Initiation Script Experimentation expanded system

I thought this topic might maybe deserve its own thread:

Tentatively, I'd propose to use a set of modifiers similimar to the ones used to research Arts, perform original breathrough research and to perform the Initiation itself, all of which Script experimentation research somehow resembles:

+1 The Mystagogue studies written records (e.g. books, lab texts, incomplete scripts or Cult Lore records) that are related to the Virtue (one bonus only)*

+1 The Mystagogue studies magical objects (e.g. enchanted devices, vis, realia, spell residues) that are related to the Virtue (one bonus only)*

+1 The Mystagogue performs extensive observation of the Virtue being used, or supernatural powers that mimic it (one bonus only)*

+1 The Mystagogue performs extensive observation of environment that is in sympathy with the Virtue (use the Study Bonus table as a reference; generally a 20+ Art equivalent is necessary for a Minor Virtue, 30+ for a Major Virtue) (one bonus only)*

+3 The Mystagogue already knows the Virtue or the Supernatural Ability linked to it, or is instructed by someone that knows them (one bonus only)

+3 Studying a complete Initiation Script for the Virtue from another Cult (one bonus only, not cumulative with Cult scripts)

+6 Studying a complete Initation Script for the Virtue from your own Cult (one bonus only, not cumulative with non-Cult scripts)

All activities require a season of study, with the exception of the mystagogue already knowing the Virtue or the Supernatural Ability linked to it. Being instructed by someone that knows the Virtue or the Supernatural Ability takes the usual season.

  • The bonus is doubled if the research material is obtained during a story, and then the mage spends a season reflecting about the experience.

The maximum total bonus that the Mystagogue may claim from the various sources is equal to his Mystery Cult Lore.

While it may seem that a mage who takes care to get most or all of the possible boosts to his research would indeed have an easier task than simply trying to vary the script, and/or it would make script experimentation no riskier than usual lab experimentation, take note that going for the safe and sure route may easily take many seasons of lab work and/or several quests, and consume several years of the mage's time.

never forget that it is experimentation, and subject to all the modifications from the Lab Chapter "Experimental Results Table". Results are frequently not what you wanted, and can be disastrous. Where normal Lab Experiments tinker with enchantments, here you are tinkering with your own person - Virtues and Flaws...

(You can perform Experimental Initiations on others, but the difficulty is substantially greater, and you may find a lack of volunteers...)

There is no "safe and sure" way to Experiment...

Point taken. Let's say that it would be the "hopefully somewhat safer and surer" way to Experiment initations ? It still remains an Experimental activity, but one of the goals of taking the long and hard road to amass all kinds of mystic clues to the initation, besides improving the chances of developing a functional script (even if still exposed to the vagaries of experiment, as you point out), would be to allow the would-be mystagogue researcher to lessen the need to push one's limits and use the risk modifier. Experimenting without a risk modifier significantly lessens the risk of bad results.

Your opinion about this house rule system ? I've tried to patch the perceived hole in the canon rules with a system that would keep the thematic nuances of the initiation process itself, with its focus on quests and looking for mystic clues, instead of just pedant lab work.

I realize this system might lessen the need for seeking standard initiation ceremonies from the more conspiratorial and hierarchical established mystery cults, such as the Fraternity of Samos and the Disciples of the Worm, and make more room for self-initiation and script experimentation, and the more loose and innovative cults like the Philosophers in Rome and the Children of Hermes, but that's entirely intentional. Using a system like this might explain the relative ease by which the Children of Hermes can adapt existing scripts from other cults and develop a large array of scripts for a wide range of virtues.

A possible idea: we could treat the above system (or something like that) as a Mystery Virtue itself, a meta-Initiation Virtue which would make researching scripts significantly more easy and safe. It would be the perfect justification for the Children of Hermes' existence. Hmm, I wonder whether it should be minor or major, and what kind of name it might have. ? Hermetic Initiation ? Great Initiation ? Any suggestions ?

first off - can I point out that in the thread which started this, you wrote:

This is partly a mis-reading or the rules on Variation. The rule actually says

You can make a series of changes by making multiple Initiation Variations (typically for other Initiates, as it can't be yourself!), but also, the intention is that you can try again if you fail.

The statement

is badly written. I meant to convey:

  • A different script - ie one with desired variations already written in, so you don't need to make a series of Initiation Variations.
  • Study more Cult Lore - assumes you failed, and typically because you needed more points in the total. You might of course, have rolled badly.
  • Experiment - lets you make an arbitrary new script, which also covers arbitrary changes.

I'll errata this to David...

Meanwhile, back to your numbers.
In the limit, adding study of records, an object, a person and a suitable environment, have the Virtue, and a script to hand, gives a bonus of +13 (1+1+1+1+3+6). -or- +17 (2+2+2+2+3+6) if you get the study from stories.
I think that's the most your table provides.

The Ease is 9+Script Bonus for yourself, 15+Script Bonus to experiment on others ("safely"). +13 reduces that to (SB-4) or (SB+2), or in the extreme +17, (SB-6) or (SB-2) from which I conclude that your maximum bonus, while hard to obtain, is in fact too high, and you should have a maximum which is lower.
Specifically, these very high totals are easier than the Variation rules (Ease 15 to remove a component from a script) unless the Script Bonus is particularly high.

Indeed, even a modest bonus of +6 (using a script to vary a script). If the Mystagogue has the Virtue & a script, it's +9 before they put in any effort at all, which pulls Experiments down towards to the "remove a component" test.

Typical script bonuses range from +6 to +15, from flicking through HoH:MC, and I think Experimentation should never be easier than making the same change using the Variation rules... that's why the standard Variations are there!

How do the Cult Of Hermes do it? They have a charismatic genius as their leader ("known"). If that means Int+5 and Pre+5, and Puissant Cult Lore and Affinity With Cult Lore - an extreme, but we're guessing and stress-testing the system - then Cult Lore with 120 XP gives level 8+2. The Hierarch adds Pre+Cult Lore (15) to Initiations, and Int+Cult Lore (15) to Variations and Experimentation.

I do quite like the idea of a Virtue which makes inventing new scripts easier: I'd suggest +1 for a Minor Inventive bonus, or +3 for a Major one.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, man. Wait a minute. Apart from al the other topics we were discussing here, here you are suggesting an interpretation that would radically change the system as it is stated, and make it IMO entirely too rigid and hard to use. I read it that once you had a Script you could vary the initation and change an Ordeal by rolling 12+ to change an Ordeal, ie. to substitute an Ordeal with another of the same type, as long as the Script bonus reamins invariate. Minor with minor, major with major. The 15+ was if you wanted to remove an ordeal, i.e. to strike it from the process without repalcing it with something of equal value. This way it made sense to me, the easiest part if you wanted to add an element, slightly more difficult if you wanted to change some element with something of equal value, and tyhe hardest if you wanted to lessen the amount of the sacrifice, and leave it valid.

This way it is possible (not trivial, but entirely possible) for a mystagogue or self-initiate to change some details of the script (such as changing the type of Ordeal or Quest) as long as the total script bonus remained the same. With the rule change you imply, it would be become impossible to change a script, except by experimentation. Too rigid, man. It's unacceptable.

As I read the rule: 9+ to add a new element, and raise the script bonus; 12+ to change an element of the script bonus (typically change a Quest or Ordeal), and leave the script bonus total unmodified; 15+ to delete an element, and lower the script bonus. It quite makes sense. With the system you hint, changing anything in a single initation would be impossible. Unplayable.

From my reading of TMRE, what you suggest is impossible. You can't get something for nothing. All Virtues are balanced by Flaws. I thought this was the whole point of Mysteries. There are only a few ways to get around the prohibition on magi learning new Supernatural Abilities. Experimentation and Mysteries both allow it. Experimentation allows you to "learn" new Abilities because you spend countless hours in the lab, have a large time and vis expense, and have a significant chance of failure. Mysteries provide a way around it because you're also gaining an equal Flaw with each Virtue, you have to appease some secret organization, and you don't have complete carte blanche in deciding which Virtue(s) you get.

You seem to be suggesting that it should be trivially easy for a character to just rachet up the number of Virtues they have without gaining equivalent Flaws, submitting to a hierarchical organization or doing the serious lab time required by research. Am I missing something here?

Sorry, but you have entirely, totally missed my point. I'm arguing about the possibility to ask the mystagogue, or try yourself, if you are self-initiating, to substitute one Flaw (Ordeal) with another of equal value. It's not about getting something for nothing. It's about substituting a sacrifice with another of equal value, a Flaw with a Flaw (minor for minro, major fo major, and still something that makes sense for the nature of the initiation) because for your character that perticular Flaw would be impossible to take (beacuse he already has it), or it would grossly unbalanced for the boon you get, e.g. you are all but crippled from using magic, your magic specialty is destroyed, etc. (as in, "Sorry I cannot take your Necessary Condition: Sitting Ordeal, because I have Necessary Condition: Dancing already. I need for a substitution"). The rules, as they stand, plainly allow to make such a substitution with a roll Int + Mystery Cult Lore vs. an EF of 12. Now in the discussion, it seemed that Neil was proposing an errata (?) that would make this impossible, and I was arguing that this would be too restrictive and unbalanced.

Please re-read Modifying the Initation Script, TMRE pp. 17-18.

And Initiations are not all about Flaws. Often they are centered about Quests, sacrifices of time and precious resources, traveling to speical places at special dates. It's not more about strictly balancing Virtues with an equivalent number of Flaws. if you take a look at the example scripts in HoH: MC, several are without Flaws at all.

The intention of the rules for Variation is that it is possible to make small changes, but to make other than the simplest changes is difficult - it is better, in general, to go out and find a script.

I thought the rules were clear as written. You can Vary and do one, and only one of:

  • add a component to the list in a script - easiest (9+) -OR-
  • change a detail of one existing component (place, time, subject of a Quest). Change an Ordeal Flaw for an equivalent (p.18 box example). Cannot change the Virtue granted (middle difficulty 12+)
  • remove a scripted component (hardest 15+)

Per the example on p.18, you are correct.

You exaggerate - it would be slow and painful, but not impossible.

It was designed with a model of Cults in mind - which you can choose to revise in your own saga. The model has Cultists passing around scripts as valuable items to be followed.

I have noticed that your posts show you have a model of a free-and-easy initiation system, with the Initiate largely given a fair amount of choice. You place the player (player's character) at focus, and let the player's desire for their characeter shape their path into and through cults.

My understanding of historical cults was that they were quite the reverse, and that the cult chose the path to "better" the initiate, and the initiate was expected to follow without question.
If we differ so, then you may find a number of points where the book branches away from your vision.

That's entirely possible because I was relying on what you'd written.

Based on the above, I thought you meant you wanted to remove an ordeal without replacing it with something of equal value. I contend this is impossible.

I don't know why I should, you don't appear to have.

Err not really...

Initiation quite specifically does not require the character balance Virtues & Flaws. The balance of Initiation is actually about 3:1 V:F, especially long term over a series of Initiations within a Cult... (The "Previous Ordeal bonus" is very important!)
The "rest" of the cost is in the other factors, especially in Quests and special circumstances.
(Note also that the Mystagogue's time is rated higher than the Initiate's time - that's 'cos the unwritten assumption is that you also have to pay the Mystagogue for their time...

Also, the Experimentation we are talking about here is "create an Experimental Initation Script which may or may not work, and may or may not Initiate what we hoped", and create it by performing the Initation. It is not Lab Experiments - even though it cannibalises and re-uses the Lab Experiment Results Table.

Errm, "yes".

As far as I know Wanderer is accepting that a Script may have the Ordeal of (say) Deficient Ignem, but since his character is (perhaps) a powerful Fire magus, he'd rather follow a script with Deficient Aquam, and wants to vary the script to make it so.
TMRE is designed to make that possible, but fairly difficult.
If the Cult thinks Deficient Ignem is a mark of the required sacrifice, then that's what it does.

And yes, Wanderer is perfectly correct in discussing changes which remove an Ordeal from a Script. That also removes the Ordeal Bonus from the new script, which means it's much weaker and may fail. On the other hand if a charismatic expert mystagogue is running the Initiation, with a script designed to allow low-ranking mystagogues to succeed, then they can quite likely succeed without the bonus and Ordeal.

The quotes on p.17 specifically leave out Flaw-for-Flaw; the example on p.18 explicitly shows replacing a scripted flaw with an alternative (because the Initiate already bears the scripted Flaw).

And, yes - I did intend for some characters to be faced with the possibility that a proposed script would cripple them - and that it be a challenge for them to get round that. And specifically that if the Initate says "sorry but X, because it would impair me" does not actually impress the elder magi. Esp. not the "sorry but" bit.
("Here, I have this treasure and this ancient script" goes down better)

I don't see the elder magi as caring compassionate guides working on the character development and spiritual growth of their pupils, but as (mad) magicians with a cult following. There's a world of difference there.
(And even in TMRE we note that not all cults are like that)(and the 4 Mystery Houses are much more like colleges than the average Cult)

In this case, I would prefer to see that Initiate go hunt ancient texts and try to find a script that works differently - or hunt through the cult archives. (Many cults have lots of scripts; you may have to work hard to get access...)

I see. I guess I'll re-read the book.

That 3:1 ratio explains why munchkins love the Mysteries so much.

I wrote it, and Wanderer read the text here and is right... You can arbitrarily remove an Ordeal from a Script, by making a single change Variation, with a test of 15+.
If you do so, you lose the Ordeal Bonus, and the Initiation may fail if the bonus is no longer high enough.
If it is high enough, then the shortened script works without that Ordeal Flaw; and it may mean you get the Virtue for no Flaw.

This most often works if the Initiate has gone through a Previous Ordeal. Frex, if they suffer a Major Flaw Ordeal, then the script which inflicts that Flaw gets a +9 bonus, which is writen into it and calculated in the Script Bonus.
After that, for the next 3 scripts (of the same cult!), the Initiate gets a personal bonus of +9 then +6 then +3 to their Initiations, and can choose to follow reduced scripts with fewer or no Flaws, and a lower Script bonus.

We are arguing over whether he read what I intended as what was possible as a single "replacement" change.

No - it explains why TMRE requires characters to go on so many Quests instead of crippling themselves with Flaws. The idea is to provide the SG with long-term plot and story hooks, like the various Story Flaws in core 5e, and the Covenant Hooks.

Compared to TM4e, this is a major change; indeed, in TM4e a character had to suffer many more points of Flaws than Virtues just in order to gain a few Virtue points... Senior Initiates with several Initations would be near crippled by the burden of Flaws.
In TMRE they must take much game-time, and the player of the Initiate is expected to contribute story opportunities for the SG - the recurring theme of 5e!

I humbly admit that I haven't really looked at the bonuses you propose as I need to read up on the initiation rules again, but I would still propose that the bonus from such "research material" be limited by the researcher's score in the Mystery Cult Lore he is devising the new script for.

Do'h. I hadn't thought of that. Excellent idea !! I'll appropriate it and incorporate it in the system posthaste.

As it regards caribet's points, I undestand what you are saying. However, I have to remark that there is a point in the book where it contradicts your professed intent: please check p. 18, the example sidebar, last paragraph. It explictly talks about the Mystagogue trying to substitute a Flaw that the initiate already has, with another Flaw, with a roll against 12.

Now, you can tell me that it was written by the other author, or that you changed your mind, or whatever. But this example, combined with the fact that the previous page did not explictly forbid substituting a Flaw for a Flaw (a mistake, you say ? too bad :stuck_out_tongue:) make my reading of the rules only natural. Now if you say you mean an errata, well, I think you may excuse a fellow if he chooses to disragard it and stick to the letter of the word, especially if it greately rewards his play style. :wink:

As for our thematic differences behind htis rule disagreement,

Not easy in the sense I wish to dodge out of the sacrifice requirement, as long as it is a reasonable one (more on this later) but free in the sense that it leaves considerable space to the initiative and creativity of the single mage in carving his own personalized path through the Mysteries, yes absolutely. My main interest in RP the Mysteries is in the subjective transformative experience, rather than the conspiratorial-secret society aspect: I see Initiations much more as akin to shamanic visionquests and Eastern meditation practices, rather than Masonic rigid and hierarchical systems. Mages can advance all other aspects of their powers on their own guidance: I do not see why Mysteries should be completely different. And then why should Cults exist at all ? Simple, they are associations of mages that care about a mutual ideal, and help each other advance their progress in the mastery of that ideal. That's why I fight tooth and nail to preserve and emphasize those rule elements, like self-initiation, script experimenting, and varying scripts, that allow for character's initiative.

Dude who cares about what "historical" cults at all ? It's not like historical magic really worked, so we have to be faithful to details because it really matters !! Hermetic magic is wholly a-historical anyway, so I do not see why in this particular angle we have to toady the specific idiosyncrasies of a bunch of RL long-dead half-mad loser occultish bookworms. As long as a mystery, its virtues, and its initiation make sense in a thematic and sympathetic sense, it's good enough. I freely admit that the idea of RP mysteries as a long string of stations where my character is expected to toady and lick the boots of a bunch of self-important petty autocrats without questioning annoys and bores me beyond tears. If that were the professed goal of TMRE, and there were no other possible way of using it, I would lose no time in sweeping it into the nearest dustbin.

This is quite untrue. Cults may perfectly manage to stand even under that model, they just have to turn into loose ideological associations of mutual advancement and interest that stand because memers care about a common mystical ideal. It's just the conspiratorial, hierarchical rigid structure that has to go. Look at the Merinita, and the Philosophers of Rome: they both manage to work fine, under just that model.

And this is where our differences in vision again show: as I see it, mystagogues would still be hermetic mages first and foremost, and like every good magus they would be entirely sympathetic to a reasonable plea not to cripple an initiate's magic with a wholly-inappropriate for him initiation. Code of Hermes, remember ? Seriously harming one's magical power is a High Hermetic Crime. As I see it, the average Mystagogue would be more mindful of that than of following the idosyncrasic dictates of the ancestors and showing the true way down the initiate's throat no matter the consequences.

As I see it, there's potential enough for stories in going through the average Initiation process (Quests, do you remember ?), without needing to go out of the way with tyrannical elders hell-bent to cripple characters for the sake of the true way (BTW, I find no fun at all in stories that justify or extol dogma, especially in religion or similar).

As you concede, there are cults, both Exoteric and Esoteric, that work just like that, as loose groups of like-minded follows, one part spiritual research college, one part mutual help society, and not as power trips for mad cult leaders. If they aren't wholly altruistic "caring compassionate guides working on the character development and spiritual growth of their pupils", at least they should be, as usual, hermetic magi quite mindful of pragmatic enlightened self-interest and therefore mindful that a reasonably satisfied pupil is a gain for everyone.

That's doesn't mean that one should not be free to RP the toadying servant of the tyrannical cult elder, if that their thing. To anyone it's own. Personally I find it disgusting in RL, and wholly unfun in play. I just advocate a rule system that lets both styles of play to be worakble. So please leave the rules for varying scripts stand as they are in print.

Maybe, but in a year plus of TMRE related play (and I'm one of two people who can claim that, as far as I know) my players repeatedly expressed a preference for taking balancing Flaws rather than going on adventures based on the other options (Quests) etc. However, if you can't run the stories for the Quests or finding magic place or wahtever, then impose Flaws (Ordeals) and Sacrifices and follow the guideslines as wriitten,a nd it will balance out to something like 1:1 I think. The Storyguide totally controls the avaialbaility of Mystagigues and Initiation Scripts.

Our aim however was that Mysteries should drive stories, NOT just be a mechanical balancing. I appreciate that can cause issues in your saga, hence the chapter on "Storyguiding the Mysteries", which nobody has even mentioned, but which was in some ways my favourite (and which Erik Dahl contributed very usefully to, and deserves crediting here.)

cj x

I confess memory failed me - I remember intending not to allow swapping Flaws on a vriation test of 12+, but I must point out that the Boxed example on p.18 clearly shows doing so.

So Wanderer's hoped for interpretation is correct per the printed example & I withdraw my objections.

Wow! Are you usually up at this time Caribet? What nature of Ordeal is this?
Morning Neil!

I like the variation rules, because they allow a character faced with a script which would be disatrous to them, or is just not relevant to them, to choose to appeal to their Mystagogues better nature. Do Mystagogues have better natures? Probably varies from cult to cult?

cj x

Cj - Good Evening (I guess...)
yes, I am almost always up at 0830 - have been for nearly 2 hrs.
I am guessing that you've had another all-nighter? (You are not an early bird yourself - don't kid me!)

My fault is that I failed to read the box example on p.18 - my excuse is I should have gone to bed before then instead of getting into an argument.

I like the "script Flaw is not relevant" changes - but i confess I favour the "the Cult theme favours this common Sacrifice which we call upon you to make" and that magi should join a cult where there magic is in sympathy with the cultic goals. (Most of the cults you wrote up, and the HoH:MC cults largely follow this style too - they push the Initiate down what the cult sees as an appropriate path).

A Fire wizard shouldn't try to progress down a Water Cult that sees sacrifice of Fire power as an ideal counter-balance to Water magic, and then say "but loss of my Fire magic will cripple me" - they should find a Fire Cult!

But, hey - this is my opinion, and we wrote TMRE to reflect and encourage lots of opinions, so I'm both right and wrong!