Holy Magic and breakthroughs

I'm currently running a small covenant project on a group of holy magicians to see how far they can bootstrap themselves and what sorts of resources they might leave for their successors. One of the things I'd like to explore through this is breakthroughs. Holy magic replaces Magic Theory, so in theory holy magicians can pursue original research, or study other traditions (e.g. users of divine Methods and Powers) for Insight, then pursue integration. Though since its only partly Hermetic, does the Hedge Wizard research penalty (double breakthrough points required) apply?

I can think of a few obvious research projects:

Holy words and gestures
Holy mages cannot use Hermetic gestures and words as they are idolatrous. This results in significant casting penalties unless the magus has appropriate virtues or mastery abilities. There are two ways around this:

  • using prayer, which is very difficult (simple die + Pre + Theology vs 15 - which is still only a ~25% chance of success if you're a charismatic expert theologian).
  • if you know a holy Method, using that Method's casting techniques (e.g commands and spending a confidence point for Invocation). This isn't always better - having to spend confidence every time you want to cast a spell seems pretty limiting - but having it as an option when you need a decent penetration could be useful.

Each of these seems like an obvious avenue of research. And because they already work, the breakthroughs should not be too difficult. Adapting a Method into Holy Magic should be a minor breakthrough, with Insight available from Method texts or users (effects would be spells which could or must be cast by that Method). Once complete any holy magician could use that method's casting technique for any spell, on the fly.

Prayer is the one I'm uncertain about. Its basicly trying to find a new vocabulary for magic, one consisting of standardised prayers and ceremonies rather than Hermetic words and gestures. So, would this fall into the "translating Hermetic magic into another language" category (in AM, so a minor breakthrough needing only 15 breakthrough points), or would it be a standard minor breakthrough (or two minor breakthroughs, one for words, one for gestures?)

Incorporation of Ceremony
Ceremony can be used to boost holy methods and powers. Could it also be used to boost Holy Magic (replacing the idolatrous Wizard's Communion )? Or vice versa?

Holy magi with Ceremony and other methods and powers can already use Ceremony to boost their casting totals when casting a ritual spell using Method / Power guidelines (but Hermetic Arts), so as with holy words and gestures, this is something which already works, and the breakthrough is getting it to work with generic rituals. I'm not sure if this is a major or minor breakthrough. Effects would probably be rituals designed to be cast with Ceremony. A straight adaptation would add individual and group ceremony bonuses to the casting total (so this may not be worth the effort).

Going the other way, and using Holy Magic to replace Ceremony, would be a minor breakthrough (you can boost Hermetic rituals with MuVi, so it doesn't seem to be a huge stretch to be able to use it to boost non-Hermetic spells, if it little "why would you bother"). Effects would be MuVi spells designed to boost specific Method/Power combinations. The result would be a general MuVi effect which added its magnitude (or twice its magnitude; normally its Ceremony + characteristic plus Method) to the casting total.

Incorporation of Holy Powers
Holy mages can cast holy spells using the Method / Power guidelines, but only if they possess those Methods and Powers (effectively this means they use their arts to generate a higher casting total). The powers could be studied for Insight, allowing them to be incorporated into Holy Magic, and allowing these guidelines to be used by any Holy Magician. By analogy with Elemental Magic in HM:RE, this would be a major breakthrough for each Power, but would require Insight from each Method used. But could an individual, not obviously Limit-breaking guideline be adapted with only a minor breakthrough instead? (this would be less efficient, but at the same time many guidelines mirror Hermetic magic, or are inferior to it)

Do people have any other suggestions as to what sorts of research or breakthroughs holy mages might want to pursue?

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Note that the number of points required for minor, major, and hermetic breakthroughs is a rough guideline only. Your troupe should decide the actual number based on a) how useful/game impacting the change is and b) how quickly you want your characters to achieve it.

My suggestions:

  1. Prayer. I would make either of the two options a 30-point breakthrough, but once you have one, the other is only a 15-point breakthrough. I would also make prayer more usable: make it a simple die + Pre + Theology roll of 9+. The reason why I think that prayer should be worth 30 instead of 15 points (as in Latin-to-Greek) is that, a) conceptually, it's not just another "language" b) it provides a reasonable boost in power while the Latin-to-Greek change is mostly cosmetic.
  2. Ceremony. I'll just say this: Ceremony is probably the mightiest of all supernatural abilities, for all four realms. It just allows you to get ridiculous casting totals. Beware of how you adapt it! As for MuVi effects boosting specific Method/Power combinations, I would suggest looking at what the Zoroastrians can do (in RoP:D, for the "hermetic" versions, and tCatC for the "original" divine ones).
  3. Incorporation of Holy Powers. This is tricky. That's because Divine "casters" generally have easy access only to a small subset of Methods and Powers (typically three, plus one additional minor supernatural ability). Allowing all the guidelines to be brought into Holy magic runs against this. I would allow what you say but only for three Methods/Powers chosen by the researchers. Also, I think different guidelines would be worth significantly different breakthrough points totals -- some are easy, and within (or almost within) Hermetic magic, others are BIG.

This isn't just a translation into another language. Hermetic magic invokes magical powers - planets, astrological houses, great spirits in its functioning. To do the same with Holy Magic you'd have to be invoking divine powers (saints, archangels, etc) as equivalents. Given that Holy Magic is basically a different form of Magic Theory, this shouldn't be hard - it should have been baked right in but apparently it isn't. This is probably an avenue of research were lots of Divine Lore would be helpful.

Note that integrating Performance Magic into Holy Magic might be the better option.

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Another issue may be about how differing faith systems can or cannot work together. it would feel right to me that theology should be an aspect of the research (maybe double the breakthrough points required but allow theology skill to be added to the research lab total) but at the same time the breakthrough only apply for holy mages of that religious tradition.

Can non hermetic systems use the experimental rules? I have another similar project myself (an elementalist that wants to get an elementalist MT) and I have started to wonder if the hermetic research method really fits with what he intends

Yes - rules for it are in HM:RE. Developing a hedge theory for hedge traditions that don't have one is explicitly covered.

For prayer, you're right - its probably a straight minor breakthrough rather than the easier translation one. I'm also wondering what (if anything) could be used as a source of Insight, or whether original research would be required (IIRC original research is much harder than using Insight to integrate existing effects). Existing Hermetic theory or spells seems inappropriate - that's what they're trying to avoid. Dominion Lore or Theology seem more appropriate, but can you get insight from a non-supernatural ability? Or could you just use your own Holy magic to be your own source of Insight?

For Ceremony, the easiest way would just be to end up treating Ceremony levels as magnitudes of //Holy Wizard's Communion// (so, spell levels get divided by the number of participants, if there are enough magnitude-equivalents, rather than being boosted). The aim would be to find a way to use people with Ceremony (ungifted, or with True Faith) to help with casting, and vice versa. Though for going the other way, holy mages could just try learning Ceremony (e.g. by initiation) - and that's almost certainly easier than trying to develop a breakthrough.

I guess the other alternative for incorporating Methods and Powers is to incorporate only one specific combination (e.g. the Meditation / Blessing or Invocation / Wonders guidelines). That should easily be within the scope of a major breakthrough, but would be more than a minor one (and would likely be easier, because as you note, most holy traditions only have access to a single Method, so its easier to get Insight). The Holy Magic rules already cover what happens when using arts to cast something in these guidelines which breaks hermetic Limits (its a ritual), and that seems no worse than integrated Elemental Magic.

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HoH;Societates mentions The Silent Ones, a Jerbiton League trying to develop Silent Magic and Subtle Magic as breakthroughs for all, to allow casting spells innocuously in public. If regular Hermetic magi are working on a method of removing the conspicuous (and possibly pagan-inspired) words and gestures, then maybe encouraging them in this work could help?

Studying the Cantores (who use singing as their Holy Method) could help as Insight into not using normal words/gestures.

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I actually think it is 'baked in' for spells they develop themselves - a lot of stuff in RoP:TD seems to assume a character will be adapting over to Holy Magic in play in which case the character would, naturally, have to adapt her current spells.

M&P does something similar with regard to Favoured Abilities in that the sole benefit to having them is that learning them isn't penalized by existing Supernatural Abilities/Arts.