(Mystery Cult) Lore for House Tremere

When I look at the Tremere chapter of HoH:True Lineage, I cannot help but see the various specialist roles as potential cults, but perhaps more along the lines of the Verditius confraternities described in HoH:Mystery Cults. Essentially groups within House Tremere that follow a certain path of development which helps them fulfill their specialist role within the House. Not all of the Tremere specialists would follow those paths, but many would do so either partly or fully. And some paths may not be related to a specific specialist role.

For example, Physicians are described as often being corporeal necromancers, plus many others within the House are spiritual necromancers. Would it not make sense that they would have initiation scripts that help them become more efficient in necromancy?

In the same way, Disputants specialize in Certamen. A number of virtues can help in Certamen, such as Puissant (Parma Magica/Penetration/Finesse), Harenarius, Affinities, Puissant Art and Enduring Constitution. Instead of requiring that a magus of this role start off with as many of these as possible, is it not more realistic to allow some them to be acquired during play through initiation?

As someone noted, the introduction of the Initiation mechanics1 in 5e Edition represents a big game changer, in the fact that virtues are no longer only set at character creation, but can be added later during a magus' life. How could the Tremere not look at this as a way to strengthen the House?

1 This is not limited by the Mystery Cult initiations, as Forest Lore follow similar mechanics.

I think all Houses, even those who aren't Mystery Houses, should have a few such Initiations for specific roles. They might be limited to 3-4 such Initiations for each role. Just enough to lend power to those roles within the House.

From a purely aesthetic/thematic point of view, I'd say: Absolutely NO.
Initiations should never be common-place, and should always be at least as much about story as about extra power.

From a more practical point of view it is not needed. Special roles within each house would normally be assigned based on the aptitude of the individual, so they would typically already have a number of virtues making them better at that role.

They may not have been able to find the right ethos to align with whatever powers could grant them these powers.

The mystery is the opposite of a theory. Hermetic magic builds on the theoretical achievements of Bonisagus. Mysteries build on something subtler, that is a lot harder to find for the uninitiated. For some, it is an alliance with other powers, as it is for Bjornar and Merinita. Exactly what it is for Verditius, I don't know, and for Criamon I know that we are not meant to understand.

Letting any house or society simply invent the mysteries they need breaks both game balance and the narrative trope of a mystery.

That may have been the intent when the initiation mechanics was introduced, but in practice that is very hard to do. There are many character concepts that are very much based on gaining virtues during the life of the character, if only because these concepts require 2 major hermetic virtues.

But even then, you have 4 Houses which are based on mystery initiations, plus a whole sourcebook presenting additional powers which pretty much can only be gained through initiation because it would take so many virtues to attain that it is impossible for a just-Gauntleted magus built through the character creation rules to have. That same book also has a whole chapter about common magics, which are described as being fairly well known troughout the Order of Hermes.

So what should you say, as a SG, when a player comes to you with a concept that requires initiations over time to be viable. Or if they just want to explore a certain path. Do you tell them to choose a Mystery House only? Select a different concept? Tell them that they can't know in advance if a Mystery Cult that does what they want will exist in this saga and that they will have to find out during play? Sure, you could tell them that Mystery Cults will only be discovered during play if your saga only has magi just out of Gauntlet, but what do you do if the saga allows magi 10-20-30 years post-Gauntlet right from the start?

We have to recognize that the initiation mechanics if such a game changer that, from a power-level perspective, any magus who does not have access to it will potentially be at a severe disadvantage.

That, or it is the mechanics of initiation itself that is broken. Because right now a magus who has access to it (through his House or through a different Mystery Cult) can initiate Major virtues for the cost of Minor flaws, or Minor virtues for incidental things like raw vis and a bit of time.

(This should probably be discussed in its own topic.)

In general I would say "okay" if someone had such a character concept, and then make sure there was an appropriate mystery cult in the game - but they would have to discover and join it during play.

For those creating magi several years past their Gauntlet who insist on having Mystery virtues .- well, that is what the Cabal Legacy flaw is for. Some discussion would have to be done regarding the specifics.

There are probably as many answers to this as there are sagas. I certainly would not give the same answer in every saga, not exactly the same answer at least.

But, as a rule of thumb, I would say that cult membership is a virtue or a story flaw (except for the Mystery Houses). I am not sure if there is a specific canon virtue/flaw, but mentor will do if nothing better is found. Without such virtue/flaw, there is no guarantee that the cult exists or recruits. If a player takes such virtue/flaw and weaves it into a Tremere backstory, I would be happy with it, as long as it does not clash with other players or pre-planned plot lines.

Regardless of this, I think every mystery cult should be a plot line. Mystagogues are not ready to initiate every PC whose player wants to advance. Advancing in the Cult should be a long and arduous process. You have a point, though, that this is difficult to manage for the SG.

None of my players seem to think that their favourite cult will exist, or be found, or recruit.

This thread has given me a great idea for a new magus character.

As I see it for a Tremere involved in a mystery cult, their house probably requires the following:

  1. notification they are in the cult
  2. Listing of obligations this creates outside of the house
  3. benefits the cult membership can bring to the house
  4. notification as to when they would be able to induct other house members into the cult

provided the cult's goals don't conflict with Tremere's, Tremere is quite used to specialized units and sub groups and would likely view this in the same way. For any cult which will allow sharing the above information this would not be a problem. If membership is supposed to be secret there will be a problem. (obviously a cult dedicated to finding the lost secrets of diedne or the like would be an automatic no)

I think it is quite plausible that Tremere is open-minded about this, trusting their members to act in the interest of the House. If a secret cult membership serves the House, go for it. Conflicting loyalties was a well-known challenge in medieval politics, so why not for Hermetic magi? That said, the more restrictive policy is plausible too. I think every saga just has to choose their own take on House Tremere.

Not for all sagas (It all depends on the prevalence of initiations in your game), but I like Arthur's ideas of the Tremere having semi-open, specialized, paths, not unlike those of the Criamon.

I feel that these should have a different feeling, and flaws, than hose of the traditional MC, enforcing fidelity to the house and dedication to the path.

I also think that, maybe, non-MC "MC Cults" should have something a little less. It's easier to initiate if you can tap into some kind of mystical connection. Or maybe you don't have as many virtues, of less powerful ones. Maybe.

Wow, is my reply useless or what?

EDIT: Thinking a little more about this.
(Tagging @Arthur, since your read my reply already, so you don't miss the edit)

I probably wouldn't do it, as a matter of personal taste.
IMO, Tremere do not have any "special cheat". They're your standard vanilla magi, and, taken individually, are weaker and can do less things.
They compensate this by relying on each other and putting their ego on the side. And this is what makes them unique.

So they don't have magical foci (for exemple), but they can compensate by being over-specialized, way more than other magi, knowing that the house will send the right person for the job.

Likewise, they cooperate, including on lab work, which may allow them to learn/invent spells way above what a magus from anoher house might do. Same for casting rituals. Same for enchanting items. Wizard's time being precious, this doesn't occur as often as they'd like, but if there's a need for the house, they can reach tremendous totals.

So if you want your tremere PC to feel awesome, once or twice in a while, when the need is great, another option is to allow them to call upon their house, and leave their covenmates in the dust.

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(Thanks for tagging me, I might indeed have missed the edit otherwise.)

I'm not sure that calling Tremere magi over-specialized is really accurate. Myself, I would call them tightly-specialized generalists. After all , each of them is expected to be able to hold his/her own in the field, and may be sent to accomplish a variety of missions with minimal support. That is particularly true outside of the Transylvanian Tribunal, which is where most sagas will take place, so these magi need to be even more self-reliant since support can be far away. In any case, each individual Tremere is expected to have a broad range of basic capabilities (offensive, defensive, travel, survivability and the 3Cs -- communication, command and control).

The individual magus is also expected to fulfill a specialist role within the House, so here is where a tight specialization is needed. An almost unique specialization, in fact, since the House is so small in number. And without access to a Magical Focus, they must sometimes achieve that specialization through less-efficient means.

So the double handful of architects would not simply be good with Terram. You would have a few specialized in mining, a few specialized in fortifications, a few specialized in roads and bridges, a few specialized in wealth production, etc.

But if they are too specialized Arts-wise, they risk losing any benefit from their Focus in Certamen. Because if you have to perform Certamen in an Art at 0, then you are no better than any other magus. (They can afford one Technique and one Form because they can veto one choice.)

I agree that they would cooperate much more than the average magi -- Wizard's Communion and/or Wizard's Vigil should be almost mandatory at the highest level they can achieve right out of Gauntlet, and be regularly upgraded as they gain experience.

In that context, a few initiation paths would make sense. Being able to upgrade a Minor Potent Magic (controlling stone) to Major Potent Magic (stone) or (controlling inanimate objects) can do a lot to make a specialist more effective. Adding a second area of Minor Potent Magic can be just as valuable (a nauarchos with both "controlling weather" and "destroying wood"). Or allowing a spiritual necromancer to bind a spirit familiar.

I cannot see House Tremere not being interested in initiations. They might encourage a few members to join existing cults (if those are open enough and secular enough) as they learn of their existence. Maybe they haven't developped that capacity internally yet, but they would certainly be collecting any Cult texts they could in order to develop their own initiation ethos and rituals. They might have shorter paths, a cap on the maxium Lore score (as they strive to develop it) and even limited options. If a few Tremere have successfully joined an existing Mystery Cult, they may have adapted some of its rituals, or just plain assimilated the cult.

This may not be all without risk, as can be inferred from HoH:TL mentioning that the House's necromancers are kept on a tight watch (to avoid them straying too far, or being subverted themselves by something like the Disciples of the Worm).


I agree with Arthur that the notion the Tremere over-specialize is nuts, considering they're expected to excel in certamen, and that someone who excels in certamen would want some versatility. Also, the Tremere leadership can ask for formal approval of mystery cults all they want, but at some point, being a Tremere is also about taking things (such as your token) by force, and if an individual Tremere feels joining a mystery will get him closer to climbing up a rank in his house, I can see them totally ignoring the house's request, which would only be a problem if the initiator is himself from House Tremere. It's not like mystery cult membership is public knowledge, after all...

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Then leadership gets suspicious and you have to answer to the Tremere inquisition!

No! I'm doomed. I did not expect the Tremere inquisition!

Not all Tremere are great at Certamen, or expected to be. (They are expected not to suck at it, which is another thing.)

Disputants specialize in Certamen. They are less
common than magi of other Houses expect. The House
trains a few, who act as its representatives in vital matters,
but prefers that most of its magi focus on other tasks.

I could absolutely see a working group of Tremere being set up to found a mystery cult. Get a few of them and have them dedicate a decade or two to finding what sort of power would be needed to start a cult which, say, initiated major potent magic.

It might be that they can't find a way of initiating it that is sufficiently secular for the house, or that they then don't properly report their findings, preferring secrecy, but I think it would be a project the house would initiate, even if unsuccessfully.


Fair enough. Mind you, I did not intend to cast everyone in the role of a certamen specialist to the exclusion of everything else. I just think that, if you're intending to be an extreme specialist, you're in the wrong house. (Mind you, given that apprentices don't typically choose their master outside the Theban tribunal, there's probably something to be said about how not fiting in very well may be somewhat of a normal thing).

I very much like the idea that there might be a necromancer lineage in the Tremere that do hold some secret lore and do initiate other Tremere. I'd imagine that to survive, the cult would be total open with the Tremere leadership with their secrets. i.e. the leadership have officially sanctioned this tradition, maybe scrutinise them a little more than normal, but appreciate their power. It could well be based on the secularised teachings of the Aita necromancers mixed with Tremere himself's knowledge of Guorna's magic.

As for other mystery cults. Tremere are loyal to their house, but it doesn't mean they can't also be loyal to a cult. Some cults might be distasteful, such as the overtly pagan religious ones. Others might be seen as generally admirable by the House leadership. At the very least I would imagine the Tremere leadership takes a relaxed approach to mystery cult membership. By doing so they get to keep an eye on the mystery cults themselves, they stay abreast of any big movements or discoveries but only in the general sense i.e. Tremere members of the Order of the Green Cockerill might not share alchemical lore with the house leadership, but they might let it be known that someone has achieved immortality and seeks to bring this knowledge to the whole order.

I could easily see the Disciples of the Worm being either dominated by the Tremere, or being a cover for an older Tremere 'in house' mystery cult, which is trying to pull in a few external converts.