Which Mysteries bestow Real Ultimate Power?

So, I was flicking through Mysteries and Mystery Cults and thinking..."Hmmm. ... these mysteries seem pretty dull - all they seem to do is give you some extra bonus to a lab or casting total, or tweak Hermetic magic slightly, letting you bend the rules in a few activities like being able to distill non-Vim vis out of auras"

Am I missing something? Is there a Mystery out there that takes your Magus to the next level and gives you Real Ultimate Power? The kind of thing that in kung fu movies would have black belts shaking in fear as they whisper "He know Jade Fist Demon Style! He undefeatable!"

Well, remembering that in many of those movies, that guy does, in fact, get defeated, the Mystery that best fits what you seem to be asking for is Ascension to the Hall of Heroes. You are now a small God, in a heaven your opponents cannot touch. Make arrangements to become someone's familiar (it's canon, under the Spirit Familiar Mystery) and you can still affect the "real world". How much do you want to affect the real world? There's no limit on how many mages you can be the familiar to, at the SAME time!

Then there's Dream Magic, which has the potential to be gross, to the point that, in canon, it is almost forbidden to know.

Last, Elder Runes. It's subtle, but the ability to have a thousand points of effects in one magic item is going to get you some respect.........

Well I guess it depends on how you look at it.

I think the endgame for Hermetic Theurgy could puts you on the path for becoming a God. So there's that.

Generally though I think the design idea is that the amount of time spent pursuing Initiation in a mystery cult shouldn't make a character any more powerful then another character who just spent the same amount of time studying and doing lab work. Different certainly with cool abilities others don't have but not a secret master of but whopping all must fear.

Of course thats the theory the reality is that not all mysteries are created equal and some mystery virtues seem to be far more powerful than others. (Glamor Magic springs to mind immediately) Furthermore if allowed a dedicated power gamer can easily abuse the initiation mechanic itself to get every virtue they'd ever want.

Are you crazy? Some of these mysteries are insanely powerful (which is why they have such heavy ordeals attached to them.)

Lets take a Bjornaer from Clan Wiliks, for example. Off the top, he's got extra virtues Life Boost, Cautious Sorcerer and.... something I can't remember. Doesn't matter. Those are the biggies anyhow.

Now he can spend fatigue to bump casting total. Oh, did I mention that when he initiates Inner Heartbeast, he can start initiating extra Qualities, including at least two which independently add an extra fatigue level each? Plus he can initiate all whack of nice virtues. All he really needs to do is focus on Bjornaer lore, and have good presense and for the cost of a few warping points he can spend vis to pick up free virtues like pennies on the sidewalk. (1 season + a warping point + spending some vis = script of +7. You need presence + Bjornaer lore + add ons of + 11 to hit a minor virtue or power, or + 8 to hit a Quality. This drops by 3 if you've got the right inner heart beast.

Now, lets say he initiates Ways of the Forest, just 'cus, and now he's sitting pretty able to easily get a +20- +25 boost to penetration on any spell, with -6 both die when in a forest. You like your chances in a straight-up fight?

Now let's take the Criamon Inner Mysteries. OK, some of the paths are kinda nerf. But lets not forget that the Cave of Twisting Shadows is lousy with Spirit Magic. What's that? Perfectly reasonable for a Criamon to have a Spirit Familiar? Whose Hermes cord bumps Enigmatic Wisdom?

Now its perfectly legit to have:

A) A Path of Strife magus who loves twilight, because with +12 on comprehension rolls he gets all sorts of goodies from it. He's got Single Weapon and magic sensitivity 12 (sword of quality longsword) with an attack advantage of between +50-+70, and penetration of over 60, depending on how developed he is. He can use this to attack incoporeal beings, can speak to pure elements without spells, charm them into doing his bidding and can manipulate elemental materials at will, including repelling metals, scaling sheer walls, walking on water flying on the air... all without any need for spell casting.

B) A Path of Seeming with Second Sight and Sensitivity 12+ (no disadvantages) who can immediately take in all the "memories" of any mundane object he touches. He's a clear thinker, has common sense and can spot the tiniest detail with his eagle eyes, making "crime scenes" his play ground. Oh, did I mention that he's got Inscription of the Soul (taken at character-sheet stage) and can project his ghost to anywhere he's ever been, which has the resistance and Aegis penetration of Might 60 and can cast spells (as its his Talisman)? Go ahead. Try to keep a secret plan from him. Make his day. Guernicus Qaesitors are such pansies.

Or we can look at Verditius. A newbie magus fresh out of Verdi with piss-all arts can still take Items of Quality, and make, among other things:

A) A belt that gives +3 strength
B) Armour with bonus +7 to defense
C) A Helmet that gives +5 vision
D) A sword that gives +7 attack v. faeries, while not subject to Magic Resistence.

Then, with Elder Runes, he can eventually achieve Lab Totals of 150 or more, and with Item attunement, can make items that shred through Parma like butter.
Or he can take Bind Magical Creatures, and go around all Skylar-like and collect the powers of magical creatures, binding them to his Gift.
Or he can take Enchant Casting Tools and make all the Flambeau magi cry as he shows off his 7 multicast +20 penetration subtle-cast version of Pilium of Fire.

Or maybe you pissed off the local Merinita. Then, one day, you leave your covenant and then you die. She killed you, all the way from two covenants over. How could she? She's never been within 20 paces of any arcane connection to you.

Oh, well, she has Symbol Magic, never forgets a face and drew a picture and wrote a poem about you. You're her b**** now.

Perhaps, though, she was a True Merinitae, and you wanted to chase her into her forest home. Ha. hahahahahaha. The forest comes alive and eats you.

Or perhaps she's a Follower of Pendule, who can for all practical purposes create ANY non-healing Creo effect using just one Form. And can turn all your spell-casting into charms that make daffodils. Don't worry, though. She's been practicing. They're very pretty daffodils, so all your friends will still be impressed. Lots of people have that problem, when their fire spell turns into flowers. Its nothing to be ashamed of. :slight_smile:

But you're right. Mystery Cults are totally nerf.

For kung fu movies, see the Path of Strife in House Criamon.

There's an awful lot of Greek philosophy in Buddhism. In the real world, not just me making stuff up. You want Diamond Venhicle hijinks, the Path of Strife is your go to mystery.

There might not be a specific sentence prohibiting this in ArM5, but it goes against every given detail of what the magus-familiar relationship is.

Verditious elder runes are very powerful (too powerful in my opinion).

Glamour magic is a doozy.

There are lots of second tier sort of effects that can get very dangerous with some thought.

Consummate talisman is one for instance in that with the right set up (strong vim) you can be casting spells 15 or 20 levels below what their effects are.
Animae magic can be a monster if you use it to awaken your enchanted devices to cast spells on their own.

Hermetic theurgy can do some very nasty things if you set up a cult that has a goodly number of clever laboratory texts to take advantage of its strengths (say on average 15 members of the cult, each member produces one theurgical lab text every 8 years, the cult is 250 years old so you've got 300 lab texts).

Greater philosophical alchemy basically gives characters some free vis of whatever art they'd like every season. You can't complain about that.

I think that this post sums it up very well

I'll note that the idea behind mysteries is tell a story get a virtue. Only virtues appropriate to a cult can be researched for initiation with a particular cult lore. That means that each cult lore (at least in my games) is only good for a few virtues (few meaning 8-12 or so) and the those virtues are not necessarily the ones that were specifically chosen by the player for maximum badassity. (One of the example cults in the back of the book seems to allow every virtue but I think that this makes for a weaker less fun game.)

It gets worse, Gerg. You can still do magic once you have Ascended, you are still a Mage. There doesn't seem to be any rules reason (yes, I know, common sense, but this is a thread on next level powergaming) that You can't enchant the bond, and plenty of roleplaying reasons to do so. As to being a familiar to multiple mages, it's canon, if weird. You are not the familiar, you send an "aspect" of yourself to be the familiar, and you can have as many aspects as you want. A slender reed for such power, but there you are.

Mr. Tyrrell, I think Elder Runes are fine, but should be considered a Magical Focus. Insofar as a Mage can only have one of those, the previous focus should become Potent Magic, and that gets rid of the tripling that I think crosses the line.

It is way more powerful than a magical focus, even major.
A single rune applies to an entire art. And you can apply 2 runes to some effects...

Oh, sure. Elder Runes > Major Magical Focus > Minor Magical Focus. I just think that putting them all in the same "category" keeps it in the realm of reason. First, while you now have the legendary "Focus in Lab work", you lose any Focus when out of the lab. Second, your example is not quite complete. You, as most of us do when thinking about Elder Runes, left out the +5/+10 to the effect level and extra Vis. Elder Runes can be counterproductive, which cannot be said of Focus. And that penalty applies to everything in the Item, which could add up if you used the runes on your Talisman. Remember, +10 to the effect level is one pawn of Vis. It adds up. Vis is valuable in canon. Doubling your Arts for one effect might easily cost you more than a Rook. Was that worth it? Elder Runes are cool, but they are not an unalloyed blessing....

Not really, since they Daimons are legio by nature

I really don't understand how, within the plot line, you can make Elder Runes a Magical Focus. Especially since the rules explicitly explain how a Focus stacks up in combination with Elder Runes.

Don't get carried away with how powerful Elder Runes are. Don't forget two limitations:

1.) You need to be able to fit all that vis into an actual item. For mutliple effects, you'll need Item Attunement, and attuned items can be.... well, a double edged sword, what with the Golemesque infatuation with the item that develops over time. Not to mention the Ordeals you've got to go through...

2.) The extra space taken up by runes simply amplifies the biggest problem with School of Verditius magic: Its really, really expensive. I mean stupid costly. When as a Verditius you invest in making a big, powerful item you're really going all in. Much of your vis and your time will be sunk into its creation. If you lose it, you're set way, way, way back. If you get into a situation where its not useful (i.e., you go Creo Auram and end up confronted by a bunch of demonic ghosts)...well, tough luck. For Elder Runes to be worth the cost, you really ought to have a score of around 15 in the Art you're runing. You don't have the luxury of being a generalist, and the lack of Terram and Imaginem runes really limit your ability to play around with indirect attacks.

I've found that, with the exception of Items of Quality (which make Verditius magi workable early game), Verditius mysteries have the effect of tying your character ever more closely to a very small number of hyper-focused items, into which your character literally pours his soul. You become very, very powerful, yes, but also very, very specialized due to the wicked Ordeals required, the powerful art scores needed to make the Mysteries really useful and the time of expense of realising powerful items, unless you're willing to sell for vis in which case you've got to content with the awesome meta-flaw of Hubris.

I believe that the Mysteries of the other cults play out much the same way. You can boost your power in a certain field to incredible degrees, but only at terrible cost of breadth and with great handicaps.

Many here have noted how Uber-Powerful Glamours are. And they are really, really powerful. However, let's not forget just how vulnerable Vulnerable Magic can leave you. Someone finds your weakness and bam, you go from the most bad-ass magus in the Tribunal to a laughably weak and exposed shadow of a wizard, who can be trumped by any old mundane who can speak or has access to an iron nail. And that's just PART of the Ordeal.

All the Mystery Cults, I find, do a great job of achieving this balance. Criamon requires the most care from the SG, (as the biggest flaw is the Piety bit) but they all have the effect of forcing the character down a very, very focused path.

Good compromise, I think, but without generalised back up, this build could implode.

EDIT: - I'm also going to have to strongly disagree with the notion that Mysteries should only make you about as strong as the time investment would have yielded in normal lab work or learning. In fact, it should make you WAY more powerful, because this boost comes at the cost of an Ordeal. That's what forces you to be choosy about your selctions. I mean, yeah, if you get Enchant Casting tools you'll be boss in combat... except that you're more vulnerable to supernatural creatures and to lab botches causing twilight, a pretty big deal if you're Verditius. Or if you go Bjornaer, sure you've got three exrra virtues for often relatively little cost, but you'll never have a familiar. You ready to surrender the three-fewer botch die and extra set of eyes and ears late game?

The way Mysteries are set up, you're almost ALWAYS giving more than you get. Major Virtues, by and large, require Major Flaw ordeals, PLUS major investments in time and wealth. Essentially, you sacrifice stuff that you're not going to focus on (and no can never focus on again) or gain a major general handicap in order to become very powerful in a more narrowly focused way.

I love it. Its good for the troupe, its fair and balanced (actually, not Fox-fair) and it builds character, literally, as these changes often drive the story of a character down a very interesting path.

You seem to have missed the part where Elder Runes gives you the ability to put Magic Theory * Philosophy into an item in one season, replacing MT*2. So Attunement is not required, or even useful, insofar as Elder Runes will, as a rule, give you more spaces. The cost is definitely an issue, anyone wanting to use it should try to learn Philosophical Alchemy as soon as possible. I see a confraternity forming soon to add it to the House.....
Yes, the rules do talk about how Elder Runes work with a Focus, no argument there. But many find the thought of that combination "Too gross". I like the idea of Elder Runes, they really feel "right", so that's my suggestion for those who want to "tone it down". But I'm with you. It's not that gross or useful a Mystery, and I want to learn it because Effect Expiry just doesn't feel like something a Verdidius would do to one of his "children". So I'm willing to tell the story and pay extra Vis so that I can make better Items in one season.

Replying to your edit, Yes! I love Mysteries, I love the Ordeals, I love the idea, I love how they drive Characters. Really, the only part I don't like is the rules for changing the Ordeals and the ability they give to "shop" for flaws. I know why they have been given to us, but I like the idea that what you see is what you get. Why haven't the Verdidius replaced Attunement with something useful? Because too many of the House learned to repair magic items (I mean, wow! A really useful Mystery) and found too late the sacrifice left them unable to do Original Research or incorporate Ancient Magics! That's a cool story.....

No, with elder runes in addition to the art doubling (as if that weren't already too much) you also have your per season vis limit changed to Magic theory * philosophae (the same philosophae that gives verditius a bonus to enchantment lab totals). So 6 magic theory (specialized in item creation) * 3 philosophae is 18 or 21 pawns depending upon if you judge the specialization as aplying. That's 180 or 210 levels with scores that aren't unheard of fora starting character. An older magus might have MT 8 + philosophae 5 gives you more vis capacity than you're likely to use.

Verditius elder runes aren't absurdly powerful for beginning characters they're absurdly powerful for characters who have some years behnd them. If your characer is an elder runes guy you're probably not going to be a terram or imaginem specialist. But honestly you don't need to get penetration with imaginem spells and if indirect attacks are your thing you'll be no worse off with Herbam.
but the big deal with elder runes is that whatever specialization you have you'll get double arts with it much of the time.

You say hyper specialized but those art scores that you need for your items are the same one that allow you to use spontaneous magic. If you have one good form and three good techniques you'll be able to take on most problem. For verditious spells are no harder to create than for anyone else items are easier. These pulls towards of hyper specialization aren't any worse for verditious than for anyone other house. Just that if a verditious happens to have elder runes they get even more benefit from it.

I certainly don't share this opinion either, Mysteries by their nature grant breadth and flexibility, they open up paths not close. Look at them sensory magic, spell timing, Neo Mecurian road magic, Numerology, Holy Magic, Animae heck even elder runes allow you to enchant things that you otherwise couldn't. They all give the character more flexibility not less.

I was one of those that listed Glamour magic as powerful. I didn't say it was too powerful (I only had criticism for Verditious elder runes). You make it sound as though someone knowing your weakness makes you completely impotent. it doesn't it just means that they can dispel any thing you cast. You can still manipulate the rest of the world with your glamors. Heck if you're worried about them you can still glamour up a giant to throw a rock at them ans squish them.

No you can easily dip into a mystery and gain breadth. Most only force laser tight focus if you initiate too much too young (exceptions like the true merinita are out there).

I do share your implied opinion that as a whole the mysteries are not a clear and unambiguous step up from normal hermetic magic. My take on it is that the cost of initiating mysteries stays relativity constant over the course of a magus' life. Meanwhile the return on time invested in arts and abilities becomes progressively smaller (although the return on time in the lab gets greater). So the older a character gets the more relative benefit they get from pursuing mystery initiation instead of arts and abilities.

In my current saga my character is thinking about starting up his own Mystery Cult, so I appreciate these rules for that.

However, I do find it a bit irritating that a Mystagogue with a low Mystery Cult Lore has difficulty creating Mystery Scripts that have a large Script Bonus. I can see that it makes a certain amount of sense, but there is a bit of a trap here in terms of gameplay. If you have a low Cult Lore you want to make Scripts that have a big Script Bonus, but because you have a low Cult Lore you can't actually make the Script. Whereas if you have a good Cult Lore Score, you don't need Scripts with large bonuses anymore.

This basically means that a Script with a large Script Bonuses has to be made by a Mystagogue with a good Cult Lore Score for other lesser Mystagogues to use for initiations. There is no point making Scripts with large bonuses for yourself to follow as Mystagogue.

Er... no.
They give you no extra spaces, just allow you to fill all available spaces with a lower MT score.

MT 5 Philosophiae 3 means you can put 15 pawns into something in a season if there's room for it!
It doesn't mean there's suddently 15 spaces in a wooden wand (eg.) - just that you don't need MT 8+ to prepared such an item.

The verditii have always been vis hogs and have always wanted Philosophical Alchemy, nothing new in that.

It seems that there is quite a hype on the power of verditii. If they were so powerful in game, sounds like multicasting disenchant (you do not even need penentration for that) would quite popular. Just a random thought....

When TMRE came out, it was an interesting pointer by Timothy Ferguson in the forum: Mysteries are not designed as the ultimate goal to power, but as a way to get some stuff for people that are already massively powerful. Middle aged magi, basically. For noobs it is better to just go and grab normal hermetic advancement


Disenchant is a ritual. An appropriate suite of low level perdo spells such as rust and decay of ten score years and curse of rotting wood might be a good countermeasure.

A goodly amount of this talk seems to be about how verditius can be beaten in a violent conflict. Violent conflict between magi I don't see as a big issue (Verditii can create very high penetration devices that render combat encounters moot so combat isn't a non -issue, especially with creatures of might who likely can't prepare the countermeasures that are suggested). My players tend to not want to conflict with other peoples characters. The big issue is one particular virtue allowing the capability of one character to markedly exceed other supposedly equivalent characters. Now if you have a game with magi of different ages you've prepared for this. But if you haven't, the minmaxer in the group will find elder runes and fall in love with it and the non-minmaxer will sit at the same table and feels frustrated because his choices are in no way comparable and both the storyguide and the other players will have a little bit less fun than they might otherwise procure.

Well, clearly Mysteries can allow for Ultimate Power in two ways - by pumping your Lab and Casting Totals in a certain domain, or by allowing entirely-new powers and abilities that are "game-breakers".

I think all "true immortality" Mysteries are game-breakers - they allow you infinite time to keep on studying and improving. This includes especially theurgical ascension, that even puts you safely within the Magic Realm. They also slow down your advancement, however, so in any real saga they probably won't break the game.

A possible game-breaker is the ability to summon daimons - depending on their powers and how well you can bargain with them. So Hermetic Theurgy is possibly a game-breaker, depending on circumstances.

Another game-breaking Mystery is the ability to affect distant targets without an Arcane Connection. Faerie Symbol Magic (or whatever it's called) does that. I'm not sure, but IIRC the Mystery taught by that dragon in Ancient Magic does that too, based on geography.

Creating stuff without raw-vis would be game-breaking, at least at the social level. But I don't remember any Mysteries allowing that.

Creating permanent effects bends if not breaks the social setting, and is doable with faerie Time (?) mysteries, again. Then again, that's nothing compared to the core Until condition, that can't be broken by anything short of a direct Divine intervention and lasts effectively forever...

The other meaning of Ultimate Power, accumulative power, is best served not by a single Mystery but rather by the combination of several Mysteries along an initiation path that, together, grant Ultimate Power. I think the most game-breaking are the pseudo-Focus virtues, so for example a path that includes a Focus in necromancy and Cthonic Magic would be a good start; pile on a major Potent Magic and a few other virtues (perhaps Cyclic Magic?), and you've got a power increase so great that it's a game-breaker. Clearly, Elder Runes also works really, really well for the same reason.

Non-Hermetic Synthemata also sounds quite effective, although I don't really remember whether the mecahnics make it too cost-intensive. Being able to effectively dismiss your opponent's MR is a rather significant power-boost, perhaps even more effective than doubling your Art for some magi.