Thirty percent of NPCs might be high if you mean non House Mysteries, but otherwise I use them quite a bit. First off, two of the five PCs are Bjornaer. And there is a Corybantes NPC who is a major foe. And I have other mysteries around. The rules in 5e Mysteries are better it seems to me, but I like the 4e Mysteries' sample organizations more (some overlap, of course).
I never really thought about it before, but I suppose between the four Mystery Houses, whatever secrets Ex Miscellanea may hold, and a modest assortment of other random cults the number of magi involved in the mysteries can really add up!
That said, in my Sagas characters rarely progress very far into the cults. Most undergo 1 or 2 initiations on average (My games tend to be really low-powered though).
IMS, of the 6 PC magi, 2 are from Mystery Cult Houses, and one is active in another Mystery Cult.
We haven't really playes a lot, and most of the campaign background is from our previous 4th ed sagas. So I can't really say about the NPCs, no one really important has had any Mysteries initated.
One of the themes that makes out Saga differ from SAW (setting as written) is that House Merinita has split, and exists no more in their previously well-known form. The nature-oriented minority have split from their faerie-oriented brethren, forming House Mendalus (while the faerie part were renames House Quendalon). House Mendalus took with them the few Nature Mysteries, plus we whipped up some additional ones. Back in the day, when Quendalon and the faerie-focus took over in Merinita, a lot of nature-oriented magi fled to Ex Miscellanea and Bjornaer, and now they return to their true House.
Of the two Mystery House PCs, one is a Bjornaer, deep into the Inner Mysteries. The other is a Mendalus, who has only skimmed the surface.
Personally I play a Flambeau Hoplite, who is fairly high into the ranks of Legion of Mithras. Plus she had inittated Greater Talisman mystery.
Mind you, this saga is set with magi 30 years out of gauntlet, to continue after the old 4th ed saga stopped.
Over the 7 years i've been part of our campaign we've had players come and go.
Under the new rules we've had 4 mysteries. 3 mystery cults, A Bjornear, A 4th ed Criamon (so not really a mystery as such), we have a Merinita currenlty and a flambeau mithras follower. this is 4 out of 9 players, but if the cult house membership was lower, the mystery house mebership would quite probably be less.
Looks like the saga I am in is the odd one out. Including Mystery houses, four of the PC magi are definitely persuing mysteries and the Bonisagus may be (at least a very minor one).
The storyguide is playing everything very close to the vest, but the impression that I have is that a majority of mature magi know at least one Secret insight into magic.
Alchemy seems popular and there are all sorts of mystical lineages. Of the PCs we have a Bjornear witha magpie heartbeast, a Verditius with an in-house confraternity of alchemists, a Jerbiton following Pendule, and a Tytalus getting into spirit magic.
I picked the "Mystery houses only" as the next choice is a bit too far reaching even if some are used.
Good choice! We did pretty much the same. Its houses Merinita (Quendalon / False Merinita) and Myanar(true Merinita) here. On the basis that Myanar quit before getting wiped out and instead went all politics on them.
House Myanar gets a free Minor Magic Focus with Familliars OR Inoffensive to Animals OR Personal Vis Source (naturebased).
We have no members of MC houses here, so it would be option 1: nobody or 3. Nobody IMS has shown much interest6 in them, though. We prefer vanilla hermetic magfic or completely unhermetic magic (gruagach et al) here. My ex miscellanea wolfie is the weirdest one in the lot when it comes to magic (personality is an iother issue), and it is not THAT far away from regular hermetics.
The split of the Merinitae is something I have always liked. In fact, I really liked some articles in durenmar.de detailing a much broader distribution of hosues, inlcluding 20-30 overall houses IIRC. Made for a different kind of setting. Never used it, though, except for PC and NPC inspiration. Splitting both house Merinita and house Bonisagus makes perfect sense.
Call me a heretic, but mysteries really don't work for me. I dislike the way the ArM line in general tries to make magic interesting and more "medieval" by presenting alternatives to Hermetic magic, rather than adding interest to the magic that any magus can learn.
I do, kind of, use them for NPC conspirators, but only the concept of secret and mystical cabals -- not the mechanics.
For me 4th was the edition of "you need a degree in medieval scholarship". 5th is the edition of the matematician munchkin. Soome cool concepts, but most of the time they are buried quite deep inside the piling mechanics for being really useful for my saga.
My opinion is diametrically opposed to your's here. The mysteries are a way to roleplay. The rules ensure that you can not get more power through Mysteryes without playing stories to justify them. Creating a rego reading circle is the polar opposite: less roleplayig, less fantasy and more munchkin.
THe Mystery rules specifically require a story to gain an ability. They also require seasons of sacrifice to the mystery cult and season thrown into raising the otherwise useless score of (cult) lore. That is more roleplaying less munchkinism.
There are a few misssteps like verditious elder runes in the Mystery cults but there are equally many in the core rules.
One thing that I like about Mystery Cults is that they give older magi a viable alternative to becomming a generalist. In previous editions as a magus advaned within a specialty the amount of value they recieved for continuing their themeatically cool specialty soon began to pale when compaired to the advantages that they would see from becomming more generalized. Now the specialist can initiate into a mystery virtue and then send years intigrating the mystery virtue with their specialized knowlege. That is the magus who has spent his life developing magics concerning wolves can intiate into anamae magic, sensory magic, hermetic archetechture, Glamour magic or Hermetic Theurgy and then develop all sorts of wolf spells using their new abiities. They don't lose their focus and they are able to gain benefit from their work.
The problem is in the way advancement rules work, then, not with the need to have MC to prevent having a generalist. Somepne proposed the rather cool approach of having a more simplistic +5 to +10 focus in 1-3 areas in your character at cvharacter creation and evolving from there, soy ou would always excel in certaina reas. I find this much more satisfying than having to become part of a mystery cult to matter when I am old. Specially frustrating approach if you are a staunch hardcore bonisagus that wants to imprive hermetic theory in a mainstream way instead of fancying hedgie mysteries.
Buit well, not everybody has the same approach here. the current line and some of us disagree in this
I think that that magical focus virtue provides a very similar benefit. Certainly doing magical research to create your own virtues or integrating ancient magics would work as well. None of these options were really viable in previos editions.
Yeah, its pretty much all good. You have any link to that bigger house list? Would love seeing whatever ideas they had.
As an addition, we also run Trianoma as an independent house, and we have allowed Diedne to survive, but "Diedne magic" virtue automatically gives "Discredited lineage" instead of "Dark secret", based on fluff where a handfull of diabolists really did have lots of power in the house before it getting smashed up.
Could try using our extension of the Puissant virtue, Major virtue -Masterful with Art/Ability, giving a +10/+5 bonus.
Nothing heretical there. I mostly agree, we use them very little and only some of them. Several are good for getting material to elsewhere though.
This is a central question about the ArM system rule.
I thought I was the only one thinking like that, but I'm surprised to see some more people feel the same as I do:
The best ArM games, for me, are the one with little or no mystery at all. Though I like 5th ed. mysteries better than for the 4th, I would have preferred no mystery at all, simply giving Unique Minor Virtue to the 4 mystery cult houses.
Mr Tyrell answered with a typical answer for that sort of comment I'm making:
It's true. But the point is, not all people would agree this is the best way to roleplay and make players roleplay.
The real question is, is it the best way to make interesting stories, compared to other options ?
This is exactly the same as playing a story about finding a very good hermetic book lost in a winter covenant, hidden in a regio !
Or a story about finding that one material for building a magical item (given your SG decided that it was mandatory to have it)
Why not let let people choose what kind of game they want to play ?
Being in a mystery cult is really a restriction as to what interesting adventure you will play.
A good Story Guide can make an equally good adventure with or without the mysteries, that has nothing to do with the rules. That's why Mr Tyrell's arguement is moot. (nothing personnal, i'm just arguing =)
Of course, you can play with a lot of mysteries, and have good roleplay.
I prefer to have adventures that will reward the entire Alliance (or Order) with a lost hermetic book containing precious knowledge.
If you want, join me in my mystery cult. You get to know ancient knowledges hidden in mysterious books, but you need to sacrifice seasons to get that power. It's named "The Order of Hermes" and it's "pretty cool", trust me. You get to be an Archmage if you succed a lot into it. There are other stuff I can tell you about if interested.
The thing sad about it is, there is less Atlas GAmes material describing it than the other mysteries. =\
Its interesting how different the views of material can be. For me, its the standard Hermetic magus with his fireballs and lightning bolts that screams "standard fantasy wizard". While the Mysteries, with their focus on ordeals, secret lore, special rites, and so on are more "medieval".
I'm sure that, as with any game with diverse options, there are ways to munchkinize using the mysteries. But my personal experience is that its the guy dumping every last xp into magic theory, parma, and penetration who is more likely to be a munchkin problem than the fellow buying Secret Cult Lore. I've not really found that the time and resources spent on initiations and cult research makes the magus any better than the fellow who spent all that time and effort on pumping up his Arts and Abilities.
Regarding RP, obviously every saga is going to be different. You don't need the Mysteries to RP or tell stories..obviously folks did that long before Mysteries existed. Heck, they did it before Houses existed. If you look at Project Redcap's sagas, you'll see ones with magi mired deep in mundane affairs and ones with magi on flying castles soaring between mystical places. That makes as much RP/Story difference as the inclusion or exclusion of the Mysteries.