(Mis?)Characterization of House Tytalus

[size=85](Rather than derail another thread, one that I'm enjoying, I'm posting this comment as a separate tangent.)[/size]

size=150Characterization of House Tytalus[/size][list]or, subtitledWhy every covenant really wants a Tytalus as a sodalis[/list:u]
And this is just one Player's opinion - hardly definitive, hardly the last word. But a word I feel needs to be said, or at least discussed. And in the spirit (and the spirit of House T), alternate opinions are not only welcome, they are requested... :wink:

I find myself compelled to comment on this stereotype of Tytali as chaotic-stupid assholes, bent on random mayhem, preying on anyone who is not fortified to the teeth, creating destructive conflict simply because there was none before and they saw a soft target. Once upon a time (in earlier editions) they might have been this, but not so much in 5th ed.

In short - Tytalus don't much care if others learn from conflict, they want to learn and grow from it. If both do, great, but House philosophy is not one of zen guerrilla teaching, a life of slapping unsuspecting folk to teach them the sound of one hand clapping. :unamused:

The motto of House T is "From conflict, growth" - not "conflict for conflict's sake" or "conflict uber alles". That is, as a rule of thumb, one would expect a Tytalus to embrace conflict where she finds it rather than to create it (which is comparatively lazy). And rarely without a good reason.

So House Tytalus can be all about conflict, yes, but with an end goal of self-challenge and through that self-betterment! So it is conflict as self-challenge and self-improvement, not "I'm going to burn the barn down to prove that I can when you aren't paying attention to the barn. Ha ha!" Conflict where the Tytalus neither improves nor learns nor is particularly challenged is a waste of time and effort and thus goes directly against Tytalean principles.* Creating conflict where the Tytalus neither is challenged nor grows but the opposing party may do so is hardly better.

(* Just as there can be self-serving Bonisagus or corrupt Guernicus or cowardly Flambeaux, there can be exceptions here, Tytaloi who are, indeed, nothing but petty troublemakers, bellicose undesirables and opportunistic predators. But they are the exception - not the rule.)

A Tytlus mage thrives on rivalry, to show they have the stronger will than a rival who is trying to do the same to them. The philosophy here is that of Physis* - the self, of following natural laws in order to improve, correct or (yes) ignore man's laws. Unjust action is validated if it betters the self, not if it merely beats a weaker target down to prove it can be done - there is no challenge or growth there. (It would be rare (and inexplicable?) that they would be selfless teachers, handing out hard lessons without desire for self-improvement. Occasionally, but not as a policy.)

(* Some T's have an entirely different philosophy, one of nomos, that some rules are good as things to bind one's lesser impulses. We aren't talking about them here, but they are even less likely to do the above.)

As cited in HoH:Soc (p 77, col iii, bottom), breaking a rule or finding a loophole - or picking on someone unprepared - merely makes them change; struggling against a rival causes both to grow - and thus the House motto is fulfilled (for the T, at least).

In the example quoted above, no one grows, no one learns anything they did not already know - ambush is a strong tool, there are predatory magi, covenants are never as strongly defended as one would wish, no one is safe from a concerted and well-planned attack. Film at 11.

Now, all that said, could Tytaloi perpetrate the plothook suggested above with just cause? Not if they are stronger than the other magi (as suggested by the assumption of of victory in the last line quoted above, "...allow them to learn from the defeat."). If they are merely following their own nature and preying on the weak, then they should neither be merciful nor care if the others learn anything - the weak are not their concern. But that sort of thing could be done by an unscrupulous mage from any House - house T hardly has a monopoly on those, and almost any other House jumps to mind just as easily.

For House T, the above would be attractive if 1) they were weaker than the magi they targeted, and won by deception and hoodwinking them (some of which is suggested above), or b) if the targets were notably arrogant about their security, or iii) if there were some real challenge to it, such as if they wanted to make these magi rivals for the long-term. Or, rarely, if the Tytaloi were just chaotic-stupid assholes, shortsighted and equally short on understanding in the House philosophy - that too, sadly.

Hear, hear!

This sums it up pretty well for me. I'm playing a Tytalus, and this is just the idea I'm using (well, plus he's proud). He wants to find a way to best every House's magi in some way. Through doing that he will become the ultimate Renassiance magus, if you will. If he can best Flambeaux in their duels, then he is well prepared for combat. If he can best the Jerbiton at creating art magically, then he is prepared for other situations requiring Finesse. Etc. Once he's passed a challenge he moves onto another, though frequently he's working on a few at the same time because most of them require a lot of time and some have overlapping skills.


Not a chance.

If they´re that sure of victory as it sounds like, it´s no challenge for them and as such just a bunch of pointless destruction that will only weaken their targets and provide no real growth for themselves.

I'd say yes, absolutely. Even if the covenant's magi are weak and do not put up a fight. In that case, it's not a challenge against the magi per se. It's a challenge against the "system", against an Order that supposedly fosters collaboration and friendship, but still has the nasty "Wizard's War" loophole. Can the Order be preyed upon like a herd of cattle, allowing the Tytalus magi to feast on its weakest members? Or will it respond -- and if so, how?

(and the covenant's magi hopefully grow by learning that they have to strengthen themselves, whether magically and/or diplomatically, very much in the same way that a constantly, unfairly mistreated Tytalus apprentice grows strong)

Well, if it were one of my sagas, the Order would respond by Renouncing the prat for misuse of Wizard's War and Marching his annoying self. See also: "rocks fall, you died." :smiley:

Edit: Fortunately, in my saga, Tytalus have never been played as Chaotic Stupid. Severus was a cunning politician, a capable magical warrior and a half-mad inventor who almost always used experimentation (thus challenging always himself by pushing his own limits).

Again, House Tytalus does not promote selfless "teaching" and wandering philosophers seeking someone to knock over the head with the next lesson. This is one of the misconceptions that I really have to object to. It's far more complex than "I now kick you to teach you to dodge!"

All I'll say beyond that is that you should consider HoH:Soc, page 77, "Growth through Conflict". Specifically the few sentences that starts "...On a more personal level..." It sums up the difference between mere conflict for conflict's sake (which you seem to support) vs. growth through conflict (the credo of House Tytalus). If you understand that, you understand the distinction I'm drawing, and that the sort of Tytalus that that HoH chapter describes. If not, no further words from me will do the job.

I'm not a philosophic type, I'm more familiar with psychological approach.
Tytalus magi are very selfish in my eyes. The kids who after eating their pies ask the pies of other kids. And they realize this predatory behavior works. So they consider themselves more and more compared to others. Self-confidence rarely grows from mistreating apprentices. They would be weak-willed instead.
And they must be overconfident and/or competing to push their limits constantly.

Well, 5th edition tytalus are just teenager punks. IMS the se are a minority in the order. Most tytalians are from the "overcome challenges MYSELF" apprioach: they are from the hypian approach. The challenge is personal, not having to deal with pissing off the rest of the OoH: defeat a dragon,. challenge a faerie to a riddle contest, tame the North Sea, detect a loophole in the cde and push it so hard that the grand tribunal has to make a ruling in it, push the direction of the Christian Armies in the whole continent without breaking the code at all, overcome Satan and take his place in the Divine pantheon....

That kind of weekend activities.

The hous as written would have been marched long ago in my game view.


Which is why in my canon you generally have to prove that a dead Tytalus didn't forfeit his house immunity if you want to prosecute the magus who slayed him.

As a result, young Tytali can be divided into those who practice on each other and those who don't live very long past gauntlet.

Mature Tytali are feared, and for good reason.


Cuchulainshound, I think you are misunderstanding me; you certainly are quoting me out of context by taking three snippets and juxtaposing them. In particular the parenthetical "and the covenant's magi also grow" was meant to say: "And the Tytalus magi would not even feel particularly dishonourable in doing so, in that they offer a valuable lesson in exchange for their depredations".

I agree, Tytalus magi do not pursue conflict for conflict's sake. But they thrive on conflict, in that conflict provides them opportunities for growth. And not just zen-like growth as in "I challenge myself, therefore I grow". That's part of it, but not all. Growth can also be "I steal the dragon's hoard, therefore I grow in wealth" or "I slay the hedge wizard, and steal his magical knowledge".

Sure, you could become wealthier by peacefully applying your magic to grow apples, or magically knowledgeable by studying diligently. But the Tytalus magus recognizes in conflict, in mayhem, when the situation is fluid ... that's when the capable, flexible, strong-willed magus can reap the greatest fruits (while the weaking succumbs). So they swarm to chaos, and create it when it's not there.

(Just to emphasize, SG's and certainly Players can run Tytalus magi any way they please. My intention in starting this thread was and is to shed light on what I, personally, see as a misunderstanding of that House as written and a resulting stereotype that is simply not supported by a close reading of the HoH description.)

Yes, but as a rule the pies of the bigger kids. Self-respecting Tytaloi don't cherrypick.

Whether it works or not, they consider themselves to have grown, and thus be better than others who did not grow or did not seek growth. "That which does not kill me makes me stronger" - T's would embrace Nietzsche.

A lot of T apprentices don't survive to gauntlet, very true. But I believe that one can safely assume that T's seeking apprentices don't select "average" Gifted children.

If they were merely punks, you'd be right. But that's exactly the sort of mistaken stereotype I'm talking about. Your description of Tataloi in your saga is far closer to how they are written than you seem to realize.

The "conflict" that is at the core of every Tytalus does not exist in the world around them, but in themselves - the conflict between their nature and the laws that restrict that nature. Some T's gravitate toward one or the other more - some (the Hippians) entirely toward man-made laws and reject their "natural" urges, others (Callicleans) the opposite - but most fall somewhere in between. How they interact with the world, with their inner urges and desires vs. external laws and expectations, is merely an expression of that inner conflict. Thus T's dont seek to create "conflict" so much as "challenges" - they don't revel in chaos, they revel in their own struggle and growth, wherever. This philosophy is far more sophisticated, complex and subtle than that of "teenager punks".

I'd agree with Albert - that non-Hippians tend to find themselves non-Hermetic challenges or tend to find themselves marched.

I may be misunderstanding, but I had intended those snips to be the "pith" of what you had posted, or at least the part that I objected to - that 1) merely challenging the system is not enough for a self-respecting T, and 2) that "teaching" is simply of no concern.

A Tytalus wants challenges to give them a crucible for self-improvement - it's the self-improvement that is important. "Teaching" - that would be an exceptional, strictly personal quirk that really has nothing to do with House T philosophy or culture; there is no growth, no learning, no gain in "teaching" unless the act itself contains a serious self-challenge - and the given example doesn't sound like that.

Now, it's also true that some T's ignore most/all man-made laws and simply do what they want - this is the closest (by the book) that the example comes to House T. But "dis/hounorable" is not a concern for House T, except insofar as they are following in their Founder's footsteps. If they want to raid - great, raid! Ignore external laws, judgements and expectations and raid! But then don't pretend that "teaching" is necessary or "honourable" to a Tytalus - "honour" is an extremely artificial and man-made judgement, the exact opposite of what this type of T seeks or cares about.

Either way, the act should(?) be out of pure self-interest; either to raid and profit or to self-challenge and grow. Anything else is of no importance in the eyes of T philosophy compared with those priorities.

So, yes, I agree that there are conditions when Tytaloi would conduct such a Wiz's War - but typically, personal variations aside, they would not need any rationale other than "because they needed the loot and just didn't care about the unwritten expectations of conduct". That is all the rationale this type of "inner nature" Tytalus really needs to concern themselves about.

If most people around here do not understand the same as you when they read the tytalus chapter it means that either it is written really badly or that you are missinterpreting them and reading too much into teenage punks. I vote for the former, but who knows. BTW, Hippians are the ones that are not total jackasses IIRC, and centre in overcoming challenges without pissing half of humankind whwile doing so (they might still annoy say, Zeus for example, though), not the other way around.


Hippians believe that man-made laws are more important, to keep self-urges in check.
Calliceans believe that inner-nature is more important than artificial restrictions.
Few Tytaloi are 100% one or the other.
(I think that's what I said, right?)

I wouldn't say it's "badly written" - I'd say the characterization of House Tytalus as presented is far more "philosophical" than most other Houses, and so is more subtle to fully appreciate. (Perhaps it could have been stated more simply at some point early on, but a simple statement can rarely do justice to a complex philosophical concept.) :wink:

But from my OP I've tried to make it clear that this is just my reading of them, so maybe it's me - who knows? 8)

it hass been a while since I read the chapter, but I certainly did not read it that way. In that sense I think it is badly written since it does not fit what I think the readers are expecting from the chapter. If you have read 11 chapters that are not deep in philosophy but present a behaviour and beliefs patterns, tha tis what you are expecting from the tytalus chapter as well. Most chapters include philosophy bits in their worldview, but theya re not a Plato text. This one and the Criamon chapters (the other "philosophical house") are the ones that did get the most flak. it appears we, players, do not want to get into deep philosophies, but be told what kind of reactions those guys will have. This is not Habermas or Schopenhauer we want to read, but an expected pattern of behavior and traditions. :slight_smile:

I certainly got the impression that tytalus do not fit my worldview. As I already sauid, my impression is that they would be teenage punks, and that the house would be extinct by now (1220). If it is because it is too philosophical as you say I am sure I could have got the same information from a less philosophical writing for sure. As written, I have read it once and I am unlikely to crack that chapter of the book open ever again.

Besides, you seem to read the hippies and the others the other way around as I did. IMS hippies are the ones that go against nature since they do not want to mess with man-made laws, while the others are the ones that get regularly smashed by quaesitors. Hippies are smashed by dragons, powerful faeries and the north sea spirit instead. Population of the house: 20 dudes or so. Being a total jerk is really bad for your life expectancy.


How many of you are familiar with the concept of the trickster (usually trickster god)?

One issue is that neither of these Houses comes off as medieval. That's not necessarily a bad thing for an order composed of very long lived and learned Magi, but it does jar with much of the rest of the canonical setting.

Tytalus is a good match for the power-mad wizard archetype and as such there's plenty of room for them in stories about wizards. I like an Order that includes some unplesant and/or downright frightening Magi. I rather wish the Tremere had remained black wizards too instead of being lightened up in 5e. At the same time, I imagine that "a House that teaches that there is nothing morally repugnant in acting selfishly at the expense of others" (HoH:S pg. 78) is disliked by practically everyone else in the Order and that their philosophy is regarded as self-serving nonsense.

IMS the bad guys tend to be flambeau, verditius, jerbitons, bonisagus and merinitas. The kind of houses that my players use :wink: We had a great running conflict with a cabal of trianomae that adored hecate, for example, and our last saga has had a very dark merinita specialized in the spirits of the dead. After several wizards wars against her, she ended up as one of our strongest allies. Our characters are not specially virtuous either.

But yeah, dark mages rock. Big time. My problem is that I do not see Tytalus as dark, just jerks. Not dark jerks. Dark jerks would have a pass, teenage jerks don't.


But it's easy to see how social misfits who actually do have great magical powers might retain the attitudes of smug teenage boys, isn't it?

No, actually it isn't... but that might have something to do with how I view magic. The talent for magic may be innate, The Gift, but the actual skill for magic requires training, dedication and practice. I tend to see magi through the lens of the old saying about master martial artists... an N-th degree black belt has the skill to kill a man with one finger, but he also as the discipline not to. A Hermetic magus has the power to reshape reality to with a phrase and a gesture, but he also understands the consquences of doing so and so understands when is the right time and when is the wrong time to use that power.

I sincerely hope no one takes that as a personal affront, because it isn't intented as one and I am as guilty of this as anyone, but I think the problem isn't necessarily that the character is a social misfit with great magical powers and the attitude of a smug teenage boy, it's that we the players are acting out what our inner social misfit smug teenage boy might do if given great magical power. :smiley:

I don't think any of us are talking about players acting out, that's a separate issue entirely. The question was whether Tytalus philosophy resembles adolescent fantasy. I agree with Xavi that it does, I'm just not so bothered by it because the trope of the wizard intoxicated by his own power is a fantasy staple. Tytalus reminds me of Aleister Crowley, if he actually had had magical powers.