Spontaneous Mystery Initiation

Let's say a mage pursues a long, difficult quest, costing several seasons, requiring dedication, and suffers a substantial arduous penalty in pursuit of a magical secret. The mage is not deliberately chasing a Mystery, but he is seeking insight. Is there a chance of a spontaneous epiphany and acquisition of mystic power?

I don't mean a deliberate self-initiation as described in TMRE, I mean an unexpected result.

...and if I am describing a subject dealt with somewhere in the rules, kindly refer me to the book and page.

As far as I know, and I would do... if seeking insight in magical places, the magus could get in twilight, understand it and get the mystic power.
I mean, as SG, a magus understanding twilight while undertaking such arduous insight research, I would probably give a mystical power if understanding a twilight

Another idea could be while the magus is undertaking his research, I would could a certain number of initiation points, maybe the double of points needed if voluntarily initiated, and when arrived at that level I would tell him he has got the mystical power.

I don't think such thing is in the official rules, but why not...

There are many ways to tell stories about gaining Virtues by accident or serendipity. These often involve supernatural beings to interact with.

A character can (GotF p.37 Walking the Path) stumble upon a forest path by accident, commune with the genius loci and conclude a pact with it. Or meet the right faerie in the right mood (RoP:F p.56f Grant (...), p.76 Mentors, etc.). Or a demon (RoP:TI p.106 box Diablerie Guidelines, etc.).

These are just examples: you decide what to offer your characters.


Also note that a virtue is ultimately a game mechanic - one that (arguably) represents an innate advantage, as opposed to a knowledge or ability. However, virtues can be granted externally (such as a noble title), or by age (such as loosing the various flaws that correspond to being young.) However, they can also, for example, represent a benefit that others do not have, that allow you to have an ability - such as virtues that allow grogs to learn Arcane abilities at character creation. Some virtues (such as "I have a magic weapon and/or cloak that turns me into a duck!") can be replicated pretty darned easily without resorting to anything unusual.

As such "virtue" is a bit of a hazy concept. Others have mentioned several ways of 'accidentally' gaining a virtue. I'd like to add Pilgramages, from The Church, as a way to earn virtues as well.

There is nothing in the rules preventing or allowing it, thus we enter the area of House Rules.

The way I would rule it as ST is: if the story is good and it does not become a tool for munchkinism, I will allow it, even encourage it - after all, if a player comes with a project his mage would like to do and it makes good story involving all players, he is doing half of my job :smiley: , it deserves a rewards.

From a story side, The Mysteries describes how someone could actively look to (re-)create a cult/Mystery, starting by building a Cult Lore then discovering initiation script. It is also conceivable that the reverse happen: that somebody is looking in a given obscure topic, get some insight (simulated by the acquisition of a new virtue) and then just realises that he stumbled upon an old mystery cult. Then as a ST, I would also grant him a new skill - New Mystery Cult Lore: +1 (or more depending on the story background). Unknowing to himself, as the mage was looking into this obscure topic, he was reconstructing some secrets of a forgotten cult.

If you want to make it even more interesting, what the mage discovered was not about an forgotten cult, but about an existing one - still unknowingly to him. The kind of secret that the existing Cult would not like to be spread outside his members (think of Bjornaer Inner Mystery of Sensory magic, Verditius Inner Mystery of Automata, etc...), for example the ability to initiate a unique virtue, without Ordeal requiring to take an Oath of Obedience or a Vow of Secrecy.
And because the mage discovered the secret on his own, it might be closer to the founder vision, without the various layers of interpretation that were added over several centuries of subtle "tweaking" by the various leaders either because they believed it was better, or to fulfill some personal agenda. For example, what if the first script did not required taking an Oath as the founder wanted to spread this knowledge, but was added afterwards to "strengthen" the cult - so the knowledge would only be shared to obedient follower ? A bit like somebody finding the 10 Commandments and deciding to live by it, without any knowledge of the Bible, Old or new Testament, then discussing innocently about his way of living and how it seems that Fate smiles to him. He is following God's words (with likely limited level of awareness), but I am sure that some priests would see some form of heresy and would rush to "bring back into the flock" this misguided soul because he does not know anything about the Church, the tithe, obeying the priest and all that very important stuff to be a good Christian.

Anyway, to come back to this magus, he might be triggering a Schism between the tenants of the current Cult and the ones looking for going back to the roots, the "good old days". Which, by the way, might not be so "good". What if the changes brought after the founder were real improvements and following the old ways might slowly draw the practitioner in the wrong path (Chtonic magic slipping into Devil worshipping for example) ? Think of a Cult that Guorna would have been following (or created)...

A peaceful Merinita, looking at the original work of the founder, finding some interesting pieces of information, acquiring some new powers/virtues, calling it "Cult of Gaïa" (or any other peaceful-sounding name), whereas in fact, he stumbled on Diedne initiation scripts... Or maybe the real Cult name should be "Followers of Echidna" (Greek "mother" of monsters).

Plenty of opportunities for stories.
And because it is house rules, you can use Initiation rules as a guideline to see if what the mage is undergoing looks appropriate, eyeball it and run with it, without keeping an accurate tally, at least for the first few initiations. Don't forget to give him some appropriate character traits. If this knowledge has the potential to push the person to dig deeper, in more forbidden area, the trait might increase (Obsessed with Cult or Loyal to the Cause), or you might decide to use a mechanism similar to the Verditus Hubris: it strengthen his ability to perform Cult magic, but it also drives him to behave in a certain way. In the case of Verditius, it is about being competitive and proud about their achievement. For something darker, the level in this ability might requires mandatory actions, more and more demanding as the skill increases (odious habits, then eating living animals, then sacrifice...).
It might not be as sinister, just odd. Let's go back to the Merinita looking into Cult of Gaïa: maybe the early requirement is to sleep on soil and walk bare feet, then she has to live naked, then to eat only raw food and finally to forfeit the use of human speech. And maybe that was the "Good Old Ways" of the Cult and the current version allows to achieve the same powers, but instead of having this requirement, it was replaced by other, more socially acceptable ordeal and flaws.

It depends on what sort of insight (or indeed Insight with a capital I) and what the questing is.

There are several mechanisms to develop new (or redevelop old) magical powers and virtues in the rules. This wheel has been copied and rediscovered by the authors of 5th edition several times.

HoH:TL included rules for original research. Ancient Magic (pages 7-9) and Hedge Magic Revised Edition (pages 14-16) have slightly different ways of integrating "Insight", or guaranteed successes in research into this, so every time you discover another ancient object from a particular tradition or find a living practitioner to teach you, you can get another success. Ancient Magic, with its stories of meeting ancient angels, exploring the Hesperides, finding the garden of Eden, etc. is full of ideas on how to quest until you find something spectacular.

The Mysteries includes how to create your own mystery rituals. This is a poor fit for your situation, as with an effective Mystery Cult lore of zero your magus has no way of knowing if he's doing the correct quest or if he's missing crucial details. What can fit is if you use retrospective continuity so that an NPC he met earlier on was in fact a mystagogue who guided them on to the quest they undertook, and now they can meet the NPC again to finish the mystery initiation.

Pilgrimages from The Church offers a way to gain virtues or lose flaws through stories. You can adapt this to magical mysteries by checking the story elements the character has been through and seen if the quest was suitably spectacular to justify this.

In your case, the mage has deliberately quested for insight so it is a deliberate searching. A truly "spontaneous" mystery initiation has been disallowed by SGs I've played with in the past - in a Bjornaer saga, we found a great treasure of the Ancestors on an adventure, and I went "Hey! Recovering something like this and then doing action X fulfils a house mystery! I've got a high presence and enough House Bjornaer lore! Can I do this mystery this season?" and the SG went "NO, you didn't deliberately set out on a quest to recover a treasure of the House, no taking advantage of coincidences to fulfil an initation."

How anti-Campbellian of him.

I would argue that, in-game, some Paths and Initiations are likely discovered exactly this way: by doing something magically appropriate, and then realizing that the consequences are repeatable.

EDIT - now that I think about it, as a GM I would grant a bonus to an initiation script if it was created off of a magi's own personal experience of adventuring for magical power. (ie, not just vis or XP - but actually gaining some sort of supernatural virtue accidentally, then seeking to re-create it via Script.)

There are certainly magical creatures which might grant virtues. Virtues can also be gained in the magic realm. I think a lot depends on where your quest takes you- you aren't goin to reach an epiphany granting supernatural power galloping around the countryside no matter how much you might want to...