Starting a New Mystery Cult

Starting a new mystery cult, without borrowing from previously existing cults, takes a significantly high Cult Lore. Assuming you have good Intelligence and Presence, it seems to take a Cult Lore of around 8, which needs 180 XP.

So I've been thinking about other ways to do it. I'll list some of them... and hopefully the rest of you can contribute some ideas or house rules, as well.

  1. Exposure XP - At 2 XP per season, this is about the slowest possible. It allows you to do something with your time, however, unlike most other options. The hard part here is finding something that would give exposure XP in such a non-existent cult.

  2. Practice XP - 4 XP per season. This is the slow and steady method. It'll work without fail, but you need almost twelve years of constant work, in which time you're gaining nothing else. Unless the rest of the group is going at an extremely fast pace, this is a good way to permanently remove your magus from the saga.

  3. Twilight - Unwise, but possible for young magi with low warping scores and good intelligence, is the option of inducing Twilights and seeking wisdom in the magic realm. This can give pretty good XP at a relatively fast rate, even for young magi, with the downside of providing massive warping and leading to several poor twilight experiences as well.

  4. Collaboration - This is the approach I'm leaning toward now. Having multiple members of the covenant practice the cult lore, and then write tractatus for the others to study as their scores become high enough. Writing a tractatus would probably still generate the 2 exposure XP, and reading one would be significantly more than the 4 practice XP, so it's a little faster. This has the benefit of creating a large body of literature for the cult, to aid new initiates, as well. Finally, if the whole group works together, it makes the new cult interesting and doesn't essentially remove one character from the saga while they work on it.

  5. Experimentation - Not really an option. In theory, you could potentially gain XP in the Cult Lore by working on some sort of magic related to the cult and experimenting, but the chance of getting that exact result on the experiment table hovers around 0.2% - 0.4%. Quick calculations, that works out to around 1 XP per 20 seasons, with probably disasters along the way.

So... any other suggestions or ideas? House rules would be appreciated as well.

I'd say your approach should be guided by the circumstances of the Cult.

If it's really the "deranged ramblings of a lone voice", that then get picked up by others who see the glimmer of sense within the insanity, then I think a single author practising (i.e. inventing chants and rituals etc.) and then writing down his new lore makes perfect sense.

If you have a covenant that is looking for a way to bind its members closer together, then the collaborative approach may fit best. I'd imagine the magi starting to write about how the covenant has shaped their study and magic and then those writings becoming part of a shared library on the subject.

I don't buy the idea of a bunch of magi in the same place writing and exchanging books just to take advantage of the rules, however. I think you could maybe look at other ways to model collaboration between magi. I just don't think the rules are a perfect fit for collaborating and making something from new.

The correspondences rules from Covenants might be useful.

Another way to aproch this is cross-references.
Although your cult may be new, it may share aims or certain kind of philosohy with other cults, religions or orders that already exist or ceased to exist. Your magio may search ancient texts and rituals in search for truth therein. This way you have many options to run stories to acquire books, scrolls or wisdom from the long dead. However, you may not spend all the Xp you get in your Cult-lore.
Example: You may find a copy of the "De Veritate" written by Anselm von Canterbury, Quality 8.Reading it you realize that it reaveals some insights into truth that can also be related to your cult giving you 4Xp in your cult lore and leaving you with 4Xp to raise your score in Theology.

Hm. See, I don't think the tractatus thing is an abuse of the rules. As each character learns the cult lore, they'll have slightly different insights into it. After a season of writing about it, they'll have a useful book that gives sort of a new angle on the philosophy of the cult.

The whole point of tractatus is seeing something from a unique viewpoint and learning that way, I think. After all, even someone with Ignem 40 can still learn some from an Ignem tractatus written by an apprentice.

One of our magi wants to start his own Mystery Cult too.
It is a Cult designed around ancient knowledge he found in an old, ruined city of an ancient civilisatzion. So he can get the proper Cult Lore by study the old texts and invents a way (the scripts) to learn them.

or you could just take a massive amount of ordeals, quest, and flaws...

My point was about a covenant of magi. In our current saga, there's a likelihood that our covenant will essentially evolve into a tight-knit cult. In that situation, where the magi are living together, I don't think it's realistic to use the tractatus rules. They just wouldn't scurry away to their labs on their own and then swap books; they'd talk and discuss and practice.

Now, a group of like minded magi from all corners of the Order? Sure, tractatus away.

I don't know, the tractatus rules might do to model the sort of on going discussions those groups of magi have. If they want to spend a season each writing and then reading a tractatus I'd have no problem calling it two seasons of bull sessions (one each to 'write', one to 'study). I'd even allow their personal journals from those sessions to serve as tractatus for other people (although I might arbitrarily set a negative modifier to the quality).

I would not allow Cult Lore to be learned by practice. Not everything can be learned by practice, the Hermetic Arts are a prime example.

I suspect that any activity that would count as practicing Cult Lore:X would be better modeled as engaging in study with whatever activity you engage in providing a source regarding Cult Lore:X. For instance, if you wanted animal sacrifices to be part of the Mystery Cult, you might spend a season conducting animal sacrifices. You could try out different means and methods and procedures. The GM could decide how important this aspect of the mystery cult is to itself, and give it a source quality from there. But modeling it as practicing seems wrong.

That is practice, though. Doing something related to the ability you're trying to learn for a season, and getting a source quality from it, without getting any other benefit.

So you're actually suggesting the opposite of what you seem to intend to suggest. You want practice to not only work, but potentially work with a source quality better than 4.

TMRE specifically notes that you can improve Cult Lore by Practice, but that others in the Cult may not agree with your innovations, leading the schisms and splitting of Cults...

Lets say that your cult was based around dragons. Listening to a colection of tales about dragons might be a source of quality 1, experimenting with a pile of dragon scales a source of qualtiy 2, interviewing a dragon over a season might be a source of quality 8.

What I want to avoid is someone with 5 XP in Cult Lore: Children of the Dragons repeating what legends he knows to himself for three seasons and suddenly knowing more about the Children of the Dragons cult.

Besides feeling more reasonable to me, it provides a reason for the mages to go out and search for things, which seems like a good thing to me.

If all the cult members are player characters, how can you model the divergence properly? The players are going to want to accept the inovations that their fellow players developed, but without some independant reality that the characters are referencing, they are bound to develop contary traditions.

Well. If the cult members are all players working on it at the same time, presumably they have time to consult with one another, so it won't diverge as much. The divergence (I would expect) results more when someone isolated from the cult practices cult lore.

Now, if the players were all part of a larger cult and practiced cult lore together within their covenant, their covenant's version of the cult would diverge from the main cult.

Presumably this happens with other Organization Lores too. Happens within the church occasionally, for example.


As a side-note. In having a character create a cult... it's been a large amount of game time since I started, but I'm finally making progress. Granted, he's practiced for almost half a decade, then managed to earn himself the Obsession and Fury flaws, wasted about a year and a half with questing and initations, and not managed to initiate anything yet... but that's largely because I'm impatient and need to get his cult lore up like one point higher, and instead I've been using Risk Mod +3 on the initiation scripts. Oops. :blush:

With hermetic magi at least, the leader of the cult can potentially get other hermetic followers to work with him in the laboratory, to invent a Presence- (for initiations) or Intelligence- (for creating scripts) -boosting ritual, or acquire lab texts for the same. Getting Cult Lore to 5(76) is only about five years of practice. From there, it's possible to self-initiate minor virtues fairly reliably, and initiate virtues in others around half the time (and if a few cultists end up with odd personality traits, oh well. You'll get the initiations right the next time.) : )

Presumably most cult founders either had great presence to start with, or found a way to improve it. Debauchery/Consumption, Creo Mentem, blessings from some Daimons, etc.


Starting a cult seems to be along the same lines as writing a legendary book, for an ArM character. Anyone can try to do it, but the effort is insane... unless the character was specifically built for it (mine wasn't), in which case it only requires a moderate amount of work.

"Within a few decades, the Order of Hermes will possess a new Mystery Cult."
-- The Mysteries: Revised Edition, page 19.

It's supposed to take a long time.

That being said, then their insights will not be different from the other cult members insights and a Tractus written by member A won't tell member B anything he doesn't already know.