was forced to add them rather than because I was using them in story saga, which isn't the point for my writing.

Ooh. Now this is interesting. Okay, I will have to look this up as there is much potential in that.

Take Flawless Master, what more describes the Magic Realm then 'flawless'. So yeah, I will totally have to look that up as I could very much see some really good potential points for it. I even have two potential locations Heru could use - the first being the tower that the maga who went into Final Twilight used and the second Mount Pilatus which is near Lumen Montis and is totally a place that could access the Realm of Magic. So yeah there is much potential there.

Hmm. Honestly yeah that makes sense, I mean especially without a Cult Lore. Thinking on that I am not sure how I solved it, though truthfully speaking I probably didn't and just said 'it works' and moved on. When I go back over my apprentice year notes I will have to look to see what I did.

Glad to hear that. I have been having quite a bit of fun going through through the years and books and coming up with interesting adventurers for Heru, hehe. I have also had fun sharing the ideas and reading the various feedbacks I have gotten on my questions.

As a note I just finished Levant and am now working on his home year. He choose two sites in Levant, the first is in Tripoli and will now have a Mercere House and the second is in the Kadish Valley (which I have decided to have a Magic aura of between 2 to 4 due to its pristine nature), near to where the Flying Castle of Thomae crashed. I now plan, and this as just a happy coincidence on ideas on the timing, for Milos - the apprentice of Heru - to gain a baby griffin familiar some time in the next year or so.

But yeah I still plan on going through things to try and make the 'initiation' for those virtues something that is at least somewhat mechanically sound, but even more importantly, I want them to be interesting in the sense of story seeds. I mean I have fifteen years two describe and so to have one year with a focus being x virture and another y virtue works for me and stuff.

In summation, hehe, I totally am gonna be reading the magic rules for that because maybe it will lead to eureka moments for me giving Heru the things I want to give him. :slight_smile:

Also, if you haven't already looked at the rules in the Apprentices book, it gives ways to impart Hermetic Virtues you know on your apprentice via pure Teaching source.

Nod. That was my first source since I knew the book had training. The problem is that they, rightly so lol, make it difficult to add multiple virtues. So while it is a useful source, the whole book is, its not entirely what I need.

It does make it tricky to add multiple virtues. however, if you don't make it harder for every virtue... then there's very little stopping you from adding ...say.. one virtue a year for 20 years.

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Oh yeah totally. I completely get that. Like completely. hehe

In some ways the 'best' answer is the Mystery Initiation, the problem of course being that he needs a mystagogue to teach him stuff and I don't have a secret cult he could join, nor do I want to create one specifically for him to get virtues.

Another idea is to use the Magic Realm experience is vis is advancement to provide access to some of what i want. To do that I will have to find adventurers he could join, which is totally possible and worthy of thought.