Poll: How Common Are the Mysteries In Your Saga?

See, this I just don't get. How does the Mysteries or lack of them affect the kind of adventure you will play? How does not having Mysteries increase player options? The cool book doesn't reward the entire Order unless the PCs happen to share it.

I don't see the Mysteries as any more restrictive than stuff for other specialists. My experience in sagas even before the Mysteries is that senior magi diverge so much in inclination and capability that they are barely on the same playing field.

Uh, no offense, but this is flat out untrue. The mysteries are discussed in precisely two books: Mystery Cults and The Mysteries, Revised Edition. The entirety of the Core Rule book, the other two Houses of Hermes books, all the Tribunal books, and more are focused on the Order in general. I don't know what more you expect them to do with that.

I don't believe that this is an important question because the existance of Mysteries does not constrain other options of creating stories in any substantial way.


On the face of this it seems you're making prepasterous statements. Having Mysteries in a saga does not preclude the stories that you mention and I can't really believe that you think that people are in any real way unable to choose what sort of adventures that they want to play.

I'm guessing that you didn't mean what I think you wrote. Could you take another shot at expressing the problem?

My argument was in contradiction to the statement that mysteries are about munchkinism and not about roleplay. As a counter argument the fact they aren't munchkin and all about roleplay isn't really moot.

books that are mostly about magic but not about mysteries

True lineages
Ancient magic

Books that have significant portions but less than half devoted to Hermetic magic that is not based on Mysteries

Art and Academe
Mystery Cults
Mysteries Revsed

Books that are mostly about Mystery cults

Mysteries Revised
Mystery Cults

Books that have significant portions but less than half devoted to Hermetic magic that is based on Mysteries


By this count your judgement: "The thing sad about it is, there is less Atlas Games material describing it than the other mysteries" is false.

We've had two books and there are no more on the horizon.

You missed one. Guardians of the Forest has most of a chapter devoted to the Mysteries of the Black Forest (Wilderness Lore). That counts :wink:

True, yet I also missed GotF and Lion and the Lilly in my list of books about typical hermetic magic and the order.

Save that it adds different kind of stories, and/or different motivations for them. IMO, this is good.

Well, HoH: MC is about mystery cults in the order :wink: (As are the others HoH books)
You don't need to use the powers to use the background there :wink:

In fact, the only "mysteries" book I see are The Mysteries, and, in a way, Ancient Magic (as, like the mysteries, it provides powers above and/or beyond vanilla hermetic magic).
Just the 3 house books beats this total by one.

Yikes!! We all jumped on Iudicium's post at the same time. :astonished:

Well, you have to admit it does bear a very close resemblance to a trampoline.... :stuck_out_tongue:

Well as a storyguide I did have the problem that my players came to me with TMRE and wanted to be initiated. That meant I had to read it and now have another book which I have to consult.

It reminds me of rolemaster: They ended up with books that had multiple birth complication charts (in supplement X).

I was happiest with the corebook only (and maybe covenants and GoTF for background and HoH:TL for legal stuff only): The game could be played just perfectly, thanks to the good chapter about Mythic Europe, but game sessions didn't get interrupted because someone wanted to use some weird magic from the divine or a special parma or what else.

So I could focus on mood then - now it's finding rules more often. And don't tell me we don't have to use it: Can you say no to a player who spend days inventing a True faith companion? I can't.

Btw, selling those books is what the Atlas guys do for a living - and they deliver for the money - but still: whenever a system has too many rules, atmosphere suffers and munchkinism threatens.

JeanMichelle, you have to put your foot down about certain things.

If it's just one guy who wants to be a Kabbalist or something, just say "it's going to make it harder for everyone else."

If it's the whole group, more politics are in issue, but make your position clear from the start. For example, I tell my players that they ain't learning Hyperborean Magic, because integrating it changes ArM's magic so fundamentally that I would have to figure out some way to re-balance the game mechanics, a task beyond my patience or mathematical skills. They're usually OK with that at the front end.

Well, yes I can tell a player they can't use something if I don't find it suitable for the campaign I'm running. But then I've been DMing various RPGs since the early 80s so I've already made a lot of those sorts of mistakes.

With Ars Magica, this has never been a problem because I'm the one who owns all the books. The players just own the core rule book. So I just introduce rules as needed in the game.

I haven't found the Mysteries to be particularly cumbersome around the game table (a few require looking stuff up for between session bookkeeping). Its all the hedge magic/mystic companion stuff that I find problematic during a session. Thankfully, I don't have players much interested in that. They'd rather be a Hermetic Magus following a Mystery or investigating Ancient Magic instead.

Conceptually, I find "The Mysteries" to be intriguing. It adds a depth to the setting, and reflects many of the esoteric traditions of the Medieval world.

At the same time, Mysteries are almost antithetical to Bonisagus' Hermetic Theory, or at least the Bonisagus tradition, which is based on the exchange of knowledge. To Bonisagus, the axiom is, "Knowledge shared is Power gained", NOT the often-cited "Secrets are Power". The latter is a perfectly valid worldview, however, it strikes me as being opposed to the purpose of the Order.

As written, the Mysteries have the potential to make a Magus almost obscenely powerful. The process of generating new Initiation Scripts should probably have a limit. Say, 1 new Initiation Script per level in a Mystery Lore, and no more than 1 new Major Virtue Initiation Script per every two levels in the Mystery Lore Ability.

I will say that quite a few of the Mystery Virtues would make sense as general Hermetic Virtues: Hermetic Alchemy, Philosophic Alchemy, Hermetic Numerology, Hermetic Geometry, and Celestial Magic in particular.

Well, I suppose if you just let a magus initiate everything under the sun they might be obscenely powerful. Though there is the question of just when they would actually learn any spells or abilities given how much time they were spending on quests, learning multiple Secret Society Lores, undergoing Ordeals, and all the rest.

The Virtues you mention already have elements in Hermetic Theory. You can do "basic" stuff in those fields with standard theory. Then there is Planetary Magic, Vulgar Alchemy, and so on that are minor virtues open to any magus. The ones you mention are just further refinements.

The secrecy vs sharing thing is an issue. Its a split in the very nature of the founders. Bonisagus is keen on sharing, but Guernicus and Verditius were very much in favor of the rights of secrecy. I dare say that few, if any, Bonisagi are parts of Mystery Cults for that reason.

Id say thats rather almost an exception, most people tend to use Art combinations that the characters are good with, usually not just Ig/Au.

I once played a mage whose main attack spell was to teleport people 50 paces up(or elsewhere if a good target location was around) and let them merrily fall back down by themselves, getting "the ride of their lifetime". And the ways you can use to cause damage, may not be infinite, but just lightning and fire, sure those are easy and regular spells, but far from all use them in any AM story...

Oh yes, most definetly. Im not even going to post any of the ideas some of our more "inventive" players came up with.
Just badly overpowered was the result in some cases while others were potentially difficult to handle in the long term.

Several mysteries can overcome limitations on "normal" magic. Which sometimes makes it alot harder to create challenges for the GM. At least without going munchkin himself that is, and a GM going munchkin, thats not really fun.
Tends to get to the point of annihilation vs annihilation...

Quite so... I think this is probably why we arent using much of it.

Yeah, definetly, Alchemy we already have as a "normal" Virtue.
The latter three are "in the game" essentially, but not RAW style or as mysteries.

I see my arguments made some surprises. I may have put them in a way provocative: I do like to provoque discussion, for the betterment of the game. (Unrelated to this, I play a tytalus for some time now. :open_mouth: )
But I try to make statement only if they are true to me, and this is the case now.

I'll try to get more precise on what I have to say, and also answer some good arguments that have been presented.

What I am critisizing is the adding of mystery cults to the core rules of the game. My statement is that those "add-ons" (= most mysteries) have been brought into the game in a certain way (= mystery rules) , and they (the add-ons) would have been better made in another way. Namely, within the core rules.
My argument is that the rules about mysteries actually restrict the game, more than really adding to it.

A good counter-argument that was brought here is that the Mysteries actually add to the game background, and actually add more options to the players.
Never was my intention to say that it wasn't the case. I also don't think that is what I said, but this is not important.

The point I want to make, is those background and options should have been included in the core rules of the game. I mean within the 5 techniques and 10 forms of hermetic magic. My main argument here is that there is no other rules needed to add most of those backgrounds and options for the game.
So, what I say is that the mystery is of less quality than an hypothetical replacement using the core rules. I'm reminding you about the importance of JeanMichelle previous statement about complexity of the rules.

Don't get me wrong: I am very thankfull of AG to produce all this material. What I am doing now is express what would be a betterment for me, and why I think it could be good for most ArM gamers.

Here is why and how I disagree. First, this is the real question. Because any adding to a game should be judged by the results it yields.
I've already said that it is my opinion that there is other, more "profitable" ways to make new addings to the game.

Now, I don't want to say either that those who like to play with the current mystery should not, or anything near that.
What I say, is that it's possible and probable that some people will prefer using the simple and better "proof-played" core rules.

It's here that mystery restrict the game options, because when some power is included into a mystery, it is no longer available to "core rules magi" (vannilla mages).
Here an exemple to illustrate this: the feary mystery have the duration "Until". This would imply that I need to get into that mystery to get that duration. And there are many rules about doing that. (Otherwise you need to change the idea of what is a mystery)

Another exemple that astonished me, is in HoH:S, p.113. The Colombae can use AC to boost penetration to wards. This mean my character, a ward specialist, cannot use them for his wards !!!
This is not a Mystery, but the critic is the same, and goes for anything that impede upon the core rules.
In my opnion, if it can be done with the core rules, it should. This enable character to seek powers more easily, it's less restrictive. I prefer to see a complicated story about getting that power, than complicated rules about what have to be done and sacrificied to gain it.

This is also a good exemple of problem that can rise from this whole idea of getting into alternate rules (non-core rules). I've said my character was a ward specialist: so I would like to make wards against things like Mental control, PeCo, dispelling, etc. While there is actually no guideline to do those (and those guideline is within core, hermetic capacity, proven by the working of a ward against demon), they go on an entire page recopying the guideline already present into the core book ArM5 (p. 111) !!! Instead of having a description on what Colombae can do that others cannot, I would like to get things that most character can do with their hermetic magic !

The final result is: Vanilla mage have less power than described into the core book (now they can't use AC with wards)
This is the same with most mystery: to know what a simple, hermetic mage can do, you no longer need to simply know what Muto, Terram, etc means. You need to know what all mysteries can do, because if a character happens to be wanting to do something similar to one of those mysteries, you have to know that a mystery exist for that particular power.

A storyguide could decide that to make a room be larger in the inside needs MuTe for a stone chamber, with a Base level of 20. It's not completly illogical. It's not a power unbalancing. It could be made a new guideline into a supplement book. But i've learn on this forum (serf's parma) that there exist an "Architecture mystery" that could do that. Damn. Now vanilla Hermetic magus can't do that. One less power for them.

My other argument is about how restricting to adventures mystery is.
That is what I meant by saying: "Being in a mystery cult is really a restriction as to what interesting adventure you will play. "
I meant : "being" as in "being active about the pursuit and use of a mystery"

I didn't meant to say that it restrict a player's option. They restrict adventures, i.e. actual playing.

If you play within a Mythic Europe with Mysteries, there are certain things that can be acheived only in certain way. If you have a character actively pursuing a mystery cult, you will need to play those stories about mysteries. This can also be fun to certain players ! But I would have prefered it to be something more like the Story seeds, not implemented into the rules.

You could have: "The texts about how to make [insert hermetically described power] is kept by the three main lines of Verditius magi. They don't share it with outsiders. But, there exist a rumour of a researcher who made similar discoveries in the 10th century. All his researchs paper are now lost, and there are different rumours about where they are today..." and, as with original research, you could get that novelty simply be spending season reading those books.

Or, as an alternative, the troops could decide it is available to most magi, because it's of general interest (like the Adaptive mastery ability (HoH:S p, 34) : why the hell do one need to be into the Cult of Mercury to put xp into that ?!?)[/code]

Now, imagine a Mythic Europe without mysteries. Most powers can be achieved within Hermetic magic. That same player could be pursuing the same powers as he did with the mystery, but since the power is described with the core rules (a new guideline or a new duration, as a strong and simple exemple), there is no time lost learning new rules. You get straight into the adventure.

True, but he can, he could, he has the option to...

In our saga, our alliance decided to buy a text book of Boots of teleportation. Our verditius magus bought one filled with verditious runes. My tytalan magi was really pissed out about that. I ask you: Was he rightly pissed out, because he couldn't use - at all - that text book, or was he just a weirdo, because every mages acknowledge that verditius are the best for making magical items ?
Really, this was ambiguous, and yet today, I can't roleplay about that because it isn't consistent with Mythic Europe. Yet, I can't see why my magus should be happier to have that text book filled with those pesky runes. Is that text book better than a simple, core, vanilla, hermetic text book, I ask you ? Should RAW verditius mystery be praised or shun by the Order ?

I would add something about the "munchkinism vs roleplaying" debates, but this is already too long ! I also don't think it has anything to do with this discussion.
Sorry for the long post. :blush:

Well, I thought it was obvious that fire and lightning were just examples. The point was that the core rules were far more fantasy than medieval in what the wizards actually do in literature or the occult traditions. The mysteries are much closer to that. Not that I really mind Hermetic magic being strong fantasy, but the idea that the mysteries made things less medieval really struck me as a misperception.

I haven't seen the Mysteries powers causing problems to a greater degree than other things the magi could be doing to boost their power instead. But obviously everyone's game plays differently.

[Deleted] the discussion has rolled over this.

Or, you could just say "No.". I say this as one of the authors of the book. The idea that the rules are in some sense necessarily binding on your personal campaign is false. TMRE even says this explicitly, I believe.

One splatbook reminds you of this? Well, that's hyperbole and diminishes my respect for the rest of your argument. Rolemaster's complexity is a whjole different sort of thing from Ars Magica's complexity.

Then only play with those books.

You don't. I don't control your mind. In the next book if it says "Jean Michelle: give Timothy all your money" am I going to score big? 8)

Yep. "This doesn't suit the story I want to tell: what about the rest of you guys?" My friends then say "Well, how about X" and we talk and sort our out-of-game problems out out-of-game.

Why? I'm not clear on why this is? If you aren't enjoying yourself, why are your friends doing this to you?

Do they? I don't actually know enough about John and Michelle's finances to know, but I think that may be false, now that he's an alderman.

I agree 100%. That's why I don't use some of the rules when I play. All of the rules are options and you are not required to use them. Indeed, its deliberately impossible to use some of the ones in covenants all at once: this is designed to force players to talk and as a group to choose what they want to do.

Jean Michelle: talk to your friends, man...get them to cut you some slack.

If the Mysteries add abilities that hermetic magi don't otherwise have, its not making Hermetic magi less. If the game took things away from hermetic magi to give them to the mystae, then you would be correct.

As far as the Columbae thing goes, I don't know why you thought you could use an AC as a hermetic wizard casting a ward. I thought you had to be directly targeting a creature with the spell to use an AC and wards are all affecting areas. If your DM was letting you use it, then I think its silly for him to take it away. Regardless, it wasn't the game designers removing abilities you had to give them to a special group. They never thought you had that ability in the first place.

I never really thought about if the verditius runes were part of the lab text. I hadn't thought so, figuring those were things the magus himself added or didn't add to reflect his special skill. That's a good question. Other magi can use items opened using verditius skill, but not make that exact thing themselves..

The need to introduce neew rules in every suippklement is what reminds of rolemaster. I had that same impression lately. Quite a few supplements introduced or built on rules that are not part of the core rules at all. Powers and mysteries, basically, but also lab rules and other stuff like that. They change the game mechanics and add complexity to the rules of the game. Some of us dislike thos spreading of the rules over several sourcebooks.

They are no longer explanations on how the rules in the core book can do or examples on how to build on them, but new rules that were not part of the rules when the game was released. I tend to prefer to put the emphasis on the setting with more stable rules, over getting more and more rules.

TMRE did not cut the "new mood" treshold for me: it read like a formula book, without making the game a more mysterious place, in fact: just a description fo exclusive clubs that had access to certain mathematical formulas for their sole betterment.


They should talk to you about it before creating it, then. A simple "I'd like to create a True Faith companion with divine methods and powers. Can I?" would be enough.

Same thing goes with the mysteries. If your players bought the book, before designing characters or wanting to initiate, they should ask you if it's ok.

Even if it is, you're in no hurry. Mysteries are... Mysterious. One could spend years before being contacted by that elusive cult, and characters do not nescessarily know that mystery x and y exists at all. So you can take the time you need.