This is my first saga that has shown folks interested in mystery cults. Following a near-death experience in Hell and the following miraculous recovery in the abbey on Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Renoir aka Ferrator Panvictus will be creating his own mystery cult, after finding one day a book in silver ink, next to his bed - written in his own hand.
This book outlines the cult, and the knowledge he has intuitively grasped after his escapades in Hell, but states it in a clearer manner.
The player and I have gone back and forth over the specifics of the Cult, which he envisions as an Order of Chivalric Magi who see living a virtuous life as necessary due to the power entrusted to them by the divine. Magic, in the eyes of this cult, places you closer to God than the common man, but also bears with it the responsibility to use this gift to noble ends. It's sort of looking like a militant medieval Americorps. The player wants a Divine connection, but without a need to deal with the Church - a bit heretical, but hey, mages are forward thinkers... or arrogant, take your pick.
So, here's the rough sketch for "The Hand of Hermes" - a working title, for now. Initially he approached it a bit power gamery, but the flavor for the cult is gelling and he's adding in more flavory things and less "More Fight Better!" virtues.
Rough notes follow. In particular the "Holy Oath" virtue is of interest. He wants a 'holy feel' at the high end, but Holy Magic seems too nutty and extreme for him to follow. He's also considering swapping Rank 2 and 3.
Outer Circle - focused on service to the common man as well as self-empowerment and virtuous living.
Rank 1: The Hand At Peace: Virtue gained - Self Confident. Trial: A year without casting magic. Here the supplicant attempts to reconnect with the trials of the common man, and abstain from magic use. He finds himself renewed with purpose and self-knowledge.
Rank 2: The Hand That Shields: (Shields of Hermes): Virtue Gained: Puissant Parma Magica. After the year's fast, the initiate notes how easily common men fall prey to the depredations of supernatural forces, and learns how to increase his knowledge of Parma Magica to shield others, and act in their defense. As a trial, the initiate must seek out a place victimised by a supernatural being, and aid the denizens in destroying or removing the threat by in some other fashion.
Rank 3: The Hand That Toils: (Serfs of Hermes) Virtue Gained: Puissant Craft/Profession or Affinity with Craft/Profession if an appropriate Craft is known by the character. The initiate uses a craft or skill to aid a people in need for a year, and receives a deep insight into this skill as he meditates during this year of service. Magic cannot be used to aid those he is performing service for, unless it also is using a Craft instead of Finesse. The initiate must know a craft or profession at level 1 before he takes a step on this path. (Alternate initiation script could allow Single Weapon if the knight spends a year guarding pilgrimage routs)
Inner Circle - these ranks take the lessons of the earlier tiers and examines their divine origin, and turns attention towards the combating of the dark beings most inimical to man.
Rank 4: The Hand That Prays: (Monks of Hermes) Virtue Gained: Student of the Divine. At this level, virtuous living gives way to more focused reflection on the Divine. The supplicant must perform a service for the Church, though this can be done on the local level as opposed to dealing with an Archbishop...
Rank 5: The Hand That Draws The Sword: (Knights of Hermes) - Virtue Gained: Puissant Penetration. The initiate turns his attention from the workings of angels to the iniquitious working of demons and other being anathematic to man. As a trial, the initiate must slay a creature of great power, though he can be aided by companions or sodales. He must, however, bloody the creature in question. Also, the Knight must swear an oath to always warn a human who will be targeted by his magic with the declaration "I am a Knight of Hermes"
Rank 6: The Hand That Brings Light To Darkness: (Crusaders of Hermes) Virtue Gained: ??? (Adjuration, from the Realms of Power: Divine book, Affinity with Vim (or a form that a supernatural being can associate with), or a Minor Magical Focus in Demons). The few who advance this far into the Hand of Hermes take their focus on protecting Christendom from supernatural threats and focus their attention on demons, creating potent spells to dismiss, bind, or ward against demons. As a trial, they must destroy a demon, or reclaim a profaned holy place with the help of holymen/women.
Rank 7: The Hand That Makes The Cross: (Cruciators of Hermes?) Virtue Gained: Holy Oath. The Pinnacle of the Hand, the few at this level of initiation commonly pursue those evils that lurk in cities and other holy auras that are hard for lesser Hands to confront. Their Oaths are not lightly pursued.
New Major Supernatural Virtue: Holy Oath. Allows the possessor to fast a day and a night and make an oath to accomplish a virtuous deed. Any magic cast in pursuit of this deed and judged as virtuous ignores the malign influence of the Infernal's aura, or the power of the Divine. However, any botch resultant from magic cast that does not directly accomplish the oath gains an extra die, and any botch that occurs while under the oath that is not a virtuous use of magic results in double the botch dice. Additionally, while under an oath, any interactions with mundanes ignores the effect of the Gift, as long as such an interaction furthers the quest directly. Failure to act virtuously results in the Blatant Gift being inflicted for a year upon the violator of the Oath.
Again, rough sketch territory. Only vague ideas of initiation scripts and so on...