Mystery Cults

Here is a thread to talk about Mystery Cults.

I thought it would be interesting to be in a Mystery Cult that initiated in Hermetic Alchemy and Philosophic Alchemy. (HA is a prerequisite for PA). I don't know how to go about doing that, since this hypothetical Mystery Cult is not a House Mystery Cult, and as such exists now only in theory.

Would this be something that Galan was introduced to by his parens? Or something that came along later? Would he be able to take Organization Lore during character generation? (Would he be required to?) Would this come up entirely within the saga? How do we go about figuring out initiation scripts? I have thoughts as to what might be nice, but I don't want to make any assumptions.

Any and all is possible. Trogdor, I think you need to think about this Mystery Cult. Who are they, and what do they believe? Why are you a candidate to join? Page 39 of TMRE gives some historical background on Alchemy, that the alchemists seek purification of both materials and their souls.

Once we know what the cult is about, then the rest follows. If the cult is about purifying the body, that means your Ordeals may involve taking certain Vows.

If your parens was in the cult, you could have gotten organization lore during apprenticeship. Or you met a senior magus during a Tribunal meeting, who asked about your interests.

but what is the purpose of that mystery cult? What does it do? Why does Philosophic Alchemy advance its ends?

I'm happy to provide more detail on a proposed mystery cult. I just didn't want to be presumptuous. :slight_smile:

So here's my proposal. It's just a proposal, mind. I'm not assuming that anything is set in stone or even that you'll want to go with my ideas. But here they are.

My concept is an organization devoted to the study and advancement of scientific learning, particularly the alchemical arts. The Society of Alchemists claims to be built on the foundation of a Mystery Cult far older than the Order. It asserts that its predecessor organization had its origin before the birth of Christ, and was privy to all the secrets of the lost Library of Alexandria, which included a secret trove of books related to magic and alchemy that the public never saw. And while much of this knowledge was lost when the library burned, the old cult was said to have saved many of these secret books.

Alas, with the fall of the Roman Empire, the original Mystery Cult was lost, and its secrets with it. When the new Society of Alchemists was founded centuries later, it had only the tiniest scraps of the vast knowledge once held by its ancient predecessor. Chief among its goals was to recapture what was lost, both in the secret arts of alchemy and magic as well as in many other areas of learning. In the time since its founding, the new Society of Alchemists has managed to piece together some of what was lost. But always there is more to learn. They have stories of what the old cult was supposedly able to achieve using magic and alchemy, and hope to someday equal or even surpass that knowledge. Ultimately, the cult hopes to perfect the mind through study and the body through alchemy and magic, allowing for its members to live a perfect existence of eternal scholarship. At present, however, that's just a dream.

Its current members are generally scholars, librarians, or other keepers of knowledge, and in their public lives they often work with learning, teaching, or the creation or preservation of knowledge, often related to science, medicine, and mathematics. Each generally has a subject that serves as a focus for his learning. But in secret they seek to recapture the mystic learning of the ancient cult, the secrets of alchemy once known to the Greeks and Romans, but now lost to the modern world. They are said to have a secret library somewhere in Mythic Europe where they keep copies of rare texts on magic and alchemy, and are always eager for more.

So, the general idea is a group seeking to recapture the lost scientific knowledge of the ancient world, and expand upon that. The alchemy is learned both as a means to perfect the human body so that they can devote an eternity to study, and as one of the more esoteric areas of learning, and so worthy of study on its own.

I was thinking that after his gauntlet, Galan joined the covenant of Schola Pythagoris in Stonehenge so he could study natural philosophy with Astrolabe of Jerbiton. During this time he showed a devotion to learning (I was planning on having him spend xp to up his Philosophiae) that made a member of the Society (Astrolabe or someone else?) think he might be a good recruit. Over time they slowly sounded Galan out until they finally approached him with a veiled invitation to join.

I don't know if any of that is at all appealing, but that was the concept I had in mind for a mystery cult. It seemed on par with the sort of mystery cults described in TMRE. Ill be interested to hear your thoughts.

"Restoring lost knowledge" seems fairly generic... This seems like a good start, but there needs to be more crunch to this. :smiley:

What are their beliefs? What is the "Mystery" part of this cult? Do they believe in the Great Work? Seek immortality? The permanent transmutation of matter?

How do they related to the Order of the Green Cockerel? Does the OGC even exist in this saga or does this Mystery Cult replace it? If the OGC exists, do they compete for resources? Exchange information? Are they violently opposed to each other's goals?

Arthur raises some good points. I think TMRE makes clear that not all Mysteries exist in a given saga, which is why I'm putting it to a discussion to create the Mystery Cult. Obviously, all House Mystery Cults exist...(F-F# notes) for now.

One of the things I've come to understand with Mystery Cults is that they are definitely a transactional arrangement between the cult and the supplicant. There is definitely a one for the cult and one for you approach with respect to virtues and advancement, because without binding the supplicant to the cult, the cult wouldn't be able to survive. So the first Virtue granted is always going to be somewhat lackluster, but it's designed to test the faithful and it's also designed to grow the cult in some meaningful way. Thereafter, there will continue to be an exchange where the virtues/flaws are done to enhance the Mystery Cult at least as much as the supplicant advances in power.

Indeed much of what is described by Trogdor, when put within the framework I view Mystery Cults, describes The Order of the Green Cockerel. I will note that I'm more than willing to adjust the canon version of the cult to put Hermetic Alchemy instead of Vulgar Alchemy, because the latter virtue is complete crap. Needing a mystery cult virtue to unlock shape and material bonuses suggests that there should be far fewer S&M bonuses than actually exist, or the entire Order has Vulgar Alchemy. With Hermetic Alchemy moved up, that leaves a spot for the minor virtue of Philosophic Alchemy at the 4th degree of the Order. IMO, that's an appropriate level for the virtue, with a space between at 3rd Degree.

I don't have a problem constructing a brand new Mystery Cult, but I do want to point out that what's being described doesn't differ materially from what's already described of OGC.

Really, my only two issues with OGC are: (1) it includes Vulgar Alchemy which, as you note is pretty bad, and (2) It has seven levels meaning that you're likely to never get to even the middle levels in the scope of a PBP game. But if you'd prefer I go with the OGC (minus Vulgar Alchemy), I'm fine with that. I'll either get to Philosophic Alchemy or I won't. But at least I'll avoid raising new issues.

The big issue with Mystery Cults in general (even Mystery Houses) is that with the sickness, it may be very hard to progress in the mysteries once saga starts.

That's a good point. But if I want to give a mystery virtue a chance, what choice do I have?

Initiation Script purchased with BP as lab texts? This might allow your magus to self-initiate some virtues. He may not even be part of that particular cult at the time he "acquired" those scripts before the saga starts.

Well, I think I dispelled the concern with Vulgar Alchemy. I don't see a reason why you can't be at level 4 in OGC at saga start.

Also, you can work in Cabal Legacy, and come out of Gauntlet with Planetary Magic, which puts you at the point of moving to the second level and beyond during your advancement. As said, I'm going to make it more than possible for you to get Philosophic Alchemy (major) very soon after play commences. This would leap frog you over the 5th level, and you may not like the choice offered when it comes, but it will be there.

I suppose I need to get started on the Initiation Scripts and designing the mystagogue(s).

It's a major mystery virtue, so I understand that it's likely to be costly. I just hope it's a cost that I'll be willing to pay. I'd hate to go to all this trouble just to find out that it costs more than my character would pay. But then, those are the risks I have to take. :slight_smile:

Alas, unlike a player of a magus in a House MC, I can't see the initiation scripts ahead of time to make those decisions about character advancement.