Poll: How Common Are the Mysteries In Your Saga?

While I too have been frustrated by the self-referential nature on some of the supplements, I can understand why it is. Some of those rules are really useful, and given that the publisher does not have the resources to constantly fold the most useful rules back into the core rulebook (especially with the edits required to all the supplements), a good idea whose time came a year and a half after the origin of the line is stuck in an additional module.

As for the Mysteries themselves, they don't bother me; there are already so many opportunities for magi to run off and do their own thing with the core rules that giving some structure to it is more helpful than not.

I think that what what some people have made clear here, taking JeanMichelle, Xavi and me as an exemple just up here,(correct me if I'm wrong) is that we don't really like that rule orientation about mysteries.
That is not to say we don't like Ars Magica, or think that Atlas should stop producing new books.

Do no one find surprising to see that we get as a response something like that:
(TimothyFergusson answering to JeanMichelle):

But, if we find a book not usefull for our game, isn't what is the basis of our own plea ?

I agree with Mr. Fergusson: I can deny a player access to some rules in a supplement books (or in any book).
But in the end, if we don't use the supplement, at all, or very little, it's because we don't like what's in it. That is what some people are saying here.

Telling us that we don't have to use them, is like saying: "So, you are telling us you don't like X. Why should we hear your opinion, since it will affect you only if you let it affect you?"

No one is trying to impose upon you that you should not like the mysteries rules. Some people are telling why they don't, so that their opinion be reasonnable and understood.

And, if many people feel the same as we do, for the reasons we frankly explained to all here, isn't this a sign that it should be thought of carefully ?
Not waved aside as if there were no ground for critics.

I like the crunciness of The Mysteries. I am disappointed that the only cult to survive the 4th to 5th transition was the Cult of Mithras (I very much dislike the Legion of Mithras, I was hoping the Pillar of Hiram would make it in instead).

Still, it would be insane to use the whole thing. Mysteries are like spice. Used sparingly, they can add a lot of flavor to the game. Over use of them can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

It is a double edged sword that can enhance or cripple your game. But, I don't know where that borderline is. So, tread carefully I guess :smiley:

Either you have a complaint about what the Mysteries do, which qualitatively makes the game worse for everyone whether we like the concept behind the Mysteries or not, or you just don't like, as a matter of preference, where David Chart et al. are going in terms of the game storyline. Well, sometimes I don't, either, but I think that's kind of a personal thing more than a qualitative argument against the Mysteries.

To reiterate: If you're trying to argue that the Mysteries "break" ArM in some way, then you basically have to argue that the Mysteries are antithetical to some shared conception of what ArM is. Which means that you have to get people who disagree (like us) not to like them as much. Otherwise, this is a "mysteries are rum raisin, and I prefer chocolate" argument. Sure, I understand it. But an argument like that I can dismiss with "then don't get rum raisin."

As to specific complaints:
I understand the complaints that the Mysteries are antithetical to the structured, modular approach of Hermetic magic. But I don't see a problem with that because "magic as science" is not what Ars Magica is about, and The Mysteries make sense in terms of superstitious fumblings towards magical truth. Honestly, you can try via the rules in Ancient Magic to "integrate" them with Hermetic Theory if it really bothers you, or you can run a saga where magi have a more Enlightenment-style scientific attitude towards magic than would be accurate.

I do not really give a lot of credence to the "it just adds more rules" argument. I buy the supplements because I want more rules (I actually resent adding too much non-historical detail, but that's just me); it saves me the time of working this stuff out myself.

Similarly, to the argument that a rule "undoes" something you've already been doing as a house rule or a pre-supplement version of the same, either you like your concept better than what the developers did or you don't. And, honestly, with some of the examples you cited earlier, there's plenty of overlap between what Hermetic mages can discover under the core rules (and especially under the core rules plus HoH:TL's breakthrough rules) and any Mystery or special House ability that you can rationalize any inconsistency away, even if the rules don't explicitly allow it.

I found TMRE a work of sublime genius, and wish they had paid the authors far, far more (with perhaps a Nobel prize for literature and mathematics apiece.) Erik Dahl should also be credited for all his insights, especially tipping me off to how rubbish a lot of the stuff out there about supposed links between Mithras and Christianity actually is.

Jokes about how wonderful TMRE is, interesting discussion all round!

cj x

Yep, I like to discuss. now I think I need to explain further to be understood.

Let me say that I dislike any scientific perception of magic at large: I see my magus dabbling in an Art in Ars Magica. There is no me defending a scientific version of Ars Magica here.

I really think I understand what you want to explain. You're main point is that anyone can and should work his way around the system to make rules and campaign the way they like.
Believe me I do. I do that a lot. Also, I'm a fierce defenser of making house rules as a necessity with any and all game system.

So I agree with that point.
The thing is, while it logically reenforce my critics about the mysteries rules, (you basically admit there is adjustments to be done with the mystery rules) you present it in a way mistakingly leading to conclude otherwise. I'm not saying that this was your intention, or of any others: it's just a description of what you are doing.

Let me analyse shortly your argument here:

You are saying that many constructive critics here are either objectives about the value of the rules, or are subjective critics about either I like it or not (chocolate/raisin).

But, do you imply that objective judgment of the rules are any better than subjective judgment ?
If no, then this was not an argument about our talk, obviously.
If yes, then this is false.

Why is it false that "I like that/I don't like" have any less value than than an "objective" assessment of the rules ?

Because this is not about an objective assessment. This is not like evaluating the structure of a dam: it either retain waters or it don't. Either it will last 20 years, either it will last 50 years. One is better than the other. This exemple is not a matter of "I don't like that dam".

We are doing roleplay. Roleplay is done by human being, with the aids of rules amoungst other things. The goal is to have fun. Hence, to compare two different rule systems, you check if people using them have more or less fun with them.

It is a matter of "We like those rules" or "We don't like those rules".
It is not about the assessment of rules: that would only leads you to think about rules outside a gaming context. I'm guessing that's why there are more people on this forum defending that opinion.

"How did you like using the mystery rules this gaming session?"
If we were asking people at the end of gaming sessions, the result about the evaluation of the mystery rules would carry no doubt. (still I like having them better than nothing, and they are not bad at all : they could be better. Follow my critics... :wink: )

Personnaly, I like the core rules better than the mystery rules. Does anyone have telled here that he liked mystery rules better than the core rules (15 arts, etc) ? I don't think so. Imagine all the mystery material being adapted to and within the core rules : that's what I would call a better rule system. That is my constructive critic. Do with it what you may, but don't tell me it's a worthless critic for the betterment of the game!

My 2 cents.

Who do you think is waiving it aside? Do you see David Chart or anyone who actually makes decisions for Atlas brushing you off? On the other hand, you can't assert that two or three people commenting on a forum thread constitutes "many people". Maybe it does, but neither you nor I have any way of knowing that. You are giving your feedback and other forum posters are giving theirs. No one is dismissing your point of view.

I know that when the Mysteries first came out (back in 4e), it was a big hit conceptually. Frankly, I think the Mysteries was the best 4e supplement, period. Supplement "crunch" often has issues, but I thought it had fewer than most of the others and for flavor it was a watershed. For 5th, I think Art and Academe is that "Oh wow, this rocks!" supplement. I think 5e Mysteries (TMRE) is better mechanically, but weaker on flavor than the 4e one. (Of course, some of the 4e Mysteries groups are now Ex Misc lineages or otherwise integrated differently in 5e).

The conversion of Bjornaer, Verditius, Criamon, and Merinita to Mystery Cults was, imho, flat out genius. The mechanics support in earlier editions for how "super cool" the alternate magic of those houses supposedly are was simply non existant. The Verditii were supposed to be the best enchanters in the game and, frankly, they weren't. There was a reason why Verditius Magic counted as a flaw in previous editions.

I would be honestly quite surprised if someone came to me and said "its more fun to play a Bjornaer/Merinita/Verditius magus without HoH: The Mystery Cults."

By the way, if you like stuff in the Mysteries but don't like the Mystery cults themselves.... especially if its because you like add stuff everyone can use..., what I would do is treat the mysteries as Ancient Magics and let the players work on integrating them into Hermetic Magic. Instead of initiations and drug crazed rituals in caves, the PCs can seek out insight that'll let everyone in the Order use Vulgar Alchemy or Hermetic Numerology.

Seriously, most folks don't play the straight Rules as written. A house rules section is almost de rigeur on a Project Redcap website or, at least, used to be.

Yes, actually, I do. I think that HoH: Mystery Cults is makes the game 1000% better. I'm not sure what you mean by liking them better than the 15 Arts, since they don't replace that system at all. But as I said in my previous post, I'd really have a hard time fathoming how anyone could say that the Bjornaer, Merinita, Criamon, and Verditius are less fun as Mysteries than with just the core rules write up.

If you give some example of what you mean, it might help. Do you want Philosophic Alchemy, Numerology, etc to just be virtues folks can take when they make their character? I don't see why that would be a problem, though its kind of blah if you ask me.

Or do you mean they are just things anyone can do without needing virtues at all? That seems rather grossly inflating the power of magi. I would really really not want to see that.

They only thing about The Mysteries that diverges from the core rules is the initiation process for gaining virtues after character creation. Easy enough to change that. Either make the Mysteries just virtues you can take or make them Ancient Magics you can integrate.

Slightly off-topic, but I have to bring it up. I don’t know about you, but I personally find the word “munchkin” insulting and not particularly useful. It implies a lawyering attitude toward gaming which is dismissive of other players and the SG. More importantly, it often seems misused. Using the rules effectively to describe the character you want to play is “munchkinism” to some, but it’s also a valid use for the game that can be fun and elegant in its own right. It’s the GM’s job to keep that avenue of play open for those who enjoy it while keeping it fun for those who don’t. Could we use vocabulary that’s more descriptive and less polarizing?

Now then.

I appreciate the Mysteries in general, especially because it gives magi more reasons to go out and do stuff. Many of the Mysteries options are interesting, though few have set me on fire with ideas the way some of the stuff in the House books did. Personal preference, I imagine. I also wish there were more options than Initiation for acquiring Virtues and Flaws through play, but then, if I really want such options for my own game, I can always make them up. More rules only constrain you if you use them without thinking.

If you don’t like what a Mystery currently is, why don’t you do just that?

Only if the Columbae are already established in your game, and if it’s really important to you, probably not even then. If you’ve been using ACs to boost ward penetration up till now, why should a new book stop you? Mutual satisfaction is just a house rule away.

Once thing I’ve seen done to great success is to take virtues normally only available through the Mysteries (or whatever) at character creation, even if “technically” this isn’t allowed. Just because a Mastery ability is “usually” only taught by the Cult of Mercury has almost no bearing on whether you can take it. If you like it and it benefits your saga, just assume it’s become disseminated throughout the Order by now. Poof, problem solved. Being able to pick and choose from a wider variety is the reason we buy more books in the first place.

Nothing of the kind. Your argument, as I understand it, is that you don’t like the Mysteries as written and they’d be better if they were X, where X is a combination of more available to the Order at large and without the “fluff” of who can take what. Because of the versatility of the game, a lot of us (many who do like the Mysteries as written) are telling you to just make them X. You’ll be happy, your troupe will be happy, problem solved. We’re not, as you seem to imply, implicitly stating that X is the way the Mysteries should be for everyone. We are saying that X is a valid viewpoint. Some of us even subscribe to parts of it, as I’ve noted above. But telling you that you can play the way you want is not the same as saying that's the way everyone should play.

My group, when it was really going well, showed no real interest in the Mysteries, aside from the Mystery Houses (and there only for Merinita and Bjornaer; I couldn't have dragged one of 'em into Criamon if I had tried). Then again, most of my group were comparatively recent converts from D&D, so just getting 'em in AM was an accomplishment in and of itself...

On a sideline, though, I will admit that I never really pushed the Mysteries too much, probably because I have had so little interest in them myself over the years. My mind has a hard time accepting all the myriad subdivisions in Ars Magica'a Order of Hermes, especially once you bring it down from an Order level to a Tribunal level.

Yes, I don't think I'm gewtting the nuances of your argument.

See I don't think I agree with your characteristation of what he is doing. Yes he "admits" there are adjustments to be done, because in any roleplaying game there are adjustements to be done, because the story should be customised for your group and the resources presented can't be customised for your group in their published form.

He implies that your subjective judgement is based on a misreading of the objective rules. As such your subjective problem can be resolved by you reading the rules in a way closer to the objective read.

I don't think any of us would disagree with that.

I think this dichotomy is false, because the mystery rules are not an alternative ot the core rules, they are an optional extension for the core rules. It's like asking if you prefer the side dish as an alternative to the main dish. The obvious answer isthat the side dish was never intended as an alternative to the main dish: it's intended as an accompaniment, and so the comparison should be "Do you prefer: the main rules without the optional accompaniment, or with the optional accompaniment.?" I prefer them with, because the core rules don't have enough House Criamon or House Veridtius detail for me to run them convincingly.

Well, that's not the core rules, now is it? THat this core rules plus a side of pasta instead of the core rules plus a side of salad, to stretch my metaphor.

If it works for you, that's great...in my own games I think it would increase the power level to something a bit high for my personal preference.

I think there is something central that I have not made clear, so it may be there where I am misunderstood. But if you follow all my previous posts, and those of other people, there are many hints scattered to lead to it.

So I will concentrate my answer on this part. (Let's hope it won't be too long !)

I think that the limit of Hermetic magic is best expressed with the limits of magic (p. 79-80, ArM5). Anything under those limits should be possible to do with the 5 techniques and 10 forms.

That system should be able do about anything that what we can imagine magic can do. (under the limit of magic).
And, what is important to understand, it can.

If you want to limit some power or make some secret magic line of magi holding a secret - like I do - then you can use the original research rules (or the Ancient magic rules for that : currently accessible on pdf on atlas-games.com). Or any, very simple set of rules.

A good rule system tries to use the same set of general rule to solve the most possible action/conflict. (e.g.: D20 system)
A bad rule system invent new rules with each new supplement. (e.g.: AD&D2e).

Is that true?

Where do you get the idea that I misread something...Our Merinita magus have only one hermetic spell that he can share with the rest of our magi. Or is it that all mages can learn feary spells? Because if that was the case, yes, I would begin to like those mystery rules...

Most people don't like to juggle with the rules. Minor tweeks are okay. When they need to do a lot of change, that's bad. If most of them don't use a certain book, that's bad.

In my point of view, most player will prefer to have an united rule system, and not having new rules in the supplements. Oh, they like to have addition to the rules, yes: the "crunch". But they would prefer it to be more guideline, more mastery ability, more spells. More ways to use hermetic magic.
Mr. Fergusson ideas in HoH:S about different ways to use imaginem magic is a good exemple of that.

I don't want to learn that they now need this or that ability to be able to do some sort of magic.

Now, I say all that, but I, personnaly do like to juggle with the rules. I did and do that a lot. That's why I am critical of those mystery rules.
I get the feeling people are trying to save me: "Do that", "then do that" "what is stopping you for doing that"
I read: "you can solve your problem, so what is this fuss about?"

I am not asking to be helped here. I am making a critic about a set of rules, those about the Mysteries.
Of course, I can use my own critics to make the rules our troupe is playing with better.

So, we all agree on this. But what magnetude of adjustment are we talking about? Is it minor tweekings, or major changes?

The first step of my argument is that for most players, some adjustment have to be done for the mystery rules. It seems most agree here.

The second step is that those adjustment are not minor, they are major, and widespread amongst players.
Now, I would understand if people do not follow me here: I did no survey to know that. I may be wrong.

The third step is to conclude that (because there are many adjustment to be done) the mystery rules are not as good as it could be.

Finally, I propose to replace those rules, with other rules. I am then pretending that those other rules would have those qualities:

  • Closer to the core rules, hense simple to learn;
  • Would enable material to be possibly used be most players;
  • Would not augment the power level of an Ars Magica campaign (no more than with the present rules, at the least);

I critic and I critic: but I know it's harder to make those rules than to critic them. That's why I like AG making books. I am not saying I would do better. This is a similar case to art critics: they are not often welcomed.

You know, this pretension that you are somehow being unwelcomed or treated disrespectfully because we disagree with you is kind of annoying. Not one person here has said anything about your opinion being unwelcome, invalid, or even wrong. We simply said we didn't share it and have given our reasons.

Regarding the rules proposal you have, I think it is it literally impossible to do the second without breaking the third. How can you add bunches of new ranges, targets, and effects to everyone without increasing the power of magi?

It seems to me that you are objecting to special virtues existing, not to mysteries. Faerie Magic, Numerology, etc would still be limited to those with special training even if they weren't in a mystery cult. Or they would just not exist because every wizard can do them. House Merinita, Bjornaer, and Verditius would be back to the older editions where the only difference between them and any other magus was roleplaying. Anyone could be as good at crafting as a Verditius with just a minor virtue and no need for the casting tools limit. The same was true of Merinita. Is that really what you want?

If your Merinita chooses to only invent spells using the special virtues instead of normal spells (which she is perfectly capable of doing), then how is that the rules fault? It seems to me that the whole point of House Bjornaer, Merinita, Ex Misc, and Verditius was that they were supposed to do things that Bonisagus never fully grasped.

And I would point out that the current whole rule set (core + TMRE + HoH: MC + HoH: TL + AnM) fully supports that approach to Mystery magic. The SG just have to let the PC unearth Initiation scripts for the Virtues the players are interested in, and let them use them as insights for integration original research, according to the rules in TL and AnM.

We play almost with the core rules.
The magi are converted from an old 4th edition saga so they lack story hooks. I'm planning to introduce some elements of mysteries to motivate the players a bit. They didn't read the rules.
I think mysteries give some good long-term goals to the magi my players havn't got.
Anyway I agree with you, Iudicium, I don't like when new supplements change the general rules a lot.

This is not what I meant, I may have made an error because of my bad english. I meant the "art critics" as the comments themselves, not the person doing the comments. I think that "art critic" could be understood as the very person doing the comments? Sorry for that.

But don't take it personnaly, I am just making comments because this seems like a good place to do them. I never felt disrespect for myself. I feel the ambience is friendly. But it's hard to defend an idea that goes agains mainstream (this is to be expected, though)
But you do say that you are not welcoming my opinion as a good way to think about the mystery rules. I would like to understand why.

Yes, I think If I would search for an alternative to the mystery rules, I would begin with that idea. But then, I would also push it farther, and say that most of those research have already been done.
There may also be other adjustment to be done to preserve game balance, power level, dynamic of the game, etc.

The source that need to be studied to learn such an "original research" could be the initiation process itself, instead of a book.
If the one who gave the Hermetic magus a certain power, are some old greek god, then it is possible they ask for a certain sacritice in return.

The game balance and flavour intruduced by the Mystery can be keeped without the need of the mystery rules.
Since all such power are translated into a Technique/Form structure, then every player can know how difficult it is to learn that power. That is, whithout the need to learn/invent further rules. (E.g.: need Verditious Lore at level X /serf parma...)

But, when talking about how scarce or how difficult a certain power is to obtain in any given campaign, this is a decision best taken by a SG or a troupe, maybe based on suggestion from the supplements.

-If you don't want flying castle in your campaign, you just don't do them. If the need to explain why arise, you say it's an obscure knowledge, etc.
-If you do want them, the SG can make an interesting story about learning how to do it.
-If the troupe feels every mage should be able to build flying castle, then the troupe can decide it is the case.

Every gaming groups work this way, and that is how many house rules are made, sometime/often unbeknown to them. People don't do certain story because the rules force them to do it. They do story because they think it will be fun to them.
This is the basis of Mr Fergusson comment: " in any roleplaying game there are adjustements to be done"
The rules should be a support of this.

If there is alternate rules for doing certain things, then it is harder to introduce those rules into a campaign (moreover an already existing campaign). Thus those rules are less usefull then they could be. "Less usefull" does not mean "absolute crap" at all, it's nowhere near that.
Thus my comments !

E.g: think about the elf and thief in AD&D 2e: the rules for thieves to detect trap is in % ( where the elves check for secret doors with a D6!) That was all apart from the general competence rule, which where different.

Mystery rules are to hermetic magic in ArsM 5e what is thievery ability to general competence in AD&D 2e.

When I played Ad&d, I thought it would be unbalancing to adapt thievery ability and the general competences into a single rule system. The problem was: What special ability would be unique to thieves then ? It also could be unbalancing if all character could use the thievery skills...
But then, D&D 3ed. come along with the idea of "class-skill" (which was already there in 2ed.), resolving that balance problem...
A simple idea was needed, really.
(Nota: I prefer ArsMag rules 2 times more then D&D and Mythical Europe 3 times more than any other fantasy setting :open_mouth: )

The word "critic" refers to a person, one who criticizes. The word you wanted was "critique" which refers to the actual comments. Just so you know. :stuck_out_tongue:

If you just want the virtues available without the mysteries themselves (meaning the initiations and secrecy), then that's already supported by the rules. All the mystery powers are labeled as either major or minor virtues already. Just add them to the list people can buy to start. The "gain virtues after character creation" is the only new concept in The Mysteries. The rest are just more kinds of lab work or new spells.

If you want everything tied to just the character's arts without requiring any virtues, I don't see any way to do that without exploding the power level of your game. You are essentially giving everyone a dozen major and minor virtues for free. The Alchemy, Astrology, Numerology, Theurgy, Oneiromancy, etc are useful at all levels of the Arts. Every magus across the board would be able to do a lot more than they could now. However, nothing prevents you from letting everyone do that stuff with the rules as written. As you point out, its all linked back to core rules of Arts and Abilities. A magus might need more Artes Liberales and Philosophaie than currently, but otherwise its straightforward. Other than trying to remember what a character with so much power can actually do.

You are also, imho, gutting the Verditius and Merinita completely, while making the Bjornaer much less interesting. The Criamon would probably be fine under that system. What is the point of House Verditius and House Merinita if everyone can do the stuff currently set up as their House secrets? And if you don't, then you still have the problem of your Merinita not knowing spells anyone else can use and your Verditius producing lab texts full of runes.

We use the Mysteries and enjoy the story hooks they provide... the powers don't seem to be much of a problem or issue for us... if Alex gets SR#3 (or #4 if that's where it ends up) out before long, I may have another cult out there for use.