New Criamon Mystery path - What do you think?

Hi all,

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! :smiley: 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!

The Path of Transformation

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.

The Stages of Initiation:

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

Four Spells of Elemental Transformation

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
MuCo 45
Req: Au
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
MuCo 45
Req: Aq
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
MuCo 45
Req: Ig
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
MuCo 45
Req: Te
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]

I would like at the concepts of assencion and fire (fire being the highest element) and look at this for the reasons of conversion to fire for pacifists.

A&A has bits & pieces on it


Hi Andrew - thanks for taking a look at the Path. I'm not quite sure I get your meaning, though. Could you perhaps explain again?

This is really quite lovely...

Do you know, not to be a fanboy, but that means a great deal coming from the author of the Criamon mystery path, my favourite ars author - and a fellow Australian, no less!

Okay, enough gushing.

Thanks for your kind words!

Full disclosure, Jonah submitted this for a saga I'm starting up. We could still use one or two more players, if anyone else reading this might be interested. Now that the shameless plug is done, let's address the topic at hand.

I read through this (probably a bit quickly), and had a hard time finding anything wrong with it, so I asked Jonah to crowd source, see if I was missing something. Jonah developed this quite quickly as a result of a philisophical issue I had with his proposed character's desire for self-transformation while on the Path of the Body.

Given Timothy's high praise, I'm going to approve it, pending any adjustments that I might find necessary after I go over it in more detail this weekend.

Jonah, go ahead and post this over in the saga thread, I'd like to have consensus from the other players, too.

Brilliant - thanks Jonathan. Will do.

In other news, I'm still very interested in getting other people's advice about the Path - so if anyone has any thoughts at all, please feel very free to share them!

What's the point of the fourth station? Is there some house rule? You don't need a lab to study any of those, with the specific exception of studying Vis to improve Magic Theory.


Or to improve the Elemental Arts. But it's certainly true that studying from Vis is rarely the most effective way to improve one's knowledge in most sagas I've seen.

Overall, while I like the theme of the path, I think it's a little underpowered.

Oops, yes, you're right. Arts from Vis is the exception.


Although I agree that it haa fewer of cinematic effects than other Paths, as a play contract negotiation, it's hard to beat. That is, if a player comes up to you and says "I want to do this." then the level of power compared to other possible choices isn't a pre-eminent concern. The concern is "Is this going to fit into the stories we want to tell together?" I've gone to some games and said "I want to play only companions in this game. No, not a Mercere." and that works quite well, even though the opportunity cost of not playing a Mythic Companion is obvious.

To increase the level of pure power, you could make the magician able yo absorb attacks from elemental forces, I suppose, or use elemental matter as an extension of his body, in a really large scale way. I don't see a need to do either, because I think that the original poster has really gotten right the idea of a spiritual progression which happens to have benefits, rather than designing a series of play effects which have a backstory to make them seem less arbitrary.

Thanks again for the kind words, Timothy. As you say, I'm not really concerned to make a Path that's as powerful as the others in game terms; just one that seems like it would be interesting and fun to play.

ezzelino and callen - you guys have a point too. It's certainly no fun to feel like you've been nerfed in some way, just because of your choice of mystical paths. This one is a little under-powered with respect to the others, and that may bother some folks.

So an idea:

What about this, as an additional part of the Major Virtue you get at the Fourth station:

A magus who has reached this station has learned to appreciate the mystical significance of the play of the Elements in nature. Everything the Elements do as they change and transform seems to carry some deeper meaning. Wild storms; high seas; forest fires; deep caverns: these things become, for him, significatios - magically enlightening events. By spending time outside the laboratory immersed in the play of the Elements, the magus may study the Arts of Aquam, Auram, Ignem, Muto, and Terram as if he were studying them from an appropriate quantity of raw vis.

[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; may study Arts from natural Elemental phenomena as if studying from raw vis), first initiation after Intermediate Ordeal -6

Script Bonus +6: quest +3, special time and place +3[/size]

Does that make it too powerful now, do you think?

Not in my opinion. In fact, I find it still somewhat underpowered. The main reason lies in the fact that studying Arts from vis is generally inferior to studying from good books, even disregarding the vis cost.

How about this, as a Major Virtue:

The character finally internalizes the teaching of Empedocles, that the four elements can be "mixed so as to form a man or one of the wild beasts or bushes or birds". In an epiphany, he realizes Bonisagus was wrong: there are only four Forms the world is built upon, and they are the four elements.

The character loses all xps in any Form save the Elemental forms. This affects both current and future xps. Any xp so lost is reassigned to an Elemental Form of the character's choice. From now on, the character treats the lowest of his Elemental Form scores as his score for any other Form, for all purposes. The character is considered to have the Good Teacher Virtue when teaching an Elemental Form, but the Incomprehensible Flaw when teaching any other Form; this includes writing.

This sounds powerful, but not more than than a Major Virtue should be. Effectively, the character is gaining at best a +150% bonus to his Art xps: if he keeps all his Elemental Forms at the same level, every 4 xp spread among them yield 6 "virtual" xps in the other Forms. This bonus is three times the bonus of an Affinity, a Minor Virtue, and is gained only if the character keeps his xps evenly distributed among the four elements, making him a flat Form generalist (which is generally considered a suboptimal choice compared to a magus specializing in a few Forms). The Good Teacher and Incomprehensible effects roughly cancel each other out.

This may interact dangerously with other xp-granting virtues. A quick, harsh fix is to say that any future bonus xps in any Form provided by Virtues is lost without recompense -- with the exception of Elementalist (which suddenly becomes a worthwhile Virtue).

This is definitely true for art forms in the normal range, say 0-20 or so. Of course, just to point out the obvious, it gets a bit less true when your art scores get really high, because suitable books are much harder to get a hold of, if they're available at all. And there's a case to be made that a magus might be at those kinds of art levels, or at least getting somewhere in the vicinity, by the time they reach the fourth station of a mystery path.

Though of course you could totally concentrate on the mystery path early on to the exclusion of improving your Art scores - in which case none of what I just said applies.

I love this - it fits the theme beautifully - much better than what I originally had. The substitution of the elemental Form values for the non-elemental Forms really hits the nail on the head - that's exactly what Empedocles is on about. And always using the lowest form seems a great fix for game balance. I'll be very intrigued to see what others say about it from a game-mechanical perspective - I'm by no means an expert in the ars mechanics, so I don't claim to be able to foresee all the likely consequences of such a move.

One qualm: my goal with the fourth station was to get the magus out of the lab. An elemental transformationalist (?!) at this level of enlightenment shouldn't be hanging out indoors any more - he/she should be out dancing in the wind, playing at the bottom of the ocean, and so forth. That should be the best place for them to study their stuff - not the lab. So I'm a bit reluctant to give up on that entirely. I don't really like the image of the mystic wandering free and boundless through the clouds - only to realise that to improve his Auram he has to hurry back to the dusty lab to hit the books for a season...

Anyway, just to reiterate - what a great idea. I'd be interested to hear some further opinions on the game-mechanical aspects of it.

This is way better than a 150% bonus - way better than three times a Minor Virtue - because the bonus applies to six different Forms at once. Let's calculate how many xp it takes for these magi to raise all of their Forms by 3 xp:

  • Someone with an Affinity in three Forms: 3x2 (to get 3 xp in those Forms) + 7x3 (for the other seven Forms) = 27 xp.
  • Someone with your proposed Virtue: 4x3 (to get 3 xp in each elemental Form) = 12 xp.

In my opinion, galactically overpowed. (Your saga your rules of course.)

I like the OP's proposal: it's not that powerful for younger magi, as ezzelino points out, although it helps a lot for older magi (for whom studying from vis is often their only option). Powerful but at least well-timed in the sequence (since magi will be older by the time they complete stage 4).

It's better to have an underpowered fun mystery : overpowered mysteries just tend to destroy good mood in games.

Unfortunatly not the case. Tractatii are the same regardless of your level, and there need not be an end to their availability.
I wish your above statement was correct, but is is not really supported by the current edition, sorry.

Yes and no.

On the one hand, sure, a Q10 tractatus gives you the same XP whether you've got Ignem 05 or 35.

But on the other hand, you need fresh tractatii to read, which can become a problem. How many different books does one have access too? As you read more and more books, it gets harder and harder to find a book you haven't read yet, or a book of a good enough quality.

This will vary from saga to saga, of course, but it's like pokemon :stuck_out_tongue: : Even in a saga in which there are hundreds of good ignem tractatii, sooner or later, you'll have read them all.
If he's in a saga in which a House rule prevents specialists to gain XP from books written by apprentices, it gets worse.

(Agree with Gerg, btw)

I think your analysis is misleading, gerg, just as if I said "Oh, this virtue is worth nothing really: if even one of your Elemental Forms is 0, all your non-elemental Forms are 0, too!". The problem is that you are comparing this Virtue (let's call it "Empedoclean magic") with Affinity in the scenario most suited to Empedoclean magic -- which is also very ill-suited for taking advantage of an Affinity.

I re-iterate, it's up to a 150% bonus: 4 xp can become 10 xp (=4+1.54) under the best circumstances for Empedoclen Magic, a complete Form generalist who spread all his xps evenly. An Affinity provides a 50% bonus under the best circumstances for Affinity, for a complete specialist who concentrates all his xps into the Affinity Form: 2xp can become 3 xp (=2+0.52) -- I'm disregarding rounding.

But let's look at it this way:
A magus with 1040 xp and Empedoclean Magic can have, effectively, a score of 20 in every Form.
A magus with 1042 xp and Affinity in Ignem can have 40 in Ignem and 10 in every other Form.

Is the Empedoclean magus so that much ahead in terms of raw power? The total number of xp he has is certainly much higher. But the Ignem specialist can get by doing most stuff with just his Ignem (see Ranulf), which is twice the score of the Empedoclean's 20. And if the Ignem specialist really needs that Corpus effect ... he can just pay, e.g. in kind, a specialist in Corpus to provide it.

That said: I completely agree with Exarkun and Timothy Ferguson etc. about the fact that if something is underpowered, and the player likes it that way ... well, that's certainly a perfect situation. I was just pointing what my perception of the power level was.

Finally, if you feel Empedoclean magic is too powerful, and want the magus to be a roving wanderer, you can certainly combine it with: Study requirement + no need for a lab to study Forms. Then the magus will be seeking out more and more powerful "natural" elemental environments to study "in the wild".

Your "Empedoclean magic" virtue is clearly overpowered compared to the existing virtues, that is, for example with "xps relation" : secondary insight or elemental magic.