How New Initiation Scripts are Created

I've been looking at TMRE and HoH:MC and am going through the math for creating initiations for a new virtue via Experimental Scripts (TMRE: 18) and the math for validation seems wrong to me.

Namely, the more complex the script the harder it is to validate. And by complex i mean a script bonus of 9 for a major ordeal is prohibitive. Conversely, there is an easier way which feels... cheesy to me. Not that its safe; it still has all the risks of an experimental mystery initiation, it just doesn't have the risks of failing the validation check.

First, remember that Modifying the initiation script (TMRE: 17) to add a new component is fairly safe and easy. Stress + Int + Lore vs 9 (Though I feel I should point out that that hardest, removing a component, is still easier than inventing the the easiest initiation script printed with an ease factor of 15)


" If the attempt fails, the new Initiation Script is onfunctional (and the Mystagogue knows this without attempting the Initiation), but the original Script works as normal."

So if they fail, they try a different modification, they go study Cult lore for a year, undergo a creo ritual to increase their characteristics, ask a fellow cultist to try, but the cost of failure is minimal.

This leads to the relatively easy way to create your initiation scripts.

  1. You have a minor and major virtue you want to use to start a cult, and have enhanced your Int, Per, and Cult Lore such that Pres + Lore is at least 12, and Int + Lore is at least 11. This is for optimal safety; Lower numbers can work but it gets risky really fast.

  2. You create an outer initiation script to initiate the minor virtue

  3. You use the Modification rules to add a major ordeal.

  4. Potential cultists Guinea-pigs undergo your unnecessarily brutal initiation

  5. Taking advantage of the ‘prior major ordeal -9’ modifier, teaching a new major virtue that you know has a target number of 12.

  6. You create an empty imitation script using the experimentation guidelines and a risk factor of +3. That is, one with a bonus of +0, because you don’t need one. and initiate your cultists Guinea-pigs with the new script. Sure some of the cultists Guinea-pigs might get… strange… experimental results, but their getting a major virtue out of it.

  7. Repeat step 6 untill the experiment is good enough to refine using modification rules.

  8. You modify the empty script to include the major ordeal.

Repeat steps 6-8 with new cultists Guinea-pigs to generate new scripts – that is, they get some of the more risk-tolerant cultists right after a major ordeal and use the -9 bonus to the next initiation to add a known major virtue, then modify the empty script to add the desired components for the ‘real script’ based on where in the initiation chain via iteration using the modification rules.

It seems to me that that shouldn’t be a better than developing the script the right way with the very meaningful Major Ordeal in the experimentation, but it does because the validation check (TMRE:18, last two lines of the second column and start of the third) is SD > 15 or 9 + script – Risk – Lore – Int.

unfortunately, using the 9 is more difficult. 9 is for self-experimentation, which only works if you don’t have the virtue being initiated. In that case, the Target number goes from 21 to 30, and either the script needs an extra 9 points of components with the validation being3 points harder, OR you have a Pres + Lore of 21, which implies a cult Lore of at least 16... so no. Ergo, we will initiate another into a virtue we discovered by divine revelation/twilight/research. If we have Lore + presence = 9, a risk modifier of three will let the 9 point script for a major ordeal will be sufficient.

Yes Lore + Pres = 9 seems very low. that's because this is the easy part; its the Lore + Int in the validation step that is difficult.

SD > 24 – Risk – Lore – Int.

This is why we let Risk = 3.

  • To get the same surety as the previous method, then you need Lore + Int = 20
  • For a 50% chance of success (excluding the experimentation results) (SD >=6) then Lore + Int need to be 15
  • And for the faintest, slimiest wildest chance (SD = 10), you still need Lore + Int to be 11.

Remember that Int + Lore of 11 and Pres + lore of 12 were the requirements for the same level of safety using the previous method, and that this is still only a +9 script; that's on the low end.

While experimental mystery initiation shouldn't be safe, I feel that the experimental results do a pretty good job of that (though I would like some guidance on how to handle conflicting results on 'roll twice more on this chart' -- complete failure and Major Benefit just don't work together). The validation check seems much more punitive.

I feel, and the sources seem to agree, that Cult Lore is a difficult ability to advance. There just aren't many people with it, most of them have other interests; both magic and whatever the cult is dedicated to (enigmatic wisdom, heart beast, faire stuff, making stuff); there is a reason why none of the scripts i checked required Pres + Lore be greater than 6.

Judging by the lack of 'leader of the cult' initiations for Puissant Cult Lore and Affinity for Cult Lore, creating scripts to initiate those seems munchkiny, so I'd prefer not to consider them.

All together, the experimentation method gives the cults a feeling of... stasis and decay. These aren't magi who are gathering or progressing in their chosen magics, they are holding a few secrets close and pretending they aren't dying out or hoping for the next brilliant mind who can hope to breath new life into the cult. In the past these initiations were easier, cult leaders more skilled, people were adding to the secret knowledge. These days we need you to sacrifice more, do more quests, undergo more Ordeals, and if you want to add to our accumulated knowledge, well. You need to spend a mortal lifetime getting 300 Xp in Cult Lore on top of discovering the virtue.

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This means that it is better for an initiate to go in search of lost Mysteries, looking to uncover a forgotten script from his Cult. That gives material for the SG to craft a story and it kind of forces the script to be meaningful for the Cult. For example, it does not make really sense for The Disciple of the Worms to have script to initiate Gentle Gift.

For additional idea, look at Fortunata's Island in Legend of Hermes, it describes the story of such mage looking to create a personal Cult to self initiate many virtues. She set the bases for a Hermes Order Cult in fact, she even designed a Puissant Cult Lore initiation...

And like many "big research" project proposed in Ars Magica (Hermetic Breakthrough), they are designed to benefit the next generation, for characters to leave a legacy, not to achieve quickly obscene power level. Mages are already powerful enough IMO, they have possibility to become even more powerful, but there is no need to speed up the process nor to make it easier.


Most new scripts are probably created with a small bonus, and later have things added or subtracted as needed.
I wouldn't allow a Script with nothing in it to be created. Magi don't know the game mechanics, and will attempt to add things that could resonate with the result and the cult, to get a sympathy bonus.


Partially disagree. For a Mystery Cult like the Bjornaer, this argument does hold some sway; they are an Ancestor Cult, their Clan Initiations are as much about pleasing the Ancestors and bringing you closer to their ideal, as they are about alternative route to power. Some cults will have their own philosophies and takes on how it leads to power, and others yet won't even bother with pretenses (Cult of the Worm, for example).

Hells, the Principles of Fortunata is a Mystery Cult Lore devised explicitly as a path of power without the need for adherence to a Cult Hierarchy. Magi are inherently prideful and powerful beings, and are always looking for routes to improve further. Between straight forward Arts mastery and arduous Research, the Initiations stand as but one more route to that goal.


I did say it was cheesy, and that isn't a compliment ;). My issue is that making a script with a thematic component is significantly harder than making one without. I feel that it should be the reverse; using a thematic Quest/Ordeal/Sacrifice should make it easier to create than just grinding out a level of cult lore and raising presence.

My proposal was to ignore the validation step. A script is valid if you and the story-guide agree that the script has at least a +0 Sympathy bonus. If the script has components that work against the theme of the cult (something that should impose a sympathy penalty), it instead auto fails. Id prefer if it was +1 but many printed scripts don't have one so +0.

I did consider trying to invert the ease factor to (9 + TN - script bonus), and the script bonus includes the sympathetic component, but it works out to be too similar to the Initiation Total vs Target Number to feel like it added anything as a separate step.

Mostly this is to make it match my feelings of how cults should have developed early on when their weren't any forgotten scripts to find, books on cult lore to read, or anything else. Scripts started out long and complicated, with many components. Over time cult lore began to replace some of them. not many though; cult lore is still difficult to raise.

That is something to argue in your troupe. I wouldn't like it. There is, however, a Minor Hermetic Virtue on sub rosa #19 p.34, which goes in that direction for the Mystery Houses:

(Minor Hermetic Virtue)
The character must be from a House that is a Mystery Cult and has a signature ability: Heartbeast, Enigmatic Wisdom or Faerie Magic.
After each adventure in which the character took part, the player rolls a stress roll for that signature ability + Intelligence against an Ease Factor of 18. At a success, the storyguide should come up with a specific, not yet found Initiation Script, fitting for the character, the adventure and the House, and give the character a bonus of at least the roll – 15 for its validity check according to The Mysteries Revised Edition, page 18, if she experiments to discover it.

I see it as intentional, to prevent situations such as someone with a cult lore of 1, to come up with +28 script dictating many quests and ordeals, in order to self-initiate any random major virtue he wants to lay his hand on. The validation step is counter-intuitive in that, yes, simpler scripts are easier to create than complex ones, on the other hand, the way I see it is there is a balance to strike between having the right skill level to be able to give out a simple initiation, and having the right skill to validate that initiation. The more complex initiations, the more likely you are to succeed at initiating someone, but the more difficult, as a mystagogue, it is to validate that the steps you're prescribing are really in tune with the cult's philosophy. All of this makes major virtues difficult to self-initiate, and even more complex to self-initiate others into it if you don't possess it. Which forces the mystagogue to take risks if he's even to pull it off.

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I agree that the validation step is the hard one; I remember voicing similar concerns long ago. That said, taking a Major Ordeal for Big Gains in the next Initiation does make a lot of mythic sense to me: Initiation is a Path, rather than a set of individual trades, and you pay a price early on to get rewards (potentially much) later.

While that is a possibility i'm not happy with, at that point its probably easier, safer, and less flaw inducing to go on a year long Magic Realm Quest and learn it via transformation.

While I again, Major ordeal for Big Gains in the next initiation makes a degree of mythic sense.... we don't actually see it happen often. Out of the dozens in HoH:MC, I found 1 'Initiation to the Rank of Eumolpid and the Mystery of Hermetic Thurgy' on page 35. While I can't prove i didn't miss another, Almost every time you see a Major Ordeal its a for a Major Virtue.

And I would like to point out that paying a major ordeal for a minor virtue is the heart of the of the cheese method; Making the second script an actual script adds some risk to the process, but once you hit +9 your looking at the second set of math. The math where Lore + Int >= 15 if your not suicidal.

Also, at that point the Mystagogue has a non-suicidal chance to create these kinds of scripts with a major ordeal/Major virtue -- and this isn't a good chance. its 50% with a risk factor 3 on the experiment messing things up -- he has a Lore + Int of 15. that means Lore is at least 10, so Lore + Pres of 12 is a safe assumption.

With that he can gain and train minor virtues at will.
For training others in a virtue he has the TN is 15
+3: The Mystagogue sacrifices time
+2 risk
and He can teach anyone a virtue he owns. -- validation will only be 18, risk of 2 ensures it passes. the ease 18 validation. If he's willing for a 10% fail rate he can drop the risk by 1.

Or self initiate for TN 18
+3 quest or Special Place in time
+3 risk
12+6 hits the target number
and the validation has ease 15, which he trivially passes.
Of course, its safer to include another component such as a sacrifice of time and/or wealth, make it a unique quest, but its still a small price to pick a minor virtue.

In my opinion, that is not good.

Esay if your campaign allows easy walking into the magic realm, and you don't get caught in final twilight or a decade of walking the first time you cross the twilight void because you didn't pick the right virtue at character creation to help with travel there. In an average campaign, I suspect, crossing into the magic realm is either an epic event or something that never happens.

I am with temprobe on that. In this discussion, there is a lot of focus on the math behind the initiation, but in my game, those numbers are super-seeded by the story. This is where the SG grants bonus for appropriate script /sympathy bonus or simply vetos for being too cheesy.

There is a point where I agree, it is about the Major Ordeal that is usually needed to get a major virtue, but in most Cult, it is the final stage, so little benefit for further initiation.Maybe the bonus order should be reverse, the first initiation following the Ordeal is at +3, then +6 and finally +9. This simple change would make more sense: the longer the Mystagogue commits to the Cult, the higher the reward. Then it makes sense to get a Major Ordeal just to initially get a minor virtue, but later on, it will allows to have a Major virtue without too much trouble.


I like that. I really like that. It doesn't solve the chicken and egg problem for the first script, but it would solve everything else.

I've been trying to find a different validation function, but I can't get away from the spread of TN makes the point at which you can consider a major initiation, minor initiations are easy.

My current spreadsheet is trying to base the validation difficulty off the number of components, so a Major ordeal and Quest is as difficult as a Minor ordeal and Quest. (Ordeals composed of sub-ordeals like the Criamon's 'Avenue of Subduing the Meat and Station of the Perfect Tool' are counted as separate components). It is abusable if you are willing to take a major flaw for a minor virtue, but I'm not sure if that is a problem or a valid path for foolish cultists.

The problem with the +3,+6,+9 progression is if you wind up takin another ordeal while these are accumulating. Unless the bonuses stack...
It also makes less sense, IMO, for minor ordeals

My perspective is that getting a Vow / Duty Bound / Higher Purpose / Pagan / Favors / Dark Secret / Mentor (etc.) ordeal at cult entrance should be fairly normal...

There are flaws that you would need to take before you enter a cult (vow of secrecy, vow of obedience, etc) and some that you would get by* entering a cult (Dark Secret, Mentor). It seems to me that the second group could be acquired upon entrance but count as an ordeal for the second initiation.

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Vows and assorted Duties and Obligations are very common elements in scripts for the first few initiations. While favors aren't explicitly talked about, there are a couple of places it mentions that the initiate may need to compensate the mystagogue for his time.

Pagan/Dark Secret... Why? Most cults aren't considered pagan, and Most of the cults are secretive not secret; members walk openly and even advertise their abilities. Kind of like Knights Templar, Free Masons, or Knights of Columbus. Sure there have been times and places where they were persecuted, but most of the time being a member was something to be proud of.

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It depends on the nature of the cult, I would say. I suspect, for example, being part of the Volshebnii Mechtateli is akin to a dark secret, and possibly as well for the Disciples of the Worm, the first cult being marched, the later being rumored to do some pretty horrible stuff. Some mercurians are obviously pagan (not necessarily the neomercurians, but the tradition in Aedes Mercurii tends towards that, for example, with Pagan as a listed Ordeal for Mercurian magic), and I could see it applying to other nature cults, theurgical cults, animal or faerie cults pagan as well. Mostly I listed flaw examples that are core to your identity and/or relate a social relationship to others.