Non-magical "mysteries"

[color=darkred]I just sent this to the Berk list so I appologize to those of you who are members for the double post .

Now that some of you have seen HoH mystery cults I'd
like to gather your reaction to the idea of expanding
the mystery mechanic outside of magic.

For instance, a character could join the mystery
initiation group "The University of Paris" which uses
artes liberales as it's lore. The character would
undergo an ordeal consisting of going to lots of
classes, being tested and gettting their writing
criticised. They may initiate in virtues like book
learner, good student, or good teacher and end up with
flaws like impovrished and poor eyesight.

A Venician glass blowing "mystery" might give pussiant
skill glass blowing and also obligations to the city.

You'd use exactly the same rules for initiation
scripts as magical mysteries. Thoughts?

Well first I'm surprised no one responded to this. I was waiting for a few responses before I chimed in.

I haven't had an opportunity to play a lot of Ars 5, I don't have Mystery Cults yet, but between the Core book, Divine, and discussion on line I'm getting an idea of how the redux Mysteries work.

Second, yes I think Erik makes a case for skills working in a manner like Mysteries. In particular, glass blowing. Sadly, I'm slightly familiar with the history of Murano Glass and the techniques to create this glass. These techniques were guarded secrets, creating a world wide monopoly. I worked in the lighting business for about 14 years and I can tell you two seperate points. First, Murano Glass is still regarded as artistically superior to hand blown glass from other parts of the world. Second, the companies I worked with have recently started bribing glass makers to leave Murano and come to America. While bribes and secrets have always escaped Murano, this is roughly 700 years later they are still trying to get techniques out of these people! I point this out to show just how powerful and lasting an artisan secret can be.

Third, while I think the history and feel of the game supports the idea of skills as mysteries, I'm afraid that such a modification may not compliment the game. Typically people probably don't play an glass blower and while they might play an univeristy scholar, I don't know if the average player would want a magus or companion to go through additional initiation processes inorder to gain acess to mundane information.

In our game, initiation and ritual has always been important to the learning process. Long before the mysteries we had apprentices doing things like spending a week in the wood with their pater 'sensing nature'. While I think it's intrigueing and even reasonable to say that a collegiate belongs to an organization and was initiated into the organization be it through hazing or study, I'm relucant to add a mechanical element to learning skills.

But remember I lean towards rules light when ever possible. If mysteries existed for skills and knowledges I think it would develop a better appreciation of how rare and unique this sort of information was at the time. That sort of appreciation is almost strong enough to make me consider adding the modification to learning skills. It would be great to see in fanzine! Hint :wink:

Nice one, Erik.

I haven't really read any of the new Mysteries mechanics beyond those in Guardians but in essence all you're talking about is a way to gain virtues clustered around a central theme. Nothing wrong with that at all.

It's those things that start to make companion-level characters look a little more playable to those who generally only play their magi.

It also leaves the character a little more open at the beginning of play. If you feel you need to take all 10 v&f, the character is pretty much fully formed. If you know that story events are going to shape your character, you might leave them a little more of a blank slate and take only those key things that sufficiently define him.

Hopefully, this idea will be picked up for the cities book I've heard rumoured.

An interesting idea.

I've been considering doing the same for martial techniques for a long time now. D&D and Ars Magica have very similar in-game mechanics but very different character-generation mechanics. This would make it possible to bring some of D&D's martial (or other) Feats to the game, to allow companion characters to grow in ways that are more varied and powerful than a mere increase in a martial ability score. Unlike D&D, a warrior-based character would still not be balanced with a magus, but may nevertheless be more varied and hence interesting.
Of course, that would go against the grain of the simplicity of Ars Magica combat, which I very much like.

For example, consider the Beast Lore chain of feats from Iron Heroes, slightly modified:

The Path of the Beast
You have studied a wide variety of beasts and monsters. Even when you encounter a creature you have never seen before, your knowledge helps you guess at its strengths and weaknesses.

The Mystagogues of this tradition are wild men living in the forests of northern Germany, descendants of the barbarians Rome never conquered. Some have also been tought these mysteries directly by forest spirits.

This mystery path has 5 stations. The relevant Lore for these mysteries is Legend Lore, which must be higher than the station. So to successfully master the fourth station, for example, requires a Legend Lore of 5. Only characters with positive Intelligence may walk this path.

Beast Lore: Station 1
In combat, you can make an Intelligence check in lieu of moving to study a single nonhumanoid monster. You may still act in the round, but not move. Divide your check by 3, rounding up. You gain lore tokens equal to the result.

You can spend 1 lore token to grant you and all allies who can see and hear you a +1 bonus to attacks against the creature for 1 round. This benefit reflects your insights into the creature’s tactics, biology, and movement.

Using your tokens in this manner is a free action, taking no appreciable time but possible only on your turn. If the result of your Intelligence check is less than 5, you lose 1 token. If you have no tokens, you and all your allies suffer a –1 penalty to attacks and damage against the creature for 1 round as you offer them faulty or incorrect advice.

Allies must be within 60 feet and able to see and hear you. The benefits you grant with this feat apply to the targeted creature and all other monsters of the same species. For example, if you target a huge spider, the bonuses you grant with your lore tokens apply to any or all huge spiders.

You can build up tokens against one type of opponent at a time. If you switch targets, you lose the tokens that you have already built up for this ability, unless the new target is the same species as the original one. You can build up a lore token pool equal to your level + 10. Tokens beyond this maximum go to waste. The tokens last only until the end of the encounter.

Wilding Defense: Station 2
You watch the monster’s tactics and attack forms, using the information you gather to grant you or an ally advice for defending against it.

You can spend 1 lore token to grant a single ally a +1 active bonus to defense against the creature for 1 round. Using your tokens this way is a free action, taking no appreciable time but possible only on your turn. You can spend a number of tokens equal to your Intelligence bonus in this manner each round.

Lore of the Beasts of Legend: Station 3
You watch the monster’s special attacks, gaining an insight into how they work that could save your life. You can spend 1 lore token to grant you or a single ally a +1 bonus to all rolls to defend against or avoid the creature’s special attacks for 1 round, and furthermore gain a Magic Resistance against its special attacks equal to your Legend Lore. Using tokens this way is a free action. You can spend a number of tokens equal to your Intelligence bonus in this manner each round.
[Got carried away with the MR here, but hey...]

Bane of Beasts: Station 4
You study the monster’s anatomy, seeking a weakness you can exploit. If you spend 4 lore tokens, you may treat a natural roll of "9" as if it was a "0" on your stress attack roll, increasing the probability of an extraordinary success. This benefit applies against the target of your lore pool and lasts for 1 round.

Bane of Dragons: Station 5
Your knowledge of the monster’s anatomy allows you to direct your allies to make deadly attacks against it. For every 2 tokens you spend, you grant yourself or an ally an extra simple die of damage. This damage is in addition to any normal damage, but you must still hit. You can grant a maximum number of extra dice equal to your Intelligence bonus (so, someone with an Intelligence bonus of +3 could grant three extra dice of damage).

Furthermore, you may spend up to 5 tokens when using the Lore of Beasts ability, increasing the MR by x1 each time up to 5 x Legend Lore.