So - I've pretty thoroughly written up a new Mystery Path for Criamon magi, and am wondering what other people think of it. It's my first try, so don't be too harsh! There's plenty of room for improvement, I'm sure.
Criamon magi who walk the Path of Transformation try to reach the Hypostasis by transforming themselves, physically, into other forms - particularly into the Elemental forms of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. That's the gist. See below for more details!
Anyway, what do you think? What do you like? What needs to be improved? Love to hear your thoughts!
[size=150]The Path of Transformation[/size]
A Bit of Philosophy
As the name suggests, the Path of Transformation focuses on the magic of self-transformation. Criamon magi following this Path believe that Empedocles’ most important insight was his discovery of the Four Elements, and his theory that the constant Change and Transformation of those Elements makes up the world. Magi following this Path put great stock in the words with which Empedocles opens Purifications, his great treatise on the origin of the world:
[Note: Yes, these are actual quotes from the real Empedocles, lightly adjusted]
Empedocles thus believed that the world is, in essence, a continuous process of transformation of the four basic Elements. To Magi on the Path of Transformation, this means that the best path to mystical understanding is to learn to directly experience the transformations that make up the world. This involves learning to dissolve the corporeal body into its constituent Elements of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water, and to resolve those elements into other forms. Magi on this Path hope that their embrace of the materiality of the Elements, and their surrender to the transformative force that drives the Elements onwards, and will eventually lead them to a complete understanding of the universe, and thus to an escape from it.
A Bit of History:
The Path is an old one, much associated with pagan practices of self-transformation that pre-date the Order. For this reason, it fell out of favour during the Schism War – in the firmness of their rejection of House Diedne and all that it stood for, some even within House Criamon saw the Path of Transformation as tainted by its old association with druidic practices. Still, a number of spectral Primi who followed the Path in centuries past remain in the Cave of Twisting Shadows, ready to Initiate any suitable Criamon who wishes to follow them.
[size=150]The Stages of Initiation:[/size]
1 – The Avenue of Attunement to the Elements and the Station of Acceptance of Transformation
Finding the first Station on the Path of Transformation involves giving up the vast majority of one’s worldly goods and spending a season living entirely unprotected against the Elements. This season involves a great deal of physical hardship, as the magus must live naked in the wilderness, regularly immersing himself in the turbulent waters of the sea during storms, sweating next to raging fires, and climbing sharp and painful rocky cliffs in order to expose himself to the harsh winds. The magus must come to accept that the hardships he faces are only the result of his failure to properly attune himself to the Elements, and his unwillingness to surrender to the process of their transformation.
The process of finding the first station teaches the magus to attune himself to the transformations of the Elements. He may thereafter read the signs of that transformation in the world around him, using his Enigmatic Wisdom score in lieu of the Abilities Survival and Swim. He also learns to internalise the profound truth of transformation, applying what he learned of the Elements to himself (Minor Potency in Self-transformation). In order to succeed in the initiation, the magus must cultivate a profound fatalism - an attitude of cheerful acceptance of whatever life has to offer (Minor Flaw: Carefree). In addition, the difficulty of the initiation reinforces his belief in the philosophy of Criamon (Minor Flaw: Pious). The sign of the success of the initiation is the manifestation of the first of his Criamon stigmata (Minor Flaw: Disfigured).
[size=85]Initiation Script for the First Station:
Target Level 21, as Major Virtue (Minor Potency in Self-transformation, may use Enigmatic Wisdom in lieu of Survival and Swim)
Script Bonus +13: Major Ordeal comprising 3 Minor Flaws (Carefree, Pious, Disfigured) +9, Sacrifice +1, Quest +3.[/size]
2 – The Avenue of Attunement with the Microcosmic Transformation and the Station of the Inner Spharios
In search of the Second Station on the Path of Transformation, the magus must take a long and difficult journey, making heavy use of the skills he acquired during his previous initiation. The actual details of the journey vary from magus to magus – some magi are called to make a long sea voyage, alone, in a tiny boat; others to go by foot to a distant mountain – but it always takes him into a place of deep solitude, where he can rely on nothing but the raw Elements. He suffers from weariness, hunger, and thirst; in response, he must not despair, but instead turn his attention inwards, to experience the transformation of the Elements inside him. The emotional and spiritual acceptance of the fact of outer change that he learned at the First Station is now brought to bear on his inner changes. The deriving of nourishment from food and drink; breathing air in and out; passing from weariness to sleep; even aging from youth to old age – all of these things gradually come to seem mere processes of transformation, neither to be loved nor feared. He comes to accept the fact of his constant change, and to cease longing for or resisting it. This surrender grants him a certain mastery over these kinds of transformations.
A magus who has attained this station learns to take substance from the Elements themselves, taking pure Elemental matter into himself in a process of endless change. Gradually, in place of sleep, food, and even aging, he comes to spend time each day simply changing from form to form, relishing the flux of the Elements. As long as he is able to engage in regular and sustained transformations for 6-7 hours per day, he may go without a longevity ritual, air, sleep, food, or water. Such constant use of magic is not without its price, however: the magical energies being called up accumulate in the body, causing the magus to add 1 warping point / year.
[size=85]Initiation Script for the Second Station
Target Level 12, as Major Virtue 21 (replaces the longevity ritual and the need to eat, drink or sleep as per HoM 62, except that meditation is replaced by transformation and immersion in the Elements), first Initiation after Major Ordeal -9
Script Bonus +6: quest +3, special time and place +3
3 – The Avenue of Disciplined Instruction and the Station of Aptness
Once the magus on the Path of Transformation can sustain himself through transformation alone, he is deemed to have proved himself capable of advanced instruction. In search of the Third Station, he spends a season learning directly from his Guide.
This is a difficult process, but often a very fulfilling one. Criamon instruction is not a hierarchical process, so the Initiate and the Guide deem themselves, not master and student, but fellow-travellers. Often, they become friends; and sometimes the Guide learns as much during the season as the Initiate. The Guide enjoys seeing the Initiate gain in mastery, and the Initiate relishes the chance to play the game of Transformation with the Guide. Together, they tumble joyously from form to form. This kind of co-operative instruction, combined with the Initiate’s new-found sensitivity to both the outer and the inner changes of matter, allows both to unlock new aspects of self-transformation.
By the end of this happy period, the magus will have lost the need to use either words or gestures when casting spells of self-transformation (Minor Virtue: Deft Self-Transformation). He will also have learned to end his spells at will, so as to avoid being trapped in uncomfortable forms (Minor Virtue: Harnessed Magic). Close companionship with the Guide is also a kind of moral education, and the Initiate ‘s commitment to the ethic of Criamon deepens (Change Pious from a Minor to a Major Flaw).
[size=85]Initiation Script for the Third Station
Target Level 15, as Major Virtue 21 (This Major Virtue is made up of two minor virtues [Deft-Self-Transformation and Harnessed Magic] and access to four special “Elemental Transformation” spells, as outlined below), second initiation after Major Ordeal -6
Script Bonus +9: Intermediate Ordeal (change Pious from Minor to Major Flaw) +6, Mystagogues’s time +3[/size]
4 - The Avenue of Joyful Surrender to the Tumble of the Inspiratio and the Station of Roiling in Change
Once the time with the Guide is over, the Initiate is ready to re-enter the flux of the transformation of the Elements alone. In order to proceed, the magus must leave any settled home and immerse himself in the wild energies of the changing Elements for a season. This is like his first journey into the Elements, in that he goes naked and unaided – but this time he is aided by the power of transformation he has so acquired, and so he is able to go much further and deeper. The magus must spend time alone in nature to harmonise himself with each of the Elements. He might harmonise himself with Water by lying, for weeks at a time, at the bottom of a sea or lake; with Air by floating across the heavens as a cloud, and so on. He learns to take joy in the pure movement from form to form; both around him and inside him. At this point his greatest satisfaction lies in the feeling of the rapid fluctuations of his own matter as it runs though its endless transformations.
In so doing, he achieves a new level of understanding of the materiality of the elements, and of the constant changes they undergo. At the end of the process, he returns to his Guide, who initiates him with a long dance of mutual transformation on the anniversary of the day he first asked the Guide to aid him in his journey along this Path. He gains the ability to study all things as they transform into one another, without any external aid save his immersion in the Elements themselves. Once he reaches this Station, he is able to study Arts, as well as Magic Theory and Enigmatic Wisdom, without the aid of a laboratory. He must still use a laboratory for other magical tasks: the creation of magic objects, the binding of familiars, and so on.
[size=85]Initiation Script for the Fourth Station
Target Level 15, as Major Virtue 21 (May study Arts, magic Theory and Enigmatic Wisdom without the aid of a laboratory), first initiation after Intermediate Ordeal -6
Script Bonus +6: quest +3, special time and place +3[/size]
5 – The Avenue of Ceaseless Transformation and the Threshold of Repose in Change
At the end of many years of investigation, experiment, and research, the magus begins to feel that he is on the verge of achieving a true understanding of the Elemental transformations that make up the universe. At this point, he is ready to try to reach the final Station on the Path of Transformation – the Threshold of Repose in Change.
The process is long and arduous, and no Guide can help him with it. He must go on four journeys, each to a site of vast elemental power; and he must immerse himself in the Elements there. At the end of the process, he must return to some place of overwhelming significance to him – often, by this stage, the Cave of Twisting Shadows, but it could be elsewhere – on the anniversary of his first manifesting the Gift. A brief ritual, and the process is complete. He is ready to achieve Repose.
Magi who remain on the Threshold, rather than accepting Repose, manifest a nearly complete power to dissolve into the Elements that make up the Spharios, transforming themselves at will. In addition, they seem to all intents and purposes immune from harm delivered by way of any Elemental form. Usually, however, they do not remain in this world long, but instead pass into Twilight, and presumably on into the Hypostasis.
[size=85]Initiation Script for the Fifth Station
Target Level 26, Major New Virtue (Repose in Change) 30, second initiation after Intermediate Ordeal -4
Script Bonus +16: four quests +12, special time and place +3, must discover the day he first manifested the Gift +1
[size=150]Four Spells of Elemental Transformation[/size]
These are the special spells you get access to once you reach the Third station. Three of them are basically the same as existing spells, but with duration increased from Sun to Moon. (They’re for transformative types who like to stay in Elemental form for long periods, just for the sake of it)
Just as a cosmetic matter: I also want to describe their effects a bit differently from the standard. With the existing “transform into water” and “cloak of mist” spells, you imagine the caster’s body turning into water, or mist, and then moving around as a big lump of that substance. I’d like to imagine these spells as acting a little bit less mechanically, a little more metaphorically or magically, than that.
So, for instance, rather than imagining that the magus is just transforming his molecules into water molecules, as it were, I’d like to have us imagine that the magus is truly becoming one with the water around him. If he turns into water while bathing in a stream, for example, he shouldn’t be a discrete blob of water floating within the other water – he should just be a vague rumour of magic playing around a particular part of the river. He's part of the river, now - which is to say that he’s actually dissolved into the river; he’s not a blob of magus/water floating in it.
To make the point again: he really is water, now, not just a vaguely man-sized lump of it, so there's no problem with him being all split up into different parts, or anything like that - water does that all the time. Of course, if people were targeting him with attacks, he would still be right in that part of the water for targeting and damage purposes.
So that’s an idea for a cosmetic effect that would have, I think, no effect, or exceedingly minimal effect, on actual gameplay – but that I think makes the character’s magic feel a bit more special.
[size=85]One with the Wind
R: Per, D: Moon, T: Ind
Allows the caster to transform into air. Exactly the same as ‘Cloak of Mist’(Ars Magica p131), but with Moon duration rather than Sun, and caster takes the form of air marked by his sigil, rather than mist.
(Base 30, +3 Moon)
One with the Water
R: Per, D: Moon, T: Ind
Allows the caster to transform into water. Exactly the same as ‘Transform into Water’ (Ars Magica p131), but with Moon duration rather than Sun.
(Base 30, +3 Moon)
One with the Fire
R: Per, D: Moon, T: Ind
Allows the caster to transform into fire. Treat the fire as doing +15 damage to those it touches. Naturally, any Criamon in a position to learn this spell would be a devout pacifist, and so would avoid this.
(Base 30, Moon +3)
One with the Stone
R: Per, D: Moon, T: Ind
Allows the caster to meld with any stone in range. Note that this is not transforming into a stone statue, but actually melding into the substance of the rock itself. It is the same as ‘The Silent Vigil’ (Ars Magica p 132) except that you cannot hear or sense anything going on outside the rock, and you can exit at a different point from which you entered, as long as you could have moved there at your normal speed.
(Base 25, +3 Moon, +1 special effect of movement through)[/size]