Mystery "spells" and formulaic/ritual flaws

Basically the design for TMRE is that the clients are Hermetic magi, and that where the Virtues permit anything which takes the form of a spell, ritual-spell, or enchantment using the Te+Fo system, then it is hermetic Magic (as detected by InVi spells) and also subject to all the hermetic-influencing V/F of the character.

Access to the new GL or application of spells may require a Virtue, but then this applies to other hermetic virtues...

Where the Virtue grants you an Ability and you make an Ability roll, this is not affected the same way, and quite possibly registers as non-Hermetic on InVi spells (possibly not as the caster is a hermetic magus)

  • Daimon rituals - spell
  • Hermetic Synthemata - spell
  • Names of Power - not usable directly - see other Virtues which use it (eg Invocation Magic)
  • Invocation magic - MuVi cast on self
  • Synthemata - lab research and MuVi spells
  • Synthemata Magia - Supernatural Ability to divine the Synthemata of an observed being -- the Ability is an S.A, but having worked it, you are allowed to devise and cast MuVi spells to boost your Casting Score
  • Hermetic Theurgy Invoke spells - are a 2-part package. The first "Invoke the Spirit of XXX" requires hermetic lab work to devise the spell and summon the spirit, and the spell devised is a Hermetic Summons spell: cast it normally and a Spirit comes... The Spirit then casts a spell for you. The spirit uses its own Might to cast the spell (possibly with a bonus); it is a Magic spirit (troupes might allow a Faerie Magus to invoke faerie spell spirits as an option).
  • Rotes - are low-level hermetic spell-like effects. You don't make a casting roll (so are immune to some V/F relating to rolls) or lose fatigue (ditto) but Pentration etc is as normal.
  • Divination is a Supernatural Ability using an Ability roll, but not spell casting. Even though the Ease Factor is calculated by comparison with hermtic spells, it is hot a spell.

If the text says "cast a spell" or "invent a spell" - that's what it means!
A few use an Ability (eg intuiting the Synthemata of a spirit with Synthemata Magia) but most don't. Very few provide a "power" which is outside the Hermtic system.

The Great Elixir, Living Ghost and Ascension all use lab Work and spell casting, albeit of spells whose Guidelines are only accessible to those with the Mystery.

Some of the Mystery spells (especially Theurgical Invoke Spirit spells) help magi to overcome limits imposed by Flaws - so eg Painful Magic can be overcome by pre-summoning spirits with an extended duration (or using a ReVi device to maintain Conc on a Conc summon spell)

You have been quite helpful and explicative, as always. Mucho thanks. I hope you don't mind a couple of further questions:

Even if Names of Power are studied as formulaic spells, could a formulaic-impaired maga cast them as MuVi spontaneous spells, for Invocation Magic purposes, the same way Synthemata Magic MuVi spells may be sponted ?

Same question as for Invocation magic. Can these MuVi spells be sponted ?

Again same question, can Invoke spells be sponted, even if they are developed as formulaic ?

Even if I understand the letter of the ruling, I have difficulty in understanding the spirit of it, esp. as it concerns the Great Elixir and Merinita Becoming, and Living Ghost and Ascension to a lesser degree: Even if they use spell guidelines, aren't immortality rituals one-time lab work feats that are more akin to the longevity ritual or familiar binding in purpose and characteristics ?

I also have some game balance concerns about completely cutting off a character from pretty much all effective immortality methods (since differently from normal longevity rituals, another magus can't cast it for you) because of a single Flaw, even if admittedly you can still use Lesser Elixir and Immortality of the Forest (Serf's Parma, I don't remember if the Nature Magic way, whatever its precise Virtue name, is done as a ritual or not).

As a more general note, what would be the most likely reaction of a mystery cult to an applicant who can't use the magic insight offered by some Mystery Virtue of the Cult that is rather important to their practices (maybe a "gateway", first-taught Virtue), because of some Flaw, but shows sincere interest and dedication to that magical lore nonetheless ?

A) If you can't use this, You are not fit for our secrets, go away you worthless scum
B) We don't change our traditions for the likes of you, You have to initiate it nonetheless, even if it's completely useless for you, sucks to be you
C) You have to make yourself worthy, here's how (in game terms, do some other additional initiation that is not part of the standard curriculum, and removes or reduces the severity of the stumbling block Flaw, or creates some loophole)
D) We'll skip that part, let's go to what you can understand and use, we'll talk later about the compensation for the privilege (go to initiate the Mystery Virtues that the applicant can use, do some additional service or quest for the cult as compensation)

OK - a Golden Rule for clarifying the whole Theurgy chapter is that Theurgy is based on the concept of "Names" - without knowing the name you can do nothing.
So in general it is impossible to Spont an unknown Theurgical effect, as you don't know the name - the labwork of learning a spell teaches the name, after which (if appropriate) you can Spont things using that name (and that name only).

So for a Name of Power - whether you use it as a non-spellcast bonus in Theurgy labwork, or in Invocation Magic, or in Consummate Talisman - must be learnt as a spell. You can't spont a Name you don't know; you can Spont one you do know (if you must)

Although the game-book TMRE writes about Names Of Power as MuVi spells with a game bonus, it also tries to describe them as real but complex magical names which must be studied until you understand the symbology behind them.

Absolutely not if you have not studied the Name; in principle "yes" once you have learnt it.
You must work hard and overcome their innate resistance to yielding their secret name - but if you know a particular Name you can spont it - but...

You can learn the Name by research (as given) or from a lab-text from a magus who knows the Name. Once you know the name then the Guideline for Hermetic Synthemata is a level equal to Might - so usually you will find it very hard to Spont this.
If you have studied and learnt the name of a modest Might being (say 20) then you may be able to spont it.

Synthemata Magia is different - once you have intuited the Name you have a General Guideline (level = Casting Score bonus) against that spirit, and can devise any spell or (as stated in the text!) spont it. This differs from Hermetic Synthemata where the GL is fixed at level=Might.

Again, in principle "yes" - but first you must locate and make a Pact with one particular spirit (worked out as lab work to devise a spell). Once you have a Pact you can research additional variant spells to summon it, or spont spells to summon it. Note that Sponting is a very inefficient way to summon such spirits, especially Spirit Of Form (which halves its Might to determine level of spell that it Sponts).

Great Elixir is clearly explained as an enchantment that you Invest into a Device (in the form of a consumable potion). You make the device and then drink it or eat it; this destroys the device but hopefully transfers its effects "mysteriously" onto yourself...

Living Ghost is a pair of actual genuine Ritual spells (no Sponting there then!) which you cast. Since the 2nd spell kills the caster and destroys their body, then yes, it's a one-shot spell!

Ascendancy is performed by two real ritual spells (no Sponting!). The ascending magus casts the Ascendant Form spell and is temporarily perfected; while that spell lasts his "ground crew" of followers perform the Transformation ritual on him, and hope to succeed. They probably don't first time, but accumulate points towards success.

which Flaws are you thinking of?

Any of the above, depending on the personality of the Cult and of the Mystagogue leading the Initiate


E) the One True Path is important for the development of your Spirit, and it is imperative you follow it. You are Flawed little-one, and must undergo Ordeals (*) to Purify yourself before you can follow the Path.
(*ie Initiate to remove Flaws)

We probably should have included Initiations to eliminate a Flaw as well as to gain a Virtue. Treat losing a Flaw like gaining an equivalent Virtue. Note that the Mystagogue will not in general "know" the Flaw, as they either never had it, or got rid of it..., to the Initiation Level uses the higher band (18 or 30)

Again, you have been quite helpful. Thanks for you time and skill.

Yes, whenever I asked about the possibility for sponting Theurgy spells, I meant about Names of Power and Synthemata the character would know from having performed the necessary research and lab work as detailed in TMRE. Sorry if I did not clarified it.

Yes, this is the kind of extensive clarification and explanation I was seeking for. Too bad it didn't got the space to be included in the book as well. Yes, my purpose was to know if and how it was possible to spont a Name of Power (or Synthemata, or Invoke Pact) you did know from having done the necessary research and lab work to master the mystical nuances of the Name. I just wanted to know whether it was still possible for a formulaic-impaired mage to use the Names they researched (i.e. if it made any sense for such a mage to pursue Theurgy at all without initiating away the stumbling block Flaw).

Thanks for the clarification. It appears you can easily do it for the Names of Power and Invocation Magic branch of the school, which made rough sense to me, but I wished for a confirmation.

Therefore, for the "slow and powerful" approach to Synthemata, the answer is, yes you can Spont the Synthemata you have researched, but it's not quite an efficient method, better to use the "quick and weak" Synthemata Magic if you can, or indeed find a way you can use formulaic magic efficiently. Which indeed makes sense, from my POV. Anyway, as a side note, I think pretty much any theurgist who has both virtues would use Synthemata Magic first and foremost with the weaker entities she is most likely to met, only rarely resorting to the very time-consuming Hermetic Synthemata method when the former method absolutely fails.

Yes, the very fact the book explained it was possible to spont this kind of spells, is what inspired me to ask whether it was possible to spont other kinds of known theurgic spells, too.

Yes, it's the the same situation as Hermetic Synthemata then: It's theoretically possible to spont these kind of spells once you have done the necessary lab work to master them, and strike the Pacts, but in practice it's not worth the effort.

Terefore, for a spont-oriented, formulaic-impaired mage, the NaPow-InvMag-SynMag triad retains full value and usefulness, whereas the HerSyn-HerTheu is not really worth the effort of initiation. Now, since I assume that most theurgic cults would offer, or require, either of the latter as "gateway", first-taught, initiations, such a mage should likely be advised to kindly ask the Mystagogue either for a substitution (Names of Power looks like a possible valid substitution for either HerSyn or HerTheu as the first Initation in most cases, as it still embodies most of the basic secrets and principles of theurgy), or ask him to devise an Initation script to do away with the Flaw that makes formulaic magic unfeasible.

Ahh, this makes much more sense (and game balance). This way, a ritual-impaired mage can still pursue Great Elixir or faerie Becoming (since I assume it essentially works as a faerie version of the Elixir in practice) as paths to immortality, whereas the enchanting-impaired mage has the Living Ghost or Ascendancy paths still open to him. True, the immortality-obsessed mage has still the option of undergoing a special Initiation to remove the Flaw that is stopping him from using the "house method" taught from his mystery school, instead of pursuing an alternative method, but it is nice to know that alternatives exist.

Of course, unless the thematic affinities between two seemingly different mystery schools are such, and so blatant, that I would assume that for many mystery cults, they would just represent two halves of the same lore: this is typically the case for spirit magic and theurgy, in most cases, I would allow theurgic cults to hold full knowledge of most spirit magic secrets, and viceversa. E.g. Spirit Familiar and Inscription over the Soul are near-essential to pursue Ascendancy in an efficient way. So I can see many cults to hold the knowledge of both Living Ghost and Ascendancy, even if most may prefer to teach one method over the other.

Oh, I was thinking about Flaws like Weak Enchanter, Rigid Magic, Unstructured Caster, Difficult Longevity Ritual, Weak Spontaneous Magic, which make whole blocks of Hermetic magic impossible or terribly inefficient, and how having such Flaws would interfere with the ability to understand and use the mysteries that are highly reliant on such types of Hermetic magic.

Yes, amazing how trying to analyze it in depth the nuances and applications of such a detail-rich (and crunch-feast) book leads you to note all kinds of little additions and explanations that really should have been in the book, if not for savage page-count limits, isn't it ? :frowning:

Now, if it were for me, I'd rank that in most cases, the most productive choices both for the Cult, the Mystagogue, and the initiate, would be the choice of C-E (add it to the standard path a preliminary Initiation to eliminate the Flaw) or D (skip a part of the standard path to Initiate the Virtues that the adept can understand and use).

Do not forget that "Names Of power" alone, with no related Virtue, is essentially useless. It is designed as a complement to others... I would actually imagine that most Theurgic cults would teach Hermetic Theurgy first, as it illuminates the principles of Names.

However, there would be others who would want their Initiates to learn Names Of Power + Invocation Magic instead.

that wasn't the intent.... as per the text in the book, the split between Spirit Magic and Name Magic is related to the way that Hermetic Magic has moved from its origins.

Spirit Magic avoids Names, and uses "abstract power". It seeks out elementals and formless ghosts and such, and tries hard to be compatible with Church prohibitions.

Name magic throws aside Church feelings and goes for the power drawn from invoking powerful beings, most of whom require sacrifices or even worship. Name magic uniformly has the "flaw" that you must speak the Name(s) loudly and clearly - enough for the Spirits to hear, and also enough for all witnesses to hear and note!

Name Magic has use for some of the Spirit Magic magics; but those who have turned away from forbidden magics will not want to be associated with any who taint themselves with such things...

I think most cults are much more focussed than that, (as per the examples), and more restrictive of their inner secrets.

One particular meta-rule is that actually achieving Immortality is very rare, and almost no magi actually succeed. It was never our intention to make it easy or straightforward to reach the final goal.

In general, if it is hard for a character to follow a particular path to Immortality, then though - it is meant to be. They must work long and hard, to even have a chance to reach the goal.

Never forget that the Flaws of a character enabled them to have the Virtues which they have relied on throughout their career - without the Flaws they would not be as powerful as they are!

If it were for me, I would design some cults for the benefit of the existing Mystagogues, to obtain service and sacrifices from the lesser Initiates in return for manifest benefits - like parens and filius
and other cults as a mystic quest for power, where the Initiates follow a specific path which is believed to provide the required growth.

I'm not a one to believe that cults should be designed or modified to work round the failings of any one character, PC or not.

Yes, you're essentially right, speaking as concerns the average Hermetic mage. My point was about the infrequent Flawed exception that may have troubles with formulaic and/or ritual magic. Usually, Hermetic Theurgy would be a good default introduction for most cults to the practice of Names, starting with dealings with relatively minor (spell) spirits, before proceeding to godlike entities. Apart from the exceptions I mentioned, it would typically be the most sensible or resonable approach. Or in somewhat less common circumstances, Names of Power.

I would have some more doubts about using Hermetic Synthemata as the default introductory virtue, since, while I acknowledge the possible usefulness of this virtue to teach basic principles of Names, I see it as rather marginal in routine theurgical practices. The investment of time and effort is just too much for any other application than the very occasional assisting in some Daimonic evocation, or the enslavement or destruction of some especially troublesome mid-to-high-Might supernatural beastie. It's too once in a blue moon to be a good introduction of basic principles the way Hermetic Alchemy or Theurgy might be. I see Hermetic Theurgy, Invocation magic, and Synthemata Magic as the backbone of routine theurgical practice.

Yes, for some cults that focus more on dealings with the major luminaries of the spirit world, they might just start with these Virtues instead.

Yes, speaking from this perspective, you're right. And now that you remind of it, I seem to remember reading about this distinction in the introductions of the respective schools in the book. :blush: My own perspective on the topic was different (biased if you wish) since, as I have explained elsewhere, I typically assume as PC default the perspective of those Hermetic mages that couldn't care less about the Church's opinion of themselves :smiling_imp:, the Names mages, if you wish. I admit that as a default I'm not that mindful about the perspective of the pious Hermetics, and it falls somewaht outside my radar, sorry. :confused:

You'll admit that, by your own argument, if you don't care about the Church, much of the reasons about differentiating spirit and name magic in two different schools falls away. Anyway, in this perspective, it is probably more easy for theurgic mages to branch out their studies into spirit magic lore, than the opposite. And in most cases, I see the most typical case of cross-breeding among the two schools as it concerns Spirit Familiar and Inscription Over the Soul, since these two Virtues are so important and useful for a optimal progress to immortality, both in the Living Ghost and Ascension path, that I would treat them both as a central part of the lore of most spirit magic and theurgy cults. On the opposite seide, some spirit magic cults might still rather care about Hermetic Theurgy (or even synthemata) since the spell spirits, even if not entirely impersonal, are rather low in the spiritual food chain, and more of trusted servants or associates, than venerated patrons.

Personally, I would find it more satisfying and useful a setting that works slightly different, as in, it is not easy or straightforward to reach immortality by any means, but the sufficiently talented, diligent, dedicated, and resourceful mages, actually have a decent to good chance of succeeding. Make them sweat it, but make them succeed if they deserve it. Settings where PCs are expected and assumed to fail by default at anything, no matter how good they try, aren't interesting or rewarding at all. Immortal mages by hook and crook retreat from the world or hide in its hidden corners, and so they don't really stay around to dominate Mythic Europe. And typically, immortality comes as long-term fulfillment in the final part of a saga, or a distant future perspective in the same. Knowing that your mage PC has a decent theoretical chance of grasping it, is more about a feeling of fulfillment than anything else, knowing that your mage, if she works hard enough, has a good chance of "win" her personal Promethean quest by defying death and age, and dodging afterlife judgement (until the end of the world, anyway).

This is only fair, and all good. But If they work sufficiently long and hard, they deserve a fairly good chance. This speaking about the meta-rule approach, of course. As it stands, the rules for the various immortality paths in HoH:MC, TMRE, and GotF seem sufficiently fair and balanced to me. Rather more good than the Lich rules of yore, anyway.

Fair enough. OTOH, doing additional quests to strip them away when they become real stumbling blocks to further mystical progression seems a sufficiently fair way of dealing with the problem. I.e. asking for an Initiation to remove the Flaw as soon as the mage is out of apprenticeship would be rather suspicious and fishy. OTOH, asking it when the Flaw becomes a huge difficulty on really understanding or mastering a mystery is a rather different case.

True enough, but in both the cases you quote, both the Mystagogue and the Initiate stand to gain nothing if no leeway whatsoever is done in the standard curriculum for the individual peculiarites of the initiate (e.g. apart from the "stumbling block" Flaw, another typical case would be when the standard Virtue or Ordeal is already sported by the Initiate). So giving the adept either a chance to deal with the stumbling block by a special "remedial" Initiation or a partial modification of the standard specific path in exchange for additional service seem both the most sensible approach to the problem. The Mystagogue stands to gain his due in additional service and sacrifices he would not get otherwise. At worst, he has to experiment to develop a new or variant script, with an a pricier bill in services, vis, books, sacrifices, enchantements, etc. for the initiate.

Meta-rule as in "given to the Authors by the Line Editor as part of the design".

I'm not saying the system is biassed against reaching Immortality - it's not, it's just hard - but that statistically, very few have attained it in the past, and not many will in the future.

Then I should have to congratulate the authors of TMRE and HoH:MC for having interpreted that questionable meta-rule creatively enough to make the rules fair enough to be playable. As James T. Kirk so eloquently showed, nobody really likes to RP a scenario when you're expected and supposed to fail and die. In that situation, the only decent answer is to cheat and change the rules. Kobayashi Mayu, anyone ? :stuck_out_tongue:

Statistics can be bent by a sufficiently intense application of will and effort. :wink:

and indeed the system is good and fair enough to be useful and interesting to use. If anything, I would have liked some additional option for "no death, only Twilight", mid-level forms of immortality, where you are extempt from Aging rolls, but you keep accumulating warping points till Final Twilight.

Initiating the Unaging Virtue goes a long way towards that... If you find some way to ensure you survive any crisis (suitable application of Waiting spells?) then you should be fine...

Well, indeed, even more so since Unaging is fairly simple to justify Initiating in any mystery path that holds some form of immortality as the final goal (e.g. alchemical, Merinita, spirit magic, and theurgic mysteries), and laso because it is a non-Mystery Supernatural Virtue, and hence, if you are interested into an immortality-seeking character from the start, it is also fairly simple to justify at character creation as long as the character has signficant supernatural affinity with any realm, such as the ever-popular "forever young" Faerie Blood-Unaging combo (or the equivalent for other Realms, such as Hyperborean Descent).

Nonetheless, I would still like to have non-alchemical ways to boost the effectiveness of Longevity Rituals, since lesser Elixir is too strongly thematically linked to the alchemical path. And also variants of Immortality of the Forest that aren't tied to a specific location.

For the first issue, I have no definite solutions (yet), only the tentative idea to allow Faerie and Theurgic mages to initiate Minor Virtues that can boost the effectiveness of Longevity Rituals with Names of Power or permanent charms that are appropriate for longevity, respectively, using rules for Lesser Elixir (alas, I've got no good idea for spirit mages), but this idea should be playtested, yet (any suggestions ?).

For the second issue, I think I've got somewhat of a more definite solution:

Supernatural Life (Major Supernatural Virtue)

The character's life force is sustained by the power of supernatural auras. This Virtue requires The Gift or a Major Supernatural Virtue as a prerequisite, and grants all the benefits of the Unaging Virtue. You do not make an Aging roll for each year you spend in a supernatural aura that grants a bonus to the powers of the realm which you are aligned to (e.g. to a character with The Gift or Strong Faerie Blood, this means Magic and Faerie auras). You instead gain one Warping point. You also do not need to eat, drink, or breathe, while in a mystically nourishing aura, although you may do such things if you wish. This does allow moving from one aura to another, as long as the two auras overlap. You may also venture in mundane areas and retain your longevity by consuming a pawn of a vis type fit for a Longevity Ritual, per week. You do need to eat, drink, and breathe, however. If the character's powers or nature are aligned to more than one supernatural realm, he enjoys the immunity to aging and bodily needs in mundane areas, too. Characters with Supernatural Life become instinctually aware if they are about to leave a mystically nourishing area, much like normal humans may sense the lack of breathable air. This Virtue may sometimes be the result of a supernatural blessing or heritage, but it is most often initiated by mystae that include a quest for immortality in their practices. Drawing nourishment from the Dominion or Infernal auras requires to affirm one's allegiance to that realm: in Infernal areas, one has to remain in a state of mortal sin, and perform some kind of major sin every Moon duration, whereas in the Dominion the character has to avoid mortal sin, and do regular Divine worship and penance for any venial sin, every Moon duration. Supernatural Life does not protect from Aging that is caused by mystical sources (such as Warping). Aging rolls that are caused by overtaxing of one's body and mind (such as from unusual lab routines) generally convert into extra botch dice.