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Hipster Occultist
Aug 16, 2008

He's an ancient, obscure god. You probably haven't heard of him.




What exactly is Twilight anyways? Criamon seems to be big on it and I'm not following.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Hipster Occultist posted:

What exactly is Twilight anyways? Criamon seems to be big on it and I'm not following.

Essentially: when a magus overdoses on magic, they may enter Twilight. Twilight is an insane journey through strange magical realms, while the body may or may not end up hanging around in, usually in a coma (or, in the case of Bjornaer, an animal). You cannot return from Twilight until you comprehend the experience, and it can leave you better or worse off for the journey depending on how hard that is for you to do. While in Twilight, your spells all break and your body is impervious to change if it actually remained in the physical world.

The Final Twilight occurs when you are so warped by magic that your Twilight never ends.

Hipster Occultist
Aug 16, 2008

He's an ancient, obscure god. You probably haven't heard of him.




Neat. So unless you die by accident, disease, or violence you'll spend all of time in a crazy psychedelic journey?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Hipster Occultist posted:

Neat. So unless you die by accident, disease, or violence you'll spend all of time in a crazy psychedelic journey?

That is the theory, yes. Experientially, of course, it's hard to say what actually happens during Final Twilight since...no one comes back from it.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The research of House Criamon over the centuries has led them into many bizarre insights into the universe, granting them new abilities. Their fields of research, called the Paths, are traditional ways of gaining wisdom. Each Path is centered on a clutch, but most clutches have members who follow paths not usual to the clutch. They may travel to the clutch of their path or the Cave, where they gain the guidance they need, when they actually require guidance and training. All Criamon see life as a spiritual journey, and usually follow one of the paths laid out by their predecessors. The book does not describe all paths - just a handful of the paths known to House Criamon. Some magi, particularly young ones, do not attempt to follow or pioneer a path, and it is said of these magi that they follow the Winding Path. Those on the Winding Path may sometimes stray from apt action regarding pacifism, inappropriate sex or carnivorism. Most magi on the Winding Path eventually find spiritual direction, often with intriguing results. You may only follow one Path at a time; a Path has a mental framework involved that renders it incompatible with other worldviews. To change Paths is a lifeshaking decision, for it means abandoning much of the old. Any magus who steps from their Path to another begins without use of any Stations on that Path, save for Enigmatic Wisdom, and lose access to all of their old Mysteries of the last Path. Those who rejoin a Path regain the understanding they had when they left it. There is one exception: the Primi, who retain the stations on their previous Path when they step onto the Path only the Primi may travel, the Path of the Mirror.

Most mystery cults enforce secrecy with dread oaths and threats. House Criamon does not see any need for this. The things they learn on the Paths are simply so obscure that anyone not trained in the Criamon method of thinking via riddles will not understand them. Those who try to develop Enigmatic Wisdom outside the House's belief structure and practices inevitably fail. The House has been molded by its Mysteries. They don't have to hide their secrets - the secrets hide themselves. Unlike most cults, there is not much in the way of formal structure to most Paths. They do not need Mystagogues so much as guides, who serve a similar role. The difference is that guides are non-hierarchical, and any task based on impressing them is generally insignificant and unhelpful to initiation - the Enigma cannot be impressed. There are two exceptions: the Path of the Mirror is taught by the ghosts of the Primi as standard mystagogues, and the Path of Strife has formal initiation as well, for it transgresses the mores of the House.



Each Path is divided into five Stations or grades of progress. These are psychological states that, due to the wisdom they provide, allow a magus to understand profound insights. This grants supernatural powers and Mysteries. To Criamon magi, the insights are more important, and the powers mere side effects. The process of reaching a new Station is known as following an avenue. Each avenue is a process of awakening, purification and testing, requiring an understanding of the lore of House Criamon, some form of trial or ritual investiture and an adventure to gain insight. Note that the avenues and Stations themselves are insufficient to support the Mysteries: they require a state of spiritual purification. A magus who lives badly rejects that state and loses the associated powers until purity is restored; essentially, each Path tends to involve a vow or stat of piety that, when broken or corrupted, removes the powers until restoration is made.

Before we get into Paths proper, let's take a brief look at Enigmatic Wisdom and what it does. Essentially, it is the core of understanding of the Enigma and the ability to view events and objects in unusual and intuitive ways, generally via meditation on the 15 riddles related to the Arts. This helps find connections, allowing understanding of mankind, the universe and the ties between them in ways incomprehensible to most magi. Enigmatic Wisdom assists in interpretation of arcane symbols, visions and omens, including the reading of the stigmata of other Criamon. By meditating on Enigmatic Wisdom while walking a labyrinth, a magus may focus their mental state, gaining a bonus to a single physical activity, attempt to remember a fact or attempt to solve a single conundrum. If unused, the bonus fades after an hour. This cannot assist in any task the magus has no idea how to do. Those with good Enigmatic Wisdom need not have an actual labyrinth - walking a circle will suffice. Those with amazing skill need not even walk - they can just imagine the circle. At the beginning of skill, it takes 16 hours to perform a labyrinth meditation, and more skill will reduce the time significantly. Enigmatic Wisdom also assists in comprehending Twilight, though it also makes the magus more vulnerable to suffering Twilight in the first place.

Anyway. The Path of the Body focuses on the human form as a symbolic reflection of the universe, such that studying it reflects on the prison of time, and enhancing it makes it a great tool and vehicle for escape. In many ways, this is the inverse of Hermetic alchemy, which assumes a perfect universe and that a magus who perfectly reflects it will become immortal. Criamon magi assume the universe, like all bodies, inevitably decays. The following is the most common order of Stations, but for some magi the Station of Perfect Movement is second and the Station of Spiritual Nourishment is third. This branching reflects the attitude of the magus; those who see the body as a vessel for the spirit learn Nourishment first, while those who see it in mechanistic terms learn Movement first. Each must learn to respect the other view before the fourth station can be achieved, and if the order of the two is reversed, so are the costs, such that piety is always the cost of the third station. Those on the Path of the Body tend toward practicel, useful insights, and an unusually large proportion of Primi have followed this path before their ascension to Primacy. The ones who've achieved the Microcosmic Station tend to be active administrators under whom the House coordinates well.

The Avenue of Subduing the Meat leads to the Station of the Perfect Tool first. Several ritual investitures can be used on this avenue, each descended from a tradition of mystics adopted into the early House. Those who follow this avenue develop control over their body's desires and distractions, usually via painful mortification or fatiguing exertion, both of which take a full year. A handful of magi have followed this avenue by turning themselves into plants for a year. The avenue ends with a guide acting as midwife to a spiritual rebirth. The magus realizes that the body is the perfect tool for magic, for it is adapted to magic and magic is adapted to it. This inspection and understanding grants a minor Potency in some aspect of the Art of Corpus. Magi of this Station can see the intrinsic link between the body and the magic it wields, and may use their understanding to minister to the body, using Enigmatic Wisdom in place of chirurgy and medicine, as well as instinctively sensing when they are ill and where, though they may not know the appropriate treatments. They swear to uphold the lifestyle of the House, and find it harder to do magic while ill. Wounds do not prevent magic usage, of themselves, but may leave the body open to infections, which would. (Though it is commonly known that fevers do not inhibit the Form of Ignem, and other diseases may have similar 'flaws'.)



The Avenue of Drinking the Winds of Inspiration leads to the Station of Spiritual Nourishment via a process of purification involving abstinence. The magus must travel to a potent magical aura. From the first day of the solar sign Virgo, the magus begins progressively deeper fasts, avoids spellcasting and performs much labyrinthine meditation. During this time, they are generally unable to do any useful work, for they are only half-conscious of the mortal world. They are hounded by hallucinations representing their addiction to flesh and grain. They may leave the trance state for emergencies, but must then start over from the beginning. Those who manage the initiation have drawn themselves away from the universe enough that their bodies are sustained by the flux of harmony and strife. They gain Warping each year, but do not age. While in magical or mundane areas, they need not eat, drink or breathe. They must engage in six hours of labyrinthine meditation each day, but need not sleep. These meditations fully engage the mind; the magus is aware of surroundings and may cease meditating if threatened, ut cannot perform any useful work while meditating and gain no extra time for study. They require six hours of meditation each day, though it can be in bursts. Those who fail to perform this meditation must either eat or starve. Many on the path fast occasionally by forgoing both food and meditation, and those recovering from illness often meditate for longer periods than strictly needed. Spiritual nourishment fails in strong Faerie or Infernal auras as well as any Dominion aura. It also fails if the magus performs inapt actions. The anti-aging properties of the Station may be maintained in Arcadia by the consumption of one pawn of Creo vis from the mortal world each week, though in Arcadia the magus must still eat, drink and sleep as normal. They still do not breathe, for reasons no one understands. Those who enter Dominion or Infernal areas for more than a few days begin to age again, and in such areas must eat, breathe, drink and sleep, regaining one need each day. A magus who ages for any length of time is considered to age for the entirety of the year, even if they regain the spiritual nourishment. Those who lose spiritual nourishment may regain it via labyrinth meditation once the reason for failure has been fixed.

The Avenue of the Tiniest Seed leads to the Station of Perfect Economy of Movement, allowing for incredible muscular precision. This requires a full season of complex training in focus and movement from a guide. These magi are supernaturally graceful. Once per day, following a labyrinth meditation, they may perform a single act of perfect precision, automatically succeeding on nearly any Dexterity-based roll, theoretically including missile weapon attacks or aimed spells, though the Criamon pacifist lifestyle limits the usefulness of this. Those reaching this station become certain, in their innermost self, of the correctness of their path, gaining a pious devotion to the lifestyle and mindset it represents.

The Avenue of the Spherical Mirror leads to the Station of the Microcosm, teaching that fact which most magi are intellectually aware of: the human form and the universe share underlying structure, so the body is a microcosm of the universe. The usual method of initiation and understanding involves deprivation, encasing the magus in quartz or glass and leaving them in darkness, as if dead, for a full season. The ability to feed from the Inspirato provides sustenance as the magus learns to sense corporeal connections to the universe, isolated from distraction. It was usual, in the early days, to undergo this trial alone, and it was found that a cave in Ethiopia was perfect for it. However, the extreme difficulty of getting there has made substitute places more common, with a guide interceding to allow completion of the ritual. Some wish to return to the old way, which they believe will lead to more novel insights. Others say the newer ritual, which requires only a season rather than a year, is itself a wonderful breakthrough. The insight of the microcosm shows the magus that they are connected to all things, allowing them to cast spells as if they held an Arcane Connection to any place they have ever visited or any thing they have ever touched that is currently within a mundane place. People, being microcosms, cannot be targeted by spells in this way. Some religious Criamon insist this is because the soul contains a Divine spark, making people not mundane. This does allow for easy teleportation, though. One limit is that you can only use this power on places you distinctly remember, and so you must roll Intelligence to be sure you can recall in enough detail if you haven't been there recently or lack sufficient familiarity.

The Avenue of Repose in the Body leads to the Threshold of Corporeal Repose. The magus prepares for this final station by making their spirit ready to move from microcosmic body to the macrocosmic parallel. This ritual is done at a place and time where the connection between body and universe is strongly apparent; the Axis Magica may be used instead, but the House much prefers you use a less well-understood connection. Historically, the meeting of the White and Blue Nile at the moment of flooding has been popular, for it represents the first division of arteries in the heart. The magus ritually consumes mystic representations of the four humors. One is found at the initiatory sight, and the other three require Quests to obtain in places so exceptional as to, themselves, be suitable ritual sites. The ghostly Primi remember the sites used by prior travelers, but encourage magi to find at least one novel, untested site. These representations contain vis and are usually found in very strange locales guarded by bizarre monsters. While they linger, these magi dwell in bodies purified of all mortal frailties. They regain any attributes lost to aging and no longer age in any way. Any attribute they had below human average is raised to that average. Short of death itself, their body will reform if damaged with the rise of the full moon, causing all mundane disfigurements and scars to fade, including the belly button. The magus retains stigmata and continues to gain Warping, however.

Repose in the Body involves being reborn as the universe itself, becoming one with necessity and in doing so seeking to change it, allowing the cycle of falling and rising harmony to at last come to an end.

Next time: The Path of Seeming

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


Part 3

Völuspá, Stanza 41 posted:

Now death is the portion of doomed men,
Red with blood the buildings of gods,
The sun turns black in the summer after,
Winds whine. Well, would you know more?

This first of a set of quotations from the Völuspá starts off the Heroes’ Section, the part of the book designed for all players to read. (The GM’s Section comes later; no fancy names for game masters here!) The section starts off with a set of Character Concepts. These lists are a conventional part of Savage World setting books and are meant to be a non-exhaustive set of ideas for PC characters.

Arcane Scholar

quote:

Yes, yes, it’s a tragedy that the Nazis summoned a monster from Norse myth and crushed 400 million people under it. But think what it means for your studies!
You study magic, which is a lot easier these days.

Barbarian
Basically Conan. Now that civilization’s ruined, you finally have permission to be the lone wolf badass you were always meant to be.


I just love the name “Piggly Wiggly” so much.

Engineer
It’s only been three years since the Serpentfall and the need to rebuild is great. You design machines and structures to protect people from monsters and the harsh elements.

Hunter
You fight monsters.

quote:

You kill ‘em for the Lord, or because a demon got your dad in ’46, or because smart towns pay a fat bounty for every giant snake head brought in.

Mercenary
You fight people for money.

Oilman
You fight against stiff competition to get oil out of the Serpent’s body and to your customers.

Outlaw
You’re on the wrong side of what passes for the law these days.

quote:

Maybe someone died, or maybe they just really want their stuff back. Or maybe you didn’t do it at all, and a military court didn’t want to hear about your alibi.

Prospector
Really more of a scavenger. There’s copper wire in them thar hills! And steel, and gold, and jewels, and cars, and food that you can probably still eat. You have to contend with monsters and bandits in order to win and keep your salvage.

Rebel

quote:

The world fell apart, but somehow the oppressors are still here.
You fight against imperialist hegemony and for the freedom of your people, be it against the Americans, the French, the Russians, the Japanese, or whomever.

Scientist

quote:

The single most important event in the history of mankind just happened. And it happened where you can measure it. The Serpent redefines physics; what’s inside it, and what came after it, turns biology on its head.
You try to understand the Serpentfall from a scientific, rather than magical, perspective.

Secret Agent
You’re James Bond. It’s your job to figure out what both your enemies and your allies are trying to hide.

quote:

After all, the last time someone surprised your side, a giant snake killed Europe.

Soldier
You fight monsters and baddies for home and country.

Next up is Character Roles, which suggests roles you might accept within a party of people in the same profession. The book suggests a few group concepts:
speleo-herpetologists, wildcat oilmen, a law-enforcement or military squad. Instead of making five virtually identical professionals to populate that group, each member of the party specializes their character so that everyone has something they’re good at. For each Role, the book suggests a set of Key Skills, Key Attributes, and Key Edges to focus on.

Bruiser

Key Skills: Guts, Fighting, Shooting.
Key Attributes: Strength and Vigor.
Key Edges: Brawny, Quick, Trademark Weapon.

Medic

Key Skills: Healing, Knowledge (Biology), Survival.
Key Attributes: Smarts and Spirit.
Key Edges: Common Bond, Fast Healer, Healer.

Specialist

Key Skills: Boating, Driving, Lockpicking, Piloting, Repair, Shooting.
Key Attributes: Agility and Smarts.
Key Edges: Ace, McGyver, Mr. Fix-it.

Talker

Key Skills: Gambling, Persuasion, Streetwise.
Key Attributes: Spirit and Smarts.
Key Edges: Attractive, Charismatic, Connections.

Thinker

Engineer is a better fit for this, but he’s already representing the Specialist so I went with the comedy option.
Key Skills: Investigation, Knowledge (any), Notice.
Key Attributes: Smarts.
Key Edges: Danger Sense, Investigator, Scholar.

A sidebar provides examples of how the Professional Edges from the core book might work in the setting:


I spot allusions to John Birch, Phillip Marlowe, Indiana Jones, and Catwoman. Who can you find?

Now it’s time to learn about Making Heroes! These are step-by-step instructions for making a DAR character, which overlap somewhat with the rules in the core book, but have a few notable differences.

Race
Unlike a few other Savage Settings where you can play humanoids, DAR only allows for human characters. In a departure from the core book rules, only Wild Card humans get a free Edge.

Nationality
Characters also get small bonuses based on the country they’re from. The book only provides specific benefits for Americans and Texans (who get 1 additional skill point in Fighting or Shooting) and people from the British Commonwealth (who get double the starting cash). Those who want to play people of other nationalities have to work out a national bonus with the GM, though Hite suggests 1 point in Survival to reflect the fact that almost every nation has suffered over the past three years.

Attributes
Same as in the core book.

Skills
Same as in the core book, with the reminder of the extra skill point that Americans and Texans get.

Languages
Your character is fluent a number of languages equal to half his Smarts die; the first one is his native tongue, which is probably English if you’re playing a Commonwealth or American hero. You can leave some or all of the other language slots blank to establish later (“Actually, I happen to speak isiZulu!”). If you manage to increase his Smarts permanently, then he gets an additional language.

Secondary Statistics
Same as in the core book.

Special Abilities
Same as in the core book.

Gear
Everyone starts out with the clothes on his back and $250 dollars American, except for Commonwealth heroes, who get £100 ($500). If you take the Rich Edge, you get $750, or £300 ($1,500) if you’re from the Commonwealth. The book recommends spending most of that money on stuff to help you kill real good, especially ammunition, which people in the Poisoned Lands use as currency.

Background and Name
Standard fluffy stuff. Hite specifically asks you to think about why your character is joining up with the rest of the party, which I think is always a good thing to emphasize.

Next up are the New Hindrances:

Blank Stare (Minor)
You’re shell-shocked by a bad experience you had in the past and have trouble connecting to people. Suffer -2 Charisma.

Callous (Minor)
You don’t give a poo poo what people think of you anymore: while you’re not Bloodthirsty, you are willing to kill in order to get ahead. You take a -4 to all Persuasion tests.

Holy Roller (Minor)
You’ve found Jesus/Allah/Whoever and YOU WILL NOT SHUT UP ABOUT IT. Suffer -1 Charisma and -1 to Tests of Will against everyone who isn’t a Holy Roller of your own faith. You do get +1 Charisma when you deal with Holy Rollers of your own faith, but the Test of Will penalty still applies.

Luddite (Minor or Major)
Since the Serpentfall, many people turned away from technology: in some devastated places, they didn’t have much of a choice. The Minor version of this Hindrance means that you deal with post-19th century technology as if you had the All Thumbs Hindrance, while the Major version means you’ve rejected all modern technology: no automatic pistols, no breech-loading rifles, no travel by plane or car or advanced boat. Modern medicine may be okay, but not Serpent-derived medicine.

Snakebit (Minor or Major)
You’ve spent too much time around Serpent venom, and that makes you more susceptible to its vile influence. With the Minor version of the Hindrance, you get a -2 penalty to all Vigor checks caused by Serpent-aspected baddies (monsters, cultists, etc.), including Soak rolls when fighting monsters or cultists. The Major version gives you these penalties, plus the chance of a Face Heel Turn to the Serpent side. Rolling snake eyes when fighting Serpent-aspected enemies will turn you into the Serpent’s slave, and you’ll work and fight for it whenever you are conscious. If your buddies want to save you, they have to cast a healing on you while you are asleep or knocked out. While you are working for the Serpent, however, you don’t have to worry about the other Snakebit effects.

I was hoping to get through the entire Character Creation section in one update, but it’s getting kind of long and I’m getting kind of tired. I'll try to finish up the section tomorrow.

Next Time: New Edges and maybe Gear.

Nostalgia4ColdWar
May 7, 2007

Good people deserve good things.

Till someone lets the winter in and the dying begins, because Old Dark Places attract Old Dark Things.


The best part is if you have a GM that can't read further than the NPC's MDC and stats the 4 Horsemen are really easy to beat. We had a GM tried to do the whole Four Horsemen thing, and in a showdown between my drug abusing alcoholic biotechnowizardry implant sporting 12th level Temporal Warrior with Ninjas & Superspies martial arts, rune gauntlets that gave him a total of 65 Supernatural PS, autododge, and a serious superiority complex, War got his poo poo pushed in. In one on one combat.

If done correctly, Africa is impossible to do. If the GM doesn't know what the gently caress, it's super easy. Very rarely do you play in games where it is manages to skirt the whole thing. I've done it twice successfully and tried a half dozen times.

Honestly, my favorite Rifts threat book is Mechaniods, because you can stretch the Mechanoid War out for months, with doomsday cults and poo poo.

Hmmm, I might want to take this up in the Rifts Thread after I'm done with my "Let's Rebuild the Core Books" project.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I find myself increasingly of the belief that I drew the short straw inbetween the two books we chose to review. Africa may be the worst Rifts book published. It's conceivable that there's a worse one out there, but I can't think of one, though I admit there's still a number of Rifts books I haven't read too closely. I mean, Rifts Index & Adventures 2 may be worse, but even if it was, would anybody care?

I think you may indeed have gotten the short end of this one. That's okay. If the publication order is correct then next after that is...Wormwood!? :psypop: assuming that after Africa anyone ever wanted to hear anything about a Rifts book again

General Ironicus
Aug 21, 2008

Something about this feels kinda hinky


Erebro posted:

I like the idea that the Molihar are (not were, are) a race composed of living memes.

Know anything about them, they know about you, since a tiny bit of them is inside your brain. If they want, they can then use that knowledge to mind control you or even hollow you out and wear you like a suit.

The Conundrum was a safeguard put there by the Vas Kra-if you manage to think straight enough to learn more about the Mohliar, the headache disinfects the knowledge of Mohliar thoughtforms so you remain safe. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work....

Another suggestion given is that solving the Conundrum might summon the Mohilar back for round two, and that's s season finale cliffhanger if I ever heard one.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


occamsnailfile posted:

I think you may indeed have gotten the short end of this one. That's okay. If the publication order is correct then next after that is...Wormwood!? :psypop: assuming that after Africa anyone ever wanted to hear anything about a Rifts book again

Actually I realize now we missed a book, because it's not a part of the core Rifts line. After Mechanoids and before England, Mutants in Orbit was released, which while ostensibly for the After the Bomb game line, has an extensive section on how to adapt the book to Rifts. Whups! :eek: It also is the first Rifts book to give a cover writing credit to somebody other than Siembieda - James Wallis, who would later be the director of Hogshead Publishing.

After Africa, the publication order gives us Dimension Book 1: Wormwood, World Book 5: Triax and the NGR, and then Conversion Book 2: Pantheons of the Megaverse, which is the first book to feature a co-author credit for some jerk named CJ Carella...

Everything Counts
Oct 10, 2012

Don't "shhh!" me, you rich bastard!


Pththya-lyi posted:

A sidebar provides examples of how the Professional Edges from the core book might work in the setting:


I spot allusions to John Birch, Phillip Marlowe, Indiana Jones, and Catwoman. Who can you find?

Well the CalTech physicist who dabbles in black magic would be Jack Parsons, self-taught rocket scientist, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, friend of L. Ron Hubbard, and student of Crowley.

Loving the DAR setting, I might have to introduce this to my group when the FATE rules come out.

Everything Counts fucked around with this message at 00:55 on Jun 8, 2013

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Okay, we're almost done. This starts in on all the crap (I mean even by Rifts-levels crap) material that gets kind of shoved into the back of the books and is often equal parts 'dull junk' and 'good idea completely wasted'. Unfortunately for England it's mostly the 'dull junk' end of things.

Rifts:™ England Part 15: “Oirland”



Today we get Ireland, the Land of Enchantment which sounds like a new ride the Epcot Center or a promotional video for a timeshare. Really, it’s just chock-full of faeries and monsters of various kinds.



like these

There are a lot more :words: about the faeries and how they are just so darn crazy and prankful and how travelers best be wary and if you ever wanted to play a faerie PC, here is the right time and place for it because they’re everywhere. Hey, maybe you want to take a break from the normal serious business of a Rifts campaign, and just play a bunch of goofy faeries for a while! How does that sound!? :suicide:

The biggest humanish kingdom in Ireland is Tarramore, which is at roughly a 19th-century tech level which means potato famine or something--no, wait, they’re wealthy and enjoy many of the luxuries of Triax technology--these two sentences directly contradict each other. Apparently obsessed Spriggans rebuilt Dublin and basically made a huge pile of pre-Rifts artifacts which human settlers then found and sold for billions of credits. They have a deal with Mrrlyn for trade and protection. I’m going to skip the other city highlights except for this bit: They have a ‘Goblorc heights’ where they have a well-behaved goblin/orc population who are “citizens” and generally paid half what others make but they “don’t mind because they know they have a bad reputation.” :doh:

Ireland apparently has other places in it too but most of these are just sort of bullet-pointed monster lairs; a bunch of sphinxes and ley line walkers are doing something weird at The Grange, a large goblin tribe considers some place sacred, more spriggans, faerie mounds and Millennium Trees.

And a section marked “Adventures” which is the following:

”Rifts England” posted:

The numerous descriptions of different characters, occupational character classes, monsters, gods, and places should give players and game masters tons of ideas of conflicts and adventures. Thus, there are no specific adventure scenarios presented.


There is an entry in the Table of Contents for this.

There’s also a Random Encounter table at least. At least? No, this is extremely random. “Two flash beetles mating.” “An evil 6th level Herbalist leading bandits, 4th-5th level” “A 1D6 level hatchling dragon, GM’s choice, looking for trouble.” “The Celtic God, Bres or Balor II, looking for a fight.” I--what--this table is half TPKs.

And then right after the table of random player-crushings, we get “An Adventure Plot Idea” in direct contradiction to the statement above. It’s titled “Leprechaun cave,” this already sounds like it will be full of whimsical excitement. Anyway, there’s a cave and it’s supposedly haunted :ghost: but also rumored to be the treasure cave of a leprechaun pickpocket who has plundered the woods around this cave. It isn’t given a specific location, which is fine, just that it’s at the bottom of a cliff.

‘Observant characters’ (note that Palladium has no perception rules) may note 1D4+1 gold coins, a dagger, and a spent e-clip atop the cliff and if they look down they’ll probably see the cave. There’s a small tribe of goblins that live there but players can dispose of those fairly easily. Further back is a room full of junk lit by bioluminescent moss and a torch, and a curtained alcove. There’s a petal thing behind the curtain but “before anyone looks behind it, it will try to possess one of the group” and try to make them attack. If they put a stop to this, the monster will “use other methods of attack to kill at least one or two of the group” and once it’s fed on the PPE of those deaths, won’t want any more fighting so will try to scare the PCs away, and of course if that works they totally won’t just come back and dynamite the place later. The petal thing also apparently has a mate and they stalk the woods together; there is no leprechaun at all. Also: there is poo poo for actual treasure as a reward for killing the Petal Thing.

I guess this isn’t bad for an example of a single planned encounter or short adventure. Petal Things are a huge pain for no gain except a little XP I guess, and the lack of reward makes the scenario kind of unfulfilling. It’s like all those Skyrim caves that don’t have levelled chests.

There’s another, longer scenario after this one but it’s long enough to merit a separate post, and some time for my liver to recover from the bile of reading it. Also there's a tiny bit about France.

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Everything Counts posted:

Well the CalTech physicist who dabbles in black magic would be [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Whiteside_Parsons]Jack Parsons, self-taught rocket scientist, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, friend of L. Ron Hubbard, and student of Crowley.

Loving the DAR setting, I might have to introduce this to my group when the FATE rules come out.

Cool! Thanks for sharing. I'm glad I'm making some converts.;)

VVVVVVVVVVV

Mr. Maltose posted:

Not to mention one of the Mentalists is straight up The Shadow.

Thanks! I thought the playboy trained at a lamasery sounded familiar. My dad loves classic radio, so I've listened to a couple of the shows, but I'm hardly an expert.

Pththya-lyi fucked around with this message at 16:43 on Jun 7, 2013

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


Not to mention one of the Mentalists is straight up The Shadow.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The Path of Seeming draws on the truth that the secrets of the Enigma are hidden within the distracting details of the universe, providing tools to examine the world and help comprehend the nature of their prison, that they might finds its cracks. The Avenue of Gruel, Water and Starlight leads to the Station of Differentiation of Seeming, and those who follow it are overwhelmed with sensation. They must perform labyrinth meditation while eating only gruel and drinking only water until they may undergo the investitures that teach them how to tune their senses. These trials are traditionally done with a guide's help in a series of caves, and appropriate sites have been established in three Tribunals. Magi come to understand intellectually the difference between truth and seeming, telling what is from what appears to be. They become clear thinkers, gaining keen vision (or another sense) and a strong measure of common sense. They are the most able to communicate with others, for they are lucid and schooled in logic, though they cannot discuss the magical Mysteries of the House with those lacking the frame of reference provided by Enigmatic Wisdom.

The Avenue that Assaults the Modest of the Universe leads to the Station of True Sight. Those seeking it can sense the underlying structure of the universe, but have difficulty understanding this perception. They often develop imaginary friends and enemies, performing odd tasks that resemble psychodramas, save that they occur outside the mind. The magus's companions and guide must defend them on their path, as they wander mad and do not understand the dangers. They usually recover from this after a season, but require intervention from and training by their guide for several weeks near the end of it. Those who return from their madness are confirmed in their faith, swearing a vow to uphold the House's ways and learning to instinctively strip the universe of its illusions. Their Enigmatic Wisdom functions as a sensitivity to magic and the power to use Second Sight.

The Avenue of the Unexpected Pages leads tp the Station of Vivid Memories from Objects. Those seeking this initiation fall into a coma as their minds flow through the memories of the objects around them. They take a role in these memory narratives, seeking to push them to the point where the magus gains the object in whose memories they have become lost. The magus must recognize the object, then step into one of the roles in its memory, to press the story on until they acquire it. The magus, playing the role of another character in the memory, rarely finds it easy to deliver the object to themselves. These visions are not metaphors, and the characters in them tend to be of low social class, with little legitimate contact with magi. This forces the magus to see themself through foreign eyes, giving a more accurate sense of self and making the magus a devotee of the path. If they fail, they become lost in a new vision from another object's memories and must try again. When the ritual finally ends, the magus must bind the delivered object as a Talisman. Such an object is usually symbolically suitable, if impractical, and it may have its shape transformed by magic before enchantment. Those who manage this station can handle any mundane object that lacks magic resistance and concentrate, recalling its history as though the magus themself had experienced it. This cannot read the memories of humans or other self-aware beings. Seeking a particular memory takes effort, and memories of creation, breaking, sins, crimes and charitable acts using the item are particularly vivid.

The Avenue that is a Crossroad leads to the Station of Passing Through Seeming. This avenue involves sending your spirit to travel through the world's magical energy, finding it drawn to the four Edges of the World, regiones corresponding to the four elements and humors. The magus must escape each and return eventually to their body. Those who succeed may ignore the world, accepting that much is illusion. They seek a place by swimming through the Inspirato to view it. The part which travels is that which, after death, becomes a ghost. Ghostly magi ignore gravity and so may swim through air. They can see at their destination and speak audibly, but outside the most potent auras they cannot handle mundane objects, though they may touch enchanted items or ghostly beings, which have a magical nature. While the magus' spirit is absent from the body, the body appears a fresh corpse. It can starve or die of thirst, but will reflexively swallow soft food or water placed in the mouth. Caring for the body is a common task for apprentices. Magi travelling spectrally ('passing through seeming') have limited power to cast magic; any spells at their destination must be cast at Arcane Connection range. They cannot sense their body's surroundings, but may still cast spells targeting themselves at personal range as normal.

The Avenue that Leads to Transcendence leads to the Station from Which to Ignore the Real. This ritual initiation can only be done at the Axis Magica on New Year's Eve, though magi who dwell in the Cave must venture spiritually to the other regio, where the Axis emerges from the other side of the Earthly sphere. Few magi know of these lands, which they name Hypernestoria, and those who follow this avenue find that the mundane world is a mere frame of reference, finding it hard to tell consensual reality from all other illusions. Thus, they may ignore physical objects briefly by spending a few seconds concentrating. When they do so, they may treat a single solid object as though it were spectral for several minutes, and may do this for as many objects as they can concentrate on at once. People may not be ignored this way, for they have souls and so are qualitatively different from objects. Those who achieve this station cannot clearly differentiate between this world and Hypostasis, making it easier for them to fall into Twilight and harder for them to return from it.



There is no Repose for those on the Path of Seeming. They simply cease to distinguish between Twilight and reality, fading away like illusions. Some suggest they enter prolonged but temporary Twilight and may return from it when they wish, perhaps to hear the answer when it is found, but any of them might, in theory, return at any time. Some magi of this Path flee death or Twilight by wandering through an infinite number of memories in mere moments, living untold lifetimes in mere weeks. These magi descend into comas and eventually float into Final Twilight. What happens to their minds is unclear, but many suggest that they live in psychodrama until awakened when the Enigma is answered.

The Path of Strife is the Path of worldly magic, transgressing the House's morality. There are only a few servants of strife in Criamon, and they know that, as they are incapable of spiritual purity in this lifetime, it is their duty to take on themselves the tasks that might pollute their Housemates. They do not indulge in immoral action needlessly, but they are prepared to kill, lie or destroy if it helps House Criamon. They usually do not tell fellow Criamon what they are doing, to avoid contaminating them with accessory to sin. They see demons as revelers in strife, creatures from near the end of this downward cycle. By destroying demons, they prolong the life of the universe, giving their brethren more time to solve the Enigma. They fight demons not because demons are evil, but because the servants of strife are not willing to share the remaining harmony of the universe with them. Demons would waste it, while Criamon magi can use it wisely.

The Avenue of Faith in Strife leads to the Station of the Eater of Sin. The Prima and other senior magi will counsel the magus against this path, but if they cannot be dissuaded, they are sent to the initiation site, far from the Cave, where the Keeper of the Path tests them. They must negotiate the Labyrinth of Strife, a structure of tunnels which may be escaped only by performing deeds that violate the usual ideas of apt action. At the end of this process of degradation, the magus is infused with the power of strife, gaining the ability to sense strife increasing when magic is used. They may use their Enigmatic Wisdom as if it were magic sensitivity, yet do not suffer any reduced Magic Resistance for it. On the other hand, they develop the Blatant Gift, as strife radiates from them. They perform labyrinth meditation while armed with weapons, appearing to go through a graceful armed dance to those unaware of the Path. They may use their Enigmatic Wisdom as though it were a skill for a single type of weapon.

The Avenue that Splinters leads to the Station of Blood and Bronze. Here, the magus seeks the power to do incredible damage at will. They are guided only after the Prima or her representative gives them one last chance to turn from the path. Those who remain committed are invested in a place saturated with strife, on the anniversary of the greatest number of deaths that occurred there. The ruins of Herculaneum, destroyed along with Pompeii, are traditionally used. Those who perform this ritual may never take any other Path, save for the Mirror path of the Primus. They may not enter Final Twilight. Any situation that would result in Final Twilight kills them instead and reduces them to a collection of particularly nasty adulterations. However, they gain the ability to sense and promote weakness and decay in objects. Labyrinth meditation around a mundane object causes it to rot or rust until it is little more than powder. Labyrinth meditation around a space no wider than five hundred feet per level of Enigmatic Wisdom kills every mundane living thing within that area, in a way suited to the magus' sigil. This cannot harm humans directly, though, for they have souls. The magus' meditation weapon receives four times its usual attack bonus and may injure creatures immune to non-magical attacks due to gaining a Penetration. Those creatures aligned to the Divine realm are immune to this, for they lack the exploited weaknesses. Similarly, creatures such as elemental spirits which are made of undifferentiated matter lack such flaws and are immune.

The Avenue of Charm and Scorn leads to the Station that Repels and Attracts the Elements. The magus must find a lover and marry them via a mystic rite. The lover must be the perfect symbolic complement to the magus, perhaps representing the element that opposes the magus' specialty, for example. The marriage must occur at an auspicious place representing the joining of the two opposing principles the lovers embody. The Mystagogue acts as celebrant to the joining. After the ritual, the magus may repel or attract mundane objects via strife and harmony. They may only repel or attract one Form at a time, and may use this power at will, switching objects and Forms once per round This ability takes neither effort nor concentration, and multiple objects may be affected if their combined weight does not exceed the magus' weight multiplied by three. The magus must be aware of the objects to use this power on them but need not discern them precisely. This fails against warded objects or those with magical resistance. I'm sure you can think of many uses for this power, like climbing walls by attracting the wall to your hands or repelling water to remain dry in the rain. Many can levitate, and claim to do so by repelling the ground. Other magi note that this doesn't actually make any kind of sense at all.

The Avenue of Befriending the Silent leads to the Station that Charms the Elements. It begins with learning the symbolic tongue of elemental spirits, allowing the magus to speak to and befriend the animating spirits of elementally pure objects. These bonds are reciprocal - magical beasts and faeries act as messengers for many natural features, and will seek the magus out to gain help with their problems. The magus may convince elemental spirits of objects to perform actions, using their power to attract the elements. They may speak to any object that is non-organic and elementally pure, consisting solely of a single Form. (A rock, say, but not a leaf. A clear lake, but not a turgid one.) Objects of human creation may only be spoken to if they are elementally pure, physically contiguous and smaller than five feet and eight inches in any single dimension. (Servants of strife believe this is because the first on this Path was exactly five feet and eight inches tall.) This power has very low Penetration, so any real magic resistance will stop it. A magus using this power does not control the spirit's mind, and in exceptional cases the spirit may not be cooperative. Elemental objects find the magus charming, but may have sentimental attachments that keep them from obeying, or dislikes that keep them from helping certain groups. It is easiest to gain information or minor movements, and objects do not react negatively to the Gift. Most elemental objects can move at a human rate and simply choose not to do so. They cannot, however, perform deeply supernatural acts - fire cannot burn through stone, rivers can't flow noticeably uphill. Magi on this path often find that they have loving communities of friends, despite their spiritual impurity, and often come to feel that perhaps it would not be so bad to live this way eternally in the cycle of time. Other Criamon magi find this view considerably strange.



The Avenue of Death leads to the Station of Golden Cider. This requires a ritual overseen by the most senior magus on the Path of Strife. They lose all power to perform the Art of Creo save in conjunction with Corpus and Vim, for they have drawn themselves so far from harmony that they cannot use it. Concern for the wellbeing of others' bodies, particularly that of the spouse, is now transgressive of the Path, for creation of magical energy causes strife. The ritual is private, and not all survive. This extreme investiture allows the magus to manipulate strife out of objects, creatures and some people. Magical items become mundane when the power is used on them, and vis becomes a natural example of the shape it takes. This does not affect mundane items that are the targets of spells, mind you. Some magical creatures have no mundane equivalent, and so become symbolic objects. A giant may turn into a hill that looks vaguely like a sleeping man, while a dragon may become a storm or ring of standing stones or volcanic fissure. Powerful demons lose their bodies but are not destroyed. Faeries become natural objects, dreams or memories. The Divine lacks strife, so creatures of the Divine are immune. This requires a labyrinth meditation before entering combat, and you must have Enigmatic Wisdom at a high enough level. You must touch the victim with your bare hands and maintain uninterrupted contact for at least three minutes, which requires rendering at least part of the victim immobile, perhaps by traps or magic or grappling. You must have sufficient knowledge of the victim's weaknesses to meditate on them, and you may not meditate 'generically' nor stack multiple meditations for a single battle. This power can destroy many supernatural talents, but it may not sever the Gift without the knowing and active help of the Gifted. The Gift is, you see, tied somehow to the soul.

There is no true Repose in Strife, for those on the Path are forbidden Final Twilight. Many choose, as they near the end of their lives or as a Twilight experience begins that they fear might kill them, to use the Golden Cider upon themselves, relinquishing the Gift and choosing to die and begin anew in reincarnations. Many believe that this final, selfless act makes good much of the harm they caused in life.

Next time: the Path of Walking Backwards

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The Path of Walking Backwards is a very new Path, as these things go. It entered the House after Abdkypris spent time among the Sufis. It is not a form of Islam, because it does not embrace Mohammed as the Prophet. It is, however, a complete surrender to the harmonic force in order to achieve unity with the universe. At the time of complete harmony, it is said, a door appears for the magus to flee back to the Spharios. Many, however, choose not to do so, in order to aid others. The labyrinth meditation of this Path is often the dancing or spinning technique practiced by Sufi dervishes, though the European labyrinth form also persists. The choice of method is done when the Path is started, and changes only after profound transformations of philosophy. Abdkypris was pleased to learn that one school of Sufi reveres Empedocles as a hierophant, even if their interpretation of his ways differs from that of Criamon - in fact, that difference fascinates many. This has led the House into a more political role, seeking conciliation in those Tribunals where Islam and Christianity clash, and an increasing number of Criamon are Muslim or from Muslim lands. This Path is the most likely to contain religious Criamon, and Islam, Origenism and Manichaeaneism are popular. Empedocles held that the immortals worshipped the goddess Cypris, a variant of Aphrodite, and some claim to have met her.

The Avenue of Surrender leads to the Station of Service to Harmony by forswearing the magus' destructive past, purging aggression and greed via meditation, fasting, ritual flagellation or other means. The magus then goes on pilgrimage to a site they find spiritually meaningful, participating in rites of purification under a Mystagogue. By accepting this, they accept subordination to the Mystagogue's greater wisdom; the Path is strongly hierarchical, unlike most in the House. After purification, the supplicant spends a season learning lore to aid in the Path, and in the Islamic variant of the Path, this is Muslim theology. Once the desire to harm and covet has entirely faded, the Magus gains the Gentle Gift (or, if they had the Blatant Gift, merely the normal Gift) in exchange for the perfect piety they now feel and obey.

The Avenue of Healing leads to the Station of Rice and Honey, granting the power to restore what is damaged to wholeness without the use of vis. This requires labyrinth meditation while holding or circling the object. Items made imperfect by human artifice cannot be made whole again, just whole versions of what they were made into. This power heals plants and animals, save when they have been injured by human tools, but cannot return life to the dead. The special nature of humans as beings in control of their own destinies makes it impossible to heal humans this way, though a dying person may be held on the threshold of death for several hours. Doing this too long, however, risks Twilight. However, the price of this is that the magus swears never to cause harm to another person or creature, becoming a complete noncombatant. They may also attract injured, magically sensitive creatures seeking aid, and healing such creatures may require more work than just the meditation.

The Avenue of Adulation leads to the Station of Expression. This celebrates the inexpressible beauty of harmony, and that inexpressible nature is why, the followers of the Path say, Enigmatic Wisdom cannot be understood by outsiders in discussion. This avenue forces the magus to learn how to express the beauty of harmony by filling their life with magnificence such that they have no choice but to become finer creatures, able to communicate that beauty. The magus must travel to a place of inimaginable profundity, and then meet the Mystagogue and attempt to express what they have seen and done. Each magus who completes the station gains the power of free expression and inspiration and may use Enigmatic Wisdom in place of a single artistic skill they use to express the beauty of harmony. Poetry and dance are traditional choices, due to the Muslim influence, but others are certainly possible. Mundane viewers of these works of art can grasp, but not describe the message that the magus is conveying, finding it persuasive but impossible to articulate in any detail save through their own art or Enigmatic Wisdom. Those on this path may have complex arguments without ever speaking a word.

The Avenue of a Thousand Beautiful Faces leads to the Station of Exaltation, gaining the ability to draw objects and things closer to their perfect state. By performing labyrinth meditation while carrying or circling the object, they draw the virtues of its nature to the surface. Generally, the magus does not know what this will do, except via extremely difficult Enigmatic Wisdom rolls, and the magus cannot select what virtue an object holds, only draw it out. Essentially, a horse might be made swift, a gemstone beautiful or a field fertile. These advantages are always spiritually positive, so this does not often make weapons sharp or goods valuable. This cannot grant new or magical properties to a thing, only draw out the hidden potential. This may not be used on humans, for their souls make their virtues a matter of personal determination and spiritual choice. It can, however, be used to allow choice by, say, drawing out an unwelcome demon from someone. Those who achieve this Station may never again use the Technique of Perdo save in conjunction with Vim or Imaginem, for they are unwilling to use the power of strife to shatter the harmony that is in all things.



The Avenue of Silencing Discordant Whispers leads to the Threshold of Repose. This final station requires the contesting of a series of spiritual obstacles, created, some say, by the last remnants of strife in the mind of the magus, or perhaps by the strife-ridden universe or a deity that is the incarnation of strife. These obstacles take the form of temptation to seek material power, comfort, sensual experience and eternal life. The magus may gain repose by ascending to the Spharios using the Path's great secret. The Spharios is conscious and remains so throughout its dissolution and recohesion. Magi who ascend become one with the mind of the universe and may carry with them those who deserve this selfsame revelation or those things which are evil and must be absorbed and nullified. This can include people or creatures, but also the traits of individuals and places. A magus who choose not to ascend lives as a creature of perfect harmony in this world of strife.

Such beings may select their age, gender and species as often as they like, taking only the time of a single breath to change. Their human forms appear to be blood relations to each other, and there is only one form for each combination of age and sex. Each time a magus choose, say, to be a European woman in old age, it is always the same form. If they choose to be a younger woman, it is a younger version of that form rather than a new person. Wounds persist across all forms. Each magus of this station also knows the time of their own death. It is impossible for a magus who is proud or afraid of death to achieve this station. If the magus engages in risk, that is a free choice that may lead to death. Magi who achieve this station often remain alive for only brief spans required to finish symbolic tasks, or else withdraw to isolation and wait, perhaps for centuries, to deliver a particular piece of information or solve a particular problem before ascension. During this delay, they act as teachers. Some magi dwell on the Threshold for they feel their personal role in the narrative of the universe, told by the Spharios to itself, is incomplete. Many believe that by acting aptly, they may reduce the period of dissolution and so cause everyone to bear a smaller burden of pain to share through time. They believe that their presence in time allows the Spharios to learn how to tell its autobiography in a different way than the last cycle. They say the Spharios learns in each cycle, purifies itself and will eventually find a way not to fall into strife. These magi believe their work is vital to that end. Islamic magi tend to dwell on the Threshold because they believe they have an appointed task to complete. Their Sufi faith is based on the love of God, not the rewards of the afterlife, so they see no hurry to die. They just live on in their simple way, perhaps for centuries, until their task is complete.

There are other Paths, and currently the House knows of nine active Paths, including the Winding Path. Each Path, save one, motivates the life of a clutch, and each clutch is centered in a different Tribunal. The Path of Beacons lacks a clutch, for it teaches Mysteries that allow a magus to retreat individually into sanctuaries away from the world. Its eldest magus dwells in a regio of his own making on the Isle of Arran. Each clutch, save one, includes magi from paths other than that which motivates it. The Clutch of Ebony Eggs is filled entirely with those on the Path of Strife. The Cave of Twisting Shadows is the Clutch for the Path of the Mirror, which only the Prima follows. There are four other known Paths which currently have no living adherents. Each is represented by at least one spectral Primus, who waits for the appropriate time to revive the tradition.

Next time: House Merinita

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012





Agonizing Antagonists Part 1

That's right! It's the Monster Manual section! This takes up a good half the book, and is absolutely packed to the brim with content, so it's gonna take a while, and there will be tons of images and quotations within, to ensure maximum transmission of awesomeness. Let's begin!

Your (Hot) New Stepmom (From California)



quote:

“Now, I want you to know, I’m not trying to take your real mom’s place, or boss you around, but... we just need to see a few little changes on your part, to make thinks a bit smoother, ok? First, we need to move your room to the basement, so your Father and I can have a yoga room facing the Eastern Sun. Also, you’re a vegetarian now.”

A hippy homewrecker. The divorce was bad enough, but now your Dad had to get a new wife to go with his sports-car and hair-plugs. Now you're on an all vegan diet, and don't think you can cheat because she can smell ground beef at 50 yards. Your room has been totally rearranged to accomadate “Positive chi flow”. The house is full of wildflowers and sunshine and you're almost out of allergy medicine. The worst thing is she's just so invested. She's taken over your life, and because she's half your dads age and a hell of a lot curvier than you real mom, he's not going to say a thing. You pray for school lunches. But she always packs.

Now, not much of a “Bigger Bad” yes? I mean, come on! An annoying parent? Why do you need a book to help you make that! I mean, it's not like

quote:

Your (hot) new stepmom (from California) is indeed hot and from California, but she’s also living under an assumed name while fleeing a federal rap for engaging in “herbal civil disobedience” to the tune of seven tons of primo Humbolt County skunky bud.

Oh. OH. Yeah, turns out your new mom used to be a dealer for a Mexican Cartel. She either turned informant or just ran, but either way some guy named Big Jefe has a straight razor with her (real) name on it. So, kick her to the curb right? Sure! Except, she really does love your old man. And she also genuinely cares for you. So, chances are, you're gonna end up in a Monster/Cartel war on your front yard. This added life experience also makes her savvier than most adults, and she's a lot more likely to notice her new child’s more suspicious activities, particularly if those activities like to eat the neighborhood pets.

Agent C. Occupant



quote:

“I’m deep cover, kid. Strictly black bag wetwork and recon, assassination, and counterespionage. I’m the one who cut the deal with Saddam against Iran, and then suckered him when we invaded. What? Iran? It’s in the Middle East. You ever read a newspaper? Jeez, kids today. Anyhow, how about a couple of bucks so I can get loaded... er... get something hot to eat?”

He's the guy your parents told you to stay away from cause he's got diseases. He lives in an abandoned construction yard, tells rambling nonsensical stories about being some sort of secret agent working for the government, hits people up for booze money, and thinks that the Centaurian lizard-men are going to invade from the sewers, which is why he refuses to use toilets.

The thing is, it's all true. Well, except for the whole toilet lizard invasion. That's cause it's actually monkey-men. He really is a Top Level Secret Agent of... someone. He doesn't remember who. His brains been scrambled, rewired, mindwiped, brainwashed, microwaved, and concussed so bad he's lucky to remember what species he is. The fact he drinks Old Man Sapp's Hand Blended Sippin' Whiskey by the gallon doesn't help matters.

quote:

But when the fog clears, he’s heck on two legs, and could scissorkick James Bourne in the face while judo-chopping Jason Bond into unconsciousness.

Agent C. Occupant takes his name from a piece of mail he found in his pocket, and is constantly on the search for who this “Current Occupant” fellow is. Normally he's a harmless hobo, unless you know his sordid secret, and can convince him that you're in an “Operation” and could use his support. Do that, and he's on your side and willing to do just about anything. This is a combination of ingrained loyalty brain-programming, and a soft spot for kids. The problem is if he gets the idea that you're an enemy, cause then you're boned. He'll pursue your destruction with single-minded and government trained efficiency. Somewhere he learned how to hurt Monsters, so even your big angry buddy could get his tail whupped by Occupant.

Clueless S.O.



quote:

“Are you like going out with somebody else? You’re always like
sneaking away and like doing stuff with somebody. Who is it?”

You did it. Despite aliens and mad scientists and black magicians and extradimensional horrors and the fact that your best friend is a six-foot leech with a british accent, you got a Gir/Boyfriend! Yes, you lucky dog you, get to enter the hallowed halls of “A Couple”! You get to hang out with the “cool” kids, have a convenient reason to go to the movies, get invited to real parties, don't have to worry about prom, and best of all sometimes there's makeouts! I mean, what's the downside? Well... they aren't going to be so thrilled about the whole “Dissapearing for long periods of time”, i.e. having adventures. And they aren't too thrilled about your old friends, I mean theirs are so much cooler, don't you want to be cool and not embarrass them by hanging out with the freaks and losers? Plus, Monsters are a jealous breed, and they might not take kindly to you spending all your time with someone who isn't them.

But still, not an issue, right? I mean, she's mildy annoying at worst, I mean really, how bad could having a Clueless S.O. Be? Well, if they find out about your Monster/Weird Powers, congrats! They're either a raving lunatic or go full on Van Helsing and start learning how to fillet Space Leech. So, y'know... don't let her know about the supernatural if you know what's good for ya.

Sidekick the Eager Hostage



quote:

“Oh no! Captured AGAIN!”

He's a walking danger magnet. He's the guy the baddies take hostage, or use as hero-bait, or booby trap, or pick as their human sacrifice, or is used as a guinea pig for the mutagen, or...

Sidekick is a younger kid, one or more grade categories below the party, who tags along with the group. He calls everyone with supernatural powers/ Monsters “Sir”, regardless of gender, and generally worships the ground you walk on. Conventional wisdom dictates that he's an annoying little twerp, except then it'd be easy to ditch him. The problem is he's just so very very helpful. He always remembers to bring batteries for the flashlights, a pen and paper for taking notes, donuts for long stakeouts, a bike when you need a quick getaway.

Sidekick is basically a greed-trap. He makes the PCs lives more convenient, but in exchange constantly drags them into trouble by being a constant victim. He adds complications to complications, and it's drat hard to tell the little guy to bug off, even if it's for his own good.

The Grumps



quote:

“Harumph!”

Ever had a bad day? Not an actually bad day, I mean, nobody died, you didn't lose your job, you didn't get in a car crash, you didn't get robbed, but a bad day. You wake up just late enough that you don't get your morning coffee, then you have to sit next to a guy with way too much B.O. on the bus cause you left your lights on and now your car battery is dead, then your boss gives you just enough work that you have to take a short lunch, then the printer doesn't work, then the A.C. breaks and it's like 400 degrees and you're sweating like a pig, then the bus home breaks down and you get home an hour late and you missed your favorite T.V. Show, and you burn dinner, and then your home A.C. won't turn on so you have to suffer through a long hot night and it was just the worse day. Everything went wrong, everybody was annoying and short tempered, every bit of bad luck you could think of happened, it just was a terrible day.

If so, thank the Grumps. The Grumps are a monster who come from a realm of cold rain and lumpy cream of wheat. The escape to our world because the only thing that makes a Grump grumpier than being a Grump, is seeing people not being grumpy. They don't exactly enjoy making us miserable, as a Grump never enjoys anything, but they do feel a type of satisfaction from ruining a day. Kinda like the accomplishment that comes from taking a really big poo.

They're natively invisible and incredibly hard to detect. They use their invisibility and Grump-Aura to ruin peoples day. They're not evil, not really, just total jerkwads. They do every petty and annoying thing they can think of to make you miserable. They'll steal your keys, wee on your floor, unplug your electronics, crash your computer, hide your socks, make fart noises at inappropriate times, mess with the A.C., and generally be a total nightmare.

When you can see them, they take the form of swarm of tiny old men, smoking horrific cigarettes than cloak them in a thick grey fog. One of the Grumps in a swarm has a heart, to share among the swarm, that gives them the ability to feel sorrow and regret for their victims, and will make pleas for mercy and compassion if they are found out. These are complete lies of course, Grumps are still all jerks, only this on specific jerk makes you feel bad about squishing them so he's a super-jerk.

Colonel Brodie Block



quote:

“I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT I’M SEEING! NINE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS IN STATE-OF-THE-ART MILITARY KABOOM, AND YOU LET A BUNCH OF KIDS KICK YOUR KIESTERS? YOU MAGGOTS MAKE ME SICK! NOW GET YOUR SORRY BUTTS BACK IN THOSE GIANT ROBOTS AND BRING HOME THE WIN, OR SO HELP ME YOU’LL BE GUARDING PENGUINS AT ICE STATION ZERO BEFORE THE DAY IS DONE!”

Colonel Brodie Block is the head of BOOK, the U.S. Government's answer to the supernatural. A veteran of the Secret War and Nixon's infamous Plutonian “Police Action”. He's an infamous hardcase, a tall, strapping man in his mid-50s with a grey crew-cut and a lot of scars. Colonel Block is brutal, uncompromising, and communicates only by YELLING ALL THE TIME.

quote:

Project BOOK liaises occasionally with the MIBs (“BUNCH OF PASTY MEATPUPPETS!”), and has more than a few Mad Science Teachers in BLUE BOOK (“GOT TO KEEP AN
EYE ON THE CRACKPOTS IF YOU WANT TO STAY THE SAME SHAPE ONE DAY TO THE NEXT!”), and even some Wannabe Wizards in RED BOOK (“ROBE-WEARING WEIRDOES SMELL LIKE HIPPIES!”). Of all BOOK’s divisions, Block likes BLACK BOOK the best, because BLACK BOOK is his elite fighting force of giant robots and stomping A.P.E. armor. “GET OUT THERE AND BLAST THAT THING A NEW WOW-WOW HOLE, YOU BUNCH OF MOMMA’S WET CANDY KNICKERS!”

Block gets called in when the supernatural gets too public for the MIBs to handle. The modus operandi is to roll into town in a convoy of 18 wheelers and humvees, bully the local authorities into submission, set up a central command post (Preferable somewhere the players don't want it to be) and starts a slow evacuation of the town due to a “chemical spill”. In actuallity this is an excuse to run everyone through Etheric Trace Locators and empty the place out for MIB and BOOK squads to look for spooky stuff.

If nothing is found within 72 hours Block packs up, moves on, and skins somebody alive for wasting his precious time and even more precious American tax dollars. If not, well...

quote:

“ROBOTS! NO BETTER WAY TO DEAL WITH MONSTERS THAN WITH ROBOTS! GIANT ONES!”

He unleashes the full force of BOOK on the hostile (or misunderstoon) beasties, which of course, means tons and tons of GIANT ROBOTS. On the plus side, Block isn't an inherent villain. See, he'll gladly recruit the players into a top-secret Monster Fighting Task Force for the purposes of whomping things when GIANT ROBOTS didn't work. He doesn't care about age at all, and BOOK's chief science officer is a nine year old girl named Becky Archer. This also means he doesn't give kids a break, and will gladly give them a solid steel robo-punting before locking them away in a BOOK affiliated Universities basement, due to recent budget cuts making secret mountain bases an impossibility.

quote:

“HOW DO THOSE STINKING BUREAUCRATS EXPECT ME TO PROTECT THIS COUNTRY WITHOUT SECRET BASES UNDER MOUNTAINS?”

Block also has a prototype Thunderbolt 20 I.T.C.H.I. A.P.E. for his personal use.

Next time: More Agonizing Antagonists!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

House Merinita has, at last count, 68 members. The Primus is Handri, a rather secretive man who does not share his plans. Its domus magna is Irencillia in the Rhine Tribunal, and Merinita are found most often in the Rhine and Hibernian Tribunals. Their motto is Natura veritas unica, 'nature is the only truth.' Most Merinita interpret the word 'nature' to refer to the Essential Nature of things rather than nature as a place or state. Their symbol is the sigil of the Founder, an oak tree within a circle.

House Merinita is extremely diverse, much as no two faeries are perfectly alike. They learn magic to study and serve the fae, to placate and protect them or even to command and control them. There is no unity, little hierarchy and very little structure to House Merinita, with nothing in common but their shared Mysteries. These magi serve two masters: Magic and Faerie. They have the Gift and are Hermetic magi yet are drawn to the fae. They maintain a delicate balance between the raw power of the wild unleashed and the subtle charms of Arcadia. Their Mysteries are the combination of magic and faerie, as granted by the many cults that make up the House. They are named for Merinita the Founder, who swore the Hermetic Oath with Bonisagus, but many consider her follower Quendalon to be the true force behind the identity of House Merinita, and some erroneously name him as Founder. As most Merinitae, as they are called, are not much for historical records, the history is a bit unclear, but they do love stories, and some that concern the Founder and the history of the House are still told. One particularly famous one reports that Quendalon normally wore a heavy, hooded cloak that covered his eyes, and many Merinitae continue this affectation.

Before the founding of the Order, Merinita was well known already. It was said by other wizards of the time that a white-haired woman in green traveled alone in the wild lands, often vanishing without a trace in the forests of Europe, without equal in nature magics. She could see all that happened in the wild places, knew every bird and beast and could take the shape of anything as well as commanding the trees themselves. Yet she was no savage, said those who met her, but a wise woodswoman and healer. She was very shy, however, and spoke only at great need. Trianoma, it is said, spent an entire year in search for Merinita, to invite her to join Bonisagus. Many times she approached a wood where Merinita was said to dwell and called out to her but received no answer. Yet, in 767, as the Founders gathered to discuss Trianoma's vision of an Order, Merinita came from her dark woods and joined them. Her reasons were never clear. Her followers say she did not herself know them, but felt compelled by a will greater than her own.

Merinita's oath to the fledgling Order was binding, and she very timidly joined Bonisagus to teach him some of her powers in exchange for the Parma Magica. By all accounts it was a tedious process, for while she knew much about healing and nurturing both plants and living creatures, there was little she could teach Bonisagus, either because she could not communicate her understanding or because he had already adapted the ancient healing rituals to his magic theory or because she would not share all of her secrets. Eventually, however, Merinita demonstrated the ability to join her mind, body and spirit with an animal, and this was integrated into Hermetic theory as the enchantment by which Familiars are bound. The first such creature ever found was the great stag summoned to Durenmar by Merinita. This, she explained, was her kindred spirit, whose thoughts and feelings she shared. Magical cords bound them together as surely as if they were one person. She identified three cords, but indicated that others could exist.

After the Founding, Merinita did not immediately seek followers as the others did. She instead became quite close to Birna of Bjornaer, for they shared similar philosophies. Where Birna had a deep connection to the heartbeast, Merinita had the familiar. Together, they adapted rites of many ancient nature cults, creating the initation ceremonies that they used to teach others their secrets. As word spread of the Order, many came to the Rhine in hopes of studying under the lady in green, to learn her Mysteries and her wisdom. Eventually, Merinita accepted these followers and taught them what she could. She encouraged them to spread out and settle widely in many places and she often traveled among them to nurture and teach as she had once nurtured the forests. In time, though, the frequency of these visits dwindled.

Sometime before the 9th century, Merinita simply disappeared. Her followers expected to see her at the Grand Tribunal of 799, but she never arrived and left no word. It was only later that some recalled her claiming to be on the verge of a discovery, what she called "the mystery of the eternal spirit of the wild." She was last seen 14 years previously in Bohemia, and many believed she went south, to Hungary, or east, to Poland, but others speculated that she had lost herself in one of the forests. In her absence, her eldest follower, Quendalon (or, un-Latinized, Cuin-dallan, 'little blind sovereign') took over. He was one of the first who had sought out the Founder, and was originally from Ulster and had been raised by the fae. He believed that Hermetic magic could only improve with their gifts. He'd spoken to Merinita about this, and after the Grand Tribunal of 799, he declared that he would go visit the faeries in Bohemia's forests. Until his return, he said, the next-eldest follower, Myanar, would be Prima.

Myanar led the House from her Bohemian covenant, the site of Merinita's first home. Several others joined her there, including three mage-priests of Artemis who had come from Asia Minor as well as a Roman shapeshifter. Myanar herself was Bulgarian, from a mythic lineage called the Line of Muj, whose ancestor had made a pact with a Balkan guardian spirit that blessed the line with supernatural strength and power over storms. What happened next is hard to piece together, for this time contained some of the strangest events in history. What details survive from firsthand accounts are contradictory and garbled, and even the dates are confusing and nonsensical in places. As far as can be determined by those who study the House Divided, as this period is known, the sequence of events is as follows:

Two years after Myanar becomes Prima, a stranger arrives at her covenant and declares himself Quendalon returned, ready to retake the House's leadership. He did resemble Quendalon, but was obviously inhuman, with two rubies instead of eyes. Myanar questioned this transformation, and Quendalon claimed he had become a faerie of Arcadia, trading his useless human eyes for faerie sight. He also claimed to have learned great mysteries that would revolutionize the Order, and this required him to guide House Merinita in a new direction. Myanar believed him a faerie imposter, a changeling, and refused to comply. This angered Quendalon, who warned of dire consequences if Myanar would not obey. Their conflict escalated to full battle, but Myanar was unable to prevent Quendalon's escape.



Letters written by Quendalon afterward say that Myanar opposed Quendalon on ideological grounds, recognizing him fully but swearing that she would not "allow him to deform the House with his distorted visions." Yet Myanar told her followers that the false Quendalon had bragged about killing Merinita and had threatened to kill them all if not made hierophant of the House. War broke out between the two factions, with the faerie Quendalon seeking support throughout the House and among outsiders. Most were curious about his new powers and anxious to learn them, so pledged to follow him. He established the covenant Irencillia near the faerie forest he'd entered, and Myanar led a hasty attack on it. Her force was routed, and she was apparently slain in the battle. Supposedly, her followers surrendered in 802 and were cast out of the House, joining House Bjornaer. All of this was reported at the Grand Tribunal of 1817 by Quendalon, who had two followers to support his story. Many questioned him, but no one contested his description of events.



Other accounts suggest the war was not so easy. Some of Myanar's followers later claimed that she did not die but was, instead, turned into a snake during the first assault and in that form led attacks on Irencillia in 804 and 806. Some say that faeries helped defend the covenant. It is also said that Myanar was a distant relative of Tytalus the Founder, who came to Bohemia in 807 with the public intention of challenging the Queen of the Faeries, and who disappeared that very year in Maddenhofen Woods. Some believe Myanar sought out Tytalus and asked for his aid against Quendalon - after all, his presence in the region could hardly be coincidence, yes? And they say she want with him into the forest to confront the false Primus and his faeries.

Quendalon certainly caused massive ill will between Merinita and House Tytalus in 817, when he laughed long and loudly at the story of the disappearance of Tytalus. He later explained that he didn't mean to mock - he just found it amusing that the followers of Tytalus would consider his end tragic. He gave them the impression that he knew more than he would say, but would speak no further. Ever since, House Tytalus and House Merinita have been foes, and their poor relationship is only aggravated by the possibility that Quendalon may have known what happened to Tytalus or even been somehow responsible for his disappearance.

Next time: The House Today

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 19:46 on Jun 7, 2013

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


I like the idea that Merinita was on its way to becoming this Bjornaer-like House studying the mysteries of nature, until their founder suddenly disappeared under mysterious circumstances and an impostor successfully defeated the true lineage and corrupted their magic to focus on the fae instead. All the disastrous mistakes and power grabs in Hermetic history make it feel real, and it raises the importance of the player characters by suggesting the stakes in their current conflicts and how things can go wrong if they don't get involved.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

Everything Counts posted:

Well the CalTech physicist who dabbles in black magic would be [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Whiteside_Parsons]Jack Parsons, self-taught rocket scientist, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, friend of L. Ron Hubbard, and student of Crowley.

Loving the DAR setting, I might have to introduce this to my group when the FATE rules come out.

Savage Worlds is a really good system too, so you don't need to wait for the FATE port.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



I really enjoy how the fundamentally peaceful and basically nonconfrontational House Merinita's history is dominated by Quendalon, who even if you buy his version of events (and I personally don't) is a gigantic rear end in a top hat, an rear end in a top hat to such a degree that he is the bad guy in a story involving Tytalus, Wizard Who Likes To Argue With Everyone. He's up there with Tremere as one of the major assholes of Hermetic history. (The difference: House Tremere doesn't pretend that Tremere the Founder was a good person.)

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Quendalon ran House Merinita for over a century, teaching his followers and any who came to him the secrets of faerie magic, initiating hundreds over his tenure through the ninth and tenth centuries. He was much less frequently seen in the mid-900s, and sent delegates to the Grand Tribunals of 931 and 964, though none of them could say where he was or what happened to him. There were many rumors that he had gone mad or returned to Arcadia forever or both. At the Grand Tribunal of 997, the Merinitae finally decided to elect a new Primus, though not all agreed that Quendalon was dead. Eventually, a consensus was reached: Rhiannon, a timid young woman four generations descended from Quendalon, would be Prima. She accepted the position hesitantly and moved to Irencillia, avoiding most other magi. A few years later, with the outbreak of the Schism War, she spoke many times, if not especially well, in defense of House Diedne, and publically voted against the Renunciation. Many believe she even invited a few Diednes to Merinita to save them, and during the war some Merinitae even fought on the side of House Diedne, though the House never joined them officially. Because the Order was so anxious for peace afterwards, the House never suffered any official retribution for it.

Rhiannon reputedly died of old age and had her bones returned to Ireland. Eventually, the Primacy was passed to Vinaria of Irencillia, who is said to have borne a shocking resemblance to the Founder, and she was much more politically active than her predecessor, most famously concerning the fading of the Magic realm in the spread of the Dominion. She believed the wild places were becoming smaller and weaker, and often argued that Merinita was as much magic as fae, so the House should be just as concerned as any. She made overtures of friendship to House Bjornaer, with whom relations had been sour since the exile of Myanar's followers, but she could give no support to their actions in defense of Rugen in 1168, undoing much of the reconciliation. The Primus Urgen reportedly declared her senile and useless, refusing audience to her. Vinaria vanished in 1202 as the Founder and Quendalon did, and the Primacy passed to Handri of Irencillia. Rhiannon returned mysteriously in 1209, but has made no bids to reclaim the Primacy at all.

As of 1220, the House has become a very contrary collection of disparate groups, rarely agreeing on anything and hardly even interacting with each other. Outsiders suspect this lack of unity to be a front for some secret machinations - perhaps a plan to slip away forever to Arcadia, or to help the faeries invade the mortal world. Many Merinitae feel that Faerie is fading in the face of the Dominion, and unstoppably so. Others protest this, rebuking them, for if believing makes it so, they are themselves destroying Faerie. It's no wonder there is little agreement in the House, given how quick they are to turn on each other, and indeed Merinitae seem to spend more time fighting each other than outsiders. If there is anything they agree on, it is that the only way for faeries to survive is under their protection, or their help in adapting to the changing world, or else the faeries must forever quit this world for distant lands.

House Merinita is a Mystery Cult made of many disparate groups each of which has its own ideas on magic and Faerie. Besides the Mysteries, they hold little in common save interest in the fae, and even that is not always the case, for Merinita herself had nothing to do with faeries and some others similarly eschew their alien ways. Yet every member of the House undergoes some test involving the fae as part of Initiation, so all Merinitae at least have experience with them.

Some Merinitae focus on Arcadia. They know more about it than any others and some guard this knowledge while others share it. For many, going to Arcadia is a rite of passage in understanding the fae. There is much conflict in the House about the true nature of Arcadia - where it came from, why it exists and what its relationship is to the world. Some say that Arcadia is a reflection of Europe, and that what one does there can have an effect on reality and the inhabitants of both realms. It is, they say, the realm of possibility, and travelers must be careful to take nothing and leave nothing behind, lest they cause consequences they are unready for. Others say that Arcadia is only what travelers believe it to be, for it is the land of dreams and wishes, changing based on hopes and fears. They say you can only navigate by moving from one desire to another, as the place steals desires and makes them its own, changing the traveler in response. For an expedition to succeed, you must know what you truly want, and yet, in attaining it, you must also have reason to return or you will lack desire to leave. Others hold Arcadia to be an afterlife, where faeries and other soulless beings go when they die.

Some reason thusly: Arcadia is a physical place, so it must exist on earth. Perhaps it's a regio overlapping Europe but only accessible at certain places and times. Perhaps it is a continent across the globe with portals that connect it to Europe. Perhaps it's a microcosm within the world. The Wayfarers are a group of Merinitae who style themselves as experts on Arcadia, recording the locations and destinations of gateways and acting as guides or expedition leaders. Some write books on Arcadia, while others seek to destroy gates to prevent accidental trips. They typically learn Arcadian Travel as their first Mystery, and from there focus on things that may help them in their journeys. They tend to be well-traveled and often use expeditions as part of their Initiations. They are known to work closely with House Mercere at times, but often work against them as well, in a kind of unspoken rivalry as they race to be first to distant lands, find unusual new species or seek new vis sources. Those who find these typically name them, a source of great honor and jealousy. Wayfarers often compete for this right, and it has led to a strange Faerie phenomenon: in places that are named for something, sometimes a Faerie version appears - so a faerie dell named Victor Valley after Victor of Mercere might find itself home to a faerie named Victor who shares many of Victor's qualities. For this reason, some Wayfarers have taken to naming their discoveries after famous magi or places, to find out what might come out of Merinita Grove or the Arcadian Sea.

Others seek to encourage people to appreciate Faerie. It is accepted fact that belief causes faeries to exist, and that things in the Faerie realm are as they are believed to be. This is not demonstrably true, since it's difficult to measure when someone truly believes in something and what the corresponding effect is, but the theory is that when someone invents a story, that story will come to pass in Faerie or among Faeries in the real world. Thus, some say that faeries will never die while their stories are still known and told. Other Merinitae hold that the fae create the stories and that fairy tales are simply accounts of Faerie history which actually happened in the past. In any cas,e stories are quite important, and the House has a strong oral tradition. Recording stories is nearly as important as participating in them, and it is not seen as bragging or putting yourself forward to tell your friends a story of your experience with faeries. Many magi employ minstrels to create songs or poems about their adventures.

The Keepers of the Thousand Tales are a group of Merinitae originally formed in the Holy Land with the goal of collecting, cataloging and distributing the greatest stories of their time. This began with the Book of One Thousand and One Nights in the 9th century and grew as the society did. They translated Greek texts into Arabic, and then to Latin, spreading the books throughout the Order while they sought out more stories. Essential to their philosophy is a belief in Faerie immortality through legend. By ensuring the tales are easily available, they believe they keep the stories alive in Faerie. They hold that what many believe directly influences the Faerie Realm, and so all who belong to the group try to spread stories in one way or another. Some have even begun acting out the stories with aid of magic, in hopes of taking on the identity and immortality of the characters within by becoming faeries. They believe that several characters in the Thousand and One Nights are magi passed into Arcadia in this way. Originally, the group was small, but has now spread throughout Europe, with dedicated covenants in both the Levant and Iberia. They are noted for their knowledge of the Mysteries of Charm Magic, Story Magic and Becoming.

Some say that Faeries are defined by their interest in humanity. But if they are the human imagination given life, what do the actually want? What can Merinitae offer the Fair Folk in exchange for study and interaction? Faeries can take many forms, but have trouble reproducing. Some Merinitae hold that they admire or envy mankind for the ability to create, seeking them out in order to experience that miracle themselves. Many faeries cannot resist a good story or a treasure or even a new name, for all these things hold the spark of originality. Thus, the House encourages art for the behalf of Faeries. Others fear being forgotten, recognizing that their existence is owed to belief, and seek to be honored or even worshipped. Some faeries seem to view Europe as a place of exile from Arcadia, seeking to return to their homeland through some unclear means. Some believe it requires invitation from a sovereign of Faerie, while others believe it requires a fundamental change of nature. Others say death allows the faerie to return to Arcadia.

The Shadow-Masters take their name from the philosopher Plato, who wrote of a theoretical cave where prisoners were chained to the wall, and behind them shapes passed in front of a great light, casting shadows the prisoners could see. As far as the prisoners knew, these shapes were real. They know nothing of what casts the shadows, but only how they appear on the wall. Plato used the idea to describe man's imperfect understanding of the realm of forms - like the prisoners, they saw only the shadows, not what cast them. The Shadow-Masters teach that this allegory refers to the four supernatural realms The light is Divine. The darkness is Infernal. Men and animals step into the light, and this is Magic. And yet they say it is also possible to make false figures and move them into the light, casting shadows to make the prisoners see something that is not real at all, and this is Faerie: shadow-puppets lacking substance. The society learns to play with these philosophical illusions, constructing things from them with the whole world as a theater. By observing human response to the stories they make, they gain insight into the nature of the world while also reinforcing believe in the strange and imaginary. It is a tradition of the group to host a tournament every few years called the Great Play, in which they construct a labyrinth, castle or other setting and fill it with illusory obstacles, traps, puzzles and people, generally around a theme like Homer's Odyssey, the Crusades or 'what lies beyond the Lunar Sphere'. Then, other Shadow-MAsters, would-be initiates, faeries and unwitting passers-by descend on the field and do their best to answer the challenges. The only formal prize is the responsibility to host the next one, though often there are informal rewards, and those who attend but are not Shadow-Masters are often invited to the group. They are known to have mastered Glamour, Animae Magic and Perpetuity, and are most commonly found in the Transylvanian and Theban Tribunals, though they can be anywhere. Anyone can join by proving themselves in the Great Play, even members of other Houses. EVen members of House Tytalus, it is said. They tend to enjoy simulation over reality and believe that, over time, fiction becomes truth. Many say the creatures they invented began to reproduce on their own or were found in places they never put the illusions. For them, that is the pinnacle of achievement: their creations taking on life of their own, which they feel is what all faeries ultimately desire.

Other Merinitae ponder the relation between Magic and Faerie, for their Mysteries often must straddle that divide. Some seek to unite the two, others to seperate them further, and a few explore merely the origins of both in search of insight. One popular theory is that the four realms were once one, Faerie, and that the Garden of Eden was Arcadia. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve, and they received the Gift at the cost of immortality. The one realm became two: Magic and Faerie, and they were exiled from the Garden to the mortal world, where they were subject to Twilight and death. When the angels rebelled against Heaven and Fell, they divided the realms further into two more: Divine and Infernal. And yet some removed themselves from the conflict, neither with God nor Lucifer yet not entirely human, either. These, the Merinitae say, are the pagan gods and monsters. Magic is associated with those who have the knowledge of the Tree of Life - humans, serpents and the named beasts of Eden - while Faerie is those who guard the edges and remain outside human society. Other Merinitae say the division is more recent, occurring at or about the birth of Christ, for the son of God was too much for the pagan gods to withstand, causing the spirit realm to split into two parts: those who returned in natural forms, or Magic, and those that passed forever into Faerie. They view the gods of Arcadia as mere shadows of former glory, but shadows that might regain their power from worship.

The Cult of Vesta is one such group. In the latter years of the Roman Empire, many cults banded together, combining their gods. The Cult of Mercury was one such. The Rites of Vesta were eventually integrated into the cult of Diana, and her cult outlived Rome by retreating into the wilderness at the edge of empire, surviving alongside the Germanic barbarians. Some hold that Merinita was the high priestess of a Diana cult. After Quendalon transformed the House, a pair of young magi in Brittany experimented with combining Merinita's nature magic with the faerie Mysteries, discovering that the childlike wonder of Faerie could mimic wild and untamed nature, even in domesticated areas, so long as some of the community was chaste. They decided to encourage faeries to settle within their lands, adopting Vesta as their patron, reasoning that since she, a domestic goddess, had survived in the wild lands as part of Diana's cult, perhaps so too could Diana, a nature goddess, survive in the home as part of Vesta's cult. They resurrected the rites of the Vestal priestesses, venerating faeries as household gods in exchange for services. They took vows of chastity, in the belief that their unusual focus would fail if their sexuality were ever "tamed". Through their rites, they gained power from the faeries in exchange for this sacrifice, but swore that if they ever broke their vows they would be buried alive, to return their bounty to the earth. The Vestals are largely apolitical, though they are known to the Hermetic Cult of Mercury and might be considered kindred spirits. They do not typically Initiate outsiders, but might share insights into faerie lore in the hopes of narrowing the gap between realms. Vestals are traditionally women, usually trained as apprentices from the age of ten or younger and indoctrinated with the ideals of the society. There are two levels of initiation available to full magi, and any Merinita may join if they will dedicate themselves to the cult.

The first level is the Vestal virgin. A Vestal serves for 30 years, and there are no more than nine Vestals at any given time. When one leaves, she or her sisters choose her replacement. They learn Nature Lore, but with the unique focus of lares (household spirits), essentially a domestic type of faerie associated with the home and community. Thus, they can interact with these faeries in the same way nature magi interact with wild things. After thirty years, they retire to the second level, leaving the priesthood and settling down in a village or covenant and giving themselves entirely to its care. They learn how to Become a Guardian of Nature, allowing them to join their spirit to a faerie aura while they remain a virgin, using their powers to essentially become a sort of civic deity, enduring as long as the faeries flourish and guiding the common folk to ensure the old ways survive.

Next time: The Mysteries of Merinita

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Rifts:™ England Part 16: “The Well of Wisdom, Blood Druids, and France”



Okay I guess this is only sort of an adventure seed, but also just another Location of Interest. It’s north of Silbury. It’s a 300 ft diameter 50ft mound with a single standing stone at the eastern side. The stone is called the Guardian, and at midnight a white mist forms around it, then vanishes, revealing an opening in the hill, and a big stone (literal) giant.

Now, we’re dealing with adventurers here, so they’ll approach, and hear this greeting:

”Rifts England” posted:

All those who come, compelled by a good and just cause, to seek an answer may enter. But be warned that all must exit before the birth of light or be forever encased in Earth and rock. Those with evil intent or who are the servants of evil, will be destroyed.
:ohdear:

Whatever, anyway, obviously we’re going in the hole. Or through the door rather. Going inside washes good characters with a warm gentle breeze. Evil characters or anarchists with evil intentions will feel a sensation of doom at horror factor 19, which is to say, higher than many cosmic evils. If they keep going they get wracked with agony and lose half their S/MDC, and if they continue they get destroyed by a “spinning wheel of light” that does 2000 MDC per round. Take note of that number, because there are numerous beings in existence that can stand that for a reasonable time, if they wanted to go gently caress around with wishing wells. :supaburn:

Good-hearted souls who continue onwards find a room that can hold eight human-sized people around a solid gold four-by-two foot table on four-inch legs. The table (or someone) informs the listener that they are in service of all good causes and can ask their questions, warning them against trifling with the table. Asking the table questions will elicit answers but it isn’t omnescient nor can it see the future, and it flat-out refuses to talk about itself. Answers it can give are given in different voices depending on the subject; most of its knowledge is of a practical nature. Most useful, perhaps, is its knowledge of history, given that seems to remember a great deal from during the period of the Cataclysm. Of course that’s mostly interesting to academics. It knows a little bit about Mrrlyn and is pretty sure the Supreme Nexus Knights are evil. All its info seems about 25 years old, maybe that was when the table stopped paying its magical broadband?

Also, foolish or derogatory questions are likely to anger the table. It may ignore people or cast a ‘mute’ spell on them. If they really upset the table, it will teleport them outside in a huff. If they attack it, it will defend itself with its limited arsenal of spells and/or summon the disintegrating light. Also the Guardian will help out.



not the guardian

There’s a brief excerpt from a book about the Well of Wisdom about its theorized origins that actually does a great job of mimicking the tone of those books that write about how unexplained phenomena must be some kind of primordial consciousness or whatever. Also the author thinks all the dead great minds of the world get drawn to it and what it knows is what they know. Citizens of New Camelot are forbidden to talk to the Well though the penalty is a lecture and a fine.

Now presumably we will be getting an explanation for what the table really is, which is apparently ‘an Ogeeyin’. They appear as balls of flesh that are mostly smooth and pale pink or tan, with sectioning lines marking it into equal quarters, with two antennae and four hemispherical life nodes. Each of these quarters is a separate mind that’s part of the collective body. Why do I feel like I just described a modron? Anyway these are psychic/magical beings who have an Alien Intelligence-like ability to astrally project and become resident in an object of stone and one of them felt sorry for Earth. They observed for decades and discovered the table--it does contain dead minds within it, but other than that its origin is unexplained :iiam: It’s indestructible and has some various magic to it, and the Ogeeyin (really?) put up this whole mound business over it to help protect it because they are one of the rare ‘generally good’ aliens in the Rifts universe.

And that’s it. That’s the adventure seed. Have fun asking the GM about astronomy and woodworking!

Anyway, France

Normandy has been blighted by some kind of terrible plague that prevents all life from growing there up to 50 miles inland. Past that, much like England, France is a pastoral wonderland full of...what? Blood Druids?! Also Paris is full of goblins and mutants and other monsters and filth and I am not going to make any obvious France jokes here. :france: The writeup for the area is basically a paragraph and a half.

The Blood Druids get a bigger section up ahead, they’re a death cult, not a rogue unit of the Red Cross, alas. They work like anti-Druids (as defined by this book) trying to spread anarchy and chaos and teaching monsters and d-bees secrets of the land. They occupy a little village with about 2600 inhabitants, most of whom are mysteriously unaware of the doings of their friendly local ‘Blood Druids’ elsewhere. They’re situated near where Geneva used to be. These guys are specifically listed as not being meant as PCs which is odd since they list possible alignments as ‘any’. I mean doesn’t every death cult deserve their Drizzt? Note: They don’t hate humans, they pretty much just hate everyone and try to stir up as much trouble as they can all over.

They have some of the standard druid powers plus some blood-sacrifice related stuff like seeing the future and limited psychometry and healing. The really most noteworthy thing here is that they can detect a possessing entity, or former presence of one. Also they don’t get much PPE, to encourage that human sacrifice to power mystic herbology. They’re not bad as villains really, you can make some decent stuff with the herb rules and they’re willing to engage in the nastier parts of ritual magic to do it more easily, but they’re not crazily overpowered like a lot of enemies.

Anyway, that’s France, and the end of the book. Mostly it’s terrible. The Herbologist class could be semi-interesting if they beefed it up a little, and certainly would be someone with a reason to go tramping out in the wilderness, but the herbs section is so long and padded, I know this was pre-internet but really. The Temporal classes are probably the single best thing in the book, honestly. Everything about Arr’thuu and New Camelot is annoying as hell, though it is nice to see an area of Rifts Earth with more than one non-dick civilization--of course the Fomorians are just waiting to sweep down and eat them all and Mrrlyn is an alien intelligence and :tootzzz:. Most of this book is pretty dull, listings of locations almost like checkboxes in a travel book and stupid, stupid druid classes.

Seriously, all the druid classes are next to useless and not good adventuring matter--this runs into the problem of NPC classes in general I guess, since some of them would definitely be people their community would want to have around but then you have to go and say they’re 7th level or something.

It’s also annoying how most of pre-Rifts England is just...gone. I realize that the roughly 300 years of the Cataclysm would in fact have done away with a lot of what came before but where North America was called out specifically as dotted with ruins (just imagine the Fallout Mod you could make out of Rifts) England seems to have lost all its urbanization and technology, except for a few spots pointed out specifically as having ruins, like Dublin. People ride horses in power armor. It’s all very Celty and Rustic-feeling I’m sure but despite Tolkien’s allegories, England is not the goddamn Shire.

And appropriately enough, we close with a mushroom.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The Merinita Mysteries are divided into Schools, groups of Mysteries primarily associated with the magi who introduced them. The House recognizes three Schools related to Faerie Magic and one peripheral School of which very little is known by most. Those raised in the House tend to associate with a lineage related to one of the Schools and learn the Mysteries from their parentes, while those who join the House after apprenticeship tend to learn them from one of the sorts of groups mentioned above. Initiation, at least of House Mysteries, is not offered to those not of the House. Of course, they define 'in the House' as 'knows the Outer Mystery.' The implied threat is rather meaningless, as most Merinitae are neither aggressive nor even very politically active. Still, all of them know to formally introduce an Initiate to the House before teaching them, and that there should be consequences for those who share the Mysteries with outsiders indiscriminately. Oh, and we should define the term 'charms'.


That'll do.

Before we get into true Mysteries, there's also a handful of tricks that are just mostly found in but not exclusive to House Merinita. Faerie-Raised Magic essentially allows a character to invent spells very quickly and easily, treating them more like faerie powers than spells and inventing them outside the lab simply by observation and study. Ritual spells can never be invented this way. You also get the effects of Spell Improvisation. Spell Improvisation essentially allows you to empower spontaneously cast spells if you know a formulaic spell that is relatively similar in effect. Handy!

Now, then. The Outer Mystery, Faerie Magic, is taught to all Merenitae. It is something like a mix of Faerie lore and magic theory. It allows you to create Charms in order to take advantage of sympathetic ties or for purposes of the Inner Mysteries. Further, Faerie Magic may be used in place of magic theory when experimenting, using faerie vis or when doing magic associated with Faerie. It increases how much vis you may use in a season, provided all of it is faerie vis. And it also makes botches worse in both of those circumstances, but the effects of such botches tend to be more annoying than actually dangerous.

Merinitae may learn to bind a faerie Familiar, without need for any Mysteries. Doing so allows the magus to activate any of the faerie's powers as if they were formulaic spells, spending Fatigue in place of Might. The two share senses as do all familiars, and since most faeries have Second Sight, this is quite handy. The two share Fatigue as do normal familiars, too. The three cords of binding function normally, but it is the nature of Faerie to chafe against bounds so they grow weaker over time unless reinforced by the Faerie Cords. Every year, one of htem degrades randomly, until eventually the bond is broken and the faerie is free to go. Merinitae tend to be disappointed by this limitation but have decided it is the nature of Faerie and accepted it. Some even advocate not becoming too attached to your familiars and avoiding personal commitments in general. Deep and abiding relationships cannot, they say, be forged with faeries and so you should take a succession of temporary faerie familiars instead, to experience many companions. Others are troubled or horrified by this for it seems the exact opposite of what Merinita herself believed, distorting the very purpose of the enchantment. Thus, many Merinitae do not take faerie familiars at all and prefer the standard magical kind. Others keep magical familiars to balance out extremely fae personalities, or to appear to do so in the eyes of others.

In the late 1000s, the magus Farrago Bonisagi discovered a solution to the faerie familiar dilemma. She was of House Bonisagus but was quite interested in integrating faerie familiars into standard Hermetic theory and had joined House Merinita for a time to further her research. Her earliest project involved finding a way to learn faerie powers from the familiar, Initiating them through the bond, but she never manged to do it, attributing her failure to the temporary nature of the bond. She was led by her studies to the comments Merinitae made about other cords that could bind a familiar, but could never find descriptions of them. She theorized they must be connected to the others and, via experiment, was able to isolate three of them. She named them the leaden, iron and ten cords, documenting her discoveries well enough that anyone initiated into Faerie Magic could use them. She believed at least one more cord existed, but didn't know what it was or could do. Unlike the standard cords that bind the familiar, these three are negative. They hinder you, offsetting the benefits of the other cords and making you weaker. They do this because their job is not to tie you closer together but to bind the familiar more securely, preventing its faerie nature from eroding the cords. The Leaden Cord leaves you more susceptible to Divine power and more prone to error in the Dominion. The Iron Cord weakens you to the touch of iron and the bite of iron weapons, as well as the powers of the Infernal. The Tin Cord makes you more vulnerable outside of magical auras, weakening you and making you uncomfortable. Faeries bound by the negative cords tend to come to resent their masters and yearn to escape, for being bound is against their nature. Some even commit suicide to escape the bonds, while others act in strange or spiteful ways. Some simply accept it with quiet despair.

Merinita knew a Mystery, Binding the Gift, which unlocked additional powers of the cords used to bind the familiar, learnign to share the supernatural quality of the Gift and in doing so moderate its penalties. This is said to have helped her overcome her legendary shyness, and she taught it to some of her followers, including Quendalon, which is why it is known to the modern House still. After the Initiation is completed, the Familiar suffers all social penalties that the magus does, in exactly the same way. However, this strengthens the Golden, Silver and Bronze Cords, turning them into Gifts. The Golden Gift improves social interactions with all magical beings, including magi (though the Parma Magica tends to make the Gift's penalties moot in the first place as well as this benefit). The Silver Gift strengthens social interactions with faerie beings as well as magi with Faerie gifts (though the Parma, again, makes it moot). The Bronze Gift strengthens social interaction with mundane animals (and only animals). These benefits only offset the penalties of the Gift, and do not do more. The Faerie Familiar can benefit from this initiation...but only if they have one or more of the three Faerie cords, which are exacerbated. The Leaden Cord now aggravates the Divine and makes social interaction in Divine areas harder. The Iron Cord makes social interaction harder in Infernal areas and when dealing with Infernal beings, as well as when touching iron. The Tin Cord makes normal people even more suspicious of you than normal. This Mystery is seen as a strange artifact of the pre-Quendalon House, and most established initiations tend to involve nature rather than faeries.

The first school is the Arcadian Mysteries, those discovered (it is said) by Quendalon and responsible for the dramatic changes of the House They concern faeries and the Faerie realm directly. The first of these Mysteries is Arcadian Travel, allowing relatively easy travel between Faerie and the mortal world via special paths known as trods. These are roads that lead into and out of Faerie, and are also what connect the different levels of regiones. They occasionally occur naturally, and Merinitae with this mystery can also create them. Opening a trod requires a charm depicting the trod's destination. It's possible to make one that goes to somewhere you've never been to, but it's much harder, especially for a non-mundane place. Faeries can't ever do that, though. Once you have an appropriate charm, you concentrate on it for around ten minutes. You may only reach a mundane destination y first traveling to a regio near it, and the more removed from reality a destination is, the harder it is to get to. You may take a number of people with you based on your Faerie Magic so long as they all agree to participate in activating the charm. It is impossible to bring an unwilling victim through a trod, though an unwitting but willing one can go.

Animae Magic is a Mystery that allows the magus to bring out the faerie properties of mundane things transforming inanimate objects into living faeries. These temporary faeries are known as animae, artifical souls. Animae are essentially alive, intelligent and can interact with the environment. They often have powers appropriate to their Might and while not necessarily friendly, they are generally willing to bargain with their creator for aid in exchange for mortal pleasures. While they usually resemble humans and can often be affected by Corpus and Mentem, they are also of the Form that gave them life and may be targeted with that Form in the same way Animal targets animals. They may be warded against, but can appear within an Aegis if summoned within its bounds. Some say the animae are simply sleeping faeries awakened by magic, while others say they are Arcadian spirits summoned by magic, while others believe they are literally created by magic. No one knows for sure who's right. Magi with this Mystery may use Creo and Muto with the appropriate form to create faeries or turn things into faeries associated with that Form. Notables include the ability to make faerie ghosts or convert human corpses into faeries with Corpus. to make faeries inside the mind or turn thoughts into faeries with Mentem or the power to turn spells or vis into faeries with Vim.

Becoming is the final Arcadian Mystery. It teaches you to, as Quendalon was reputed to have done, become a faerie. (Some secretly believe it actually destroys you and summons a faerie in your place.) It cannot be reversed, and has many strange, generally beneficial effects. There are three rituals involved in realizing the power of Becoming once initiated. One transforms the body, one the mind and one the spirit. You can do them in any order, but must do all three to become fully Faerie. The Arts used in the rituals determine what kind of faerie you become. The Body determines appearance, the Mind personality and the Spirit magical power. When you become a faerie, incidentally, your bond to your familiar feels as the bond does to faerie familiars: a chain and an oppression. Unless you forge the balancing negative cords, the bond will decay as it does with faeries. Some believe a ritual exists to convert the bonds into faerie ties, allowing two faeries to be tied together without ill effect, but if possible no one knows how to do it.

Transforming the Body causes you to cease aging and feeling fatigue. You may no longer spend fatigue to exert yourself, but may simulate such exertion by spending Confidence. Your age and appearance become fixed at the cusp between two ages of life - either youth, just after puberty, adulthood, when your hair first started to gray, or old age, when your hair turned completely white. (This is on top of the changes to your appearance from the Form and Technique used in the ritual.) The older you are, the harder the ritual is to perform.

Transforming the Mind causes you to no longer require sleep. This gives you two "free" seasons per year - they are not actual seasons, but are the time you would otherwise have spent resting, and they may not be used for lab activities. They can be used for study or adventuring, though. However: you may never learn new skills again. You may improve those you already have, but cannot gain new ones, nor invent new spells or effects that are not at least similar to the ones you already know. This limits your spontaneous magic and lab inventions, though you may still master any spells you have learned. The more skills you have and the better you are at them, the harder this is to perform.

Transforming the Spirit sacrifices your Gift and transforms you into a faerie being, giving you Faerie Might and making you immune to Warping. You may still cast spells and perform labwork, but doing so costs Might. You are also affected by wards like the Aegis or any other powers that target faeries. The more magic you know, the harder this ritual is.

After fully becoming a faerie, you may learn and perform lesser rituals to strengthen your ties to Faerie, gain new poers, alter your appearance or better imitate those aspects of humanity you gave up. You can even use these rituals to gain new knowledge or learn new spells, an act otherwise impossible for you.

The Line of Quendalon teaches these mysteries most often. Quendalon took many apprentices, as he desired to share much knowledge. He also taught his secrets to other magi without any cost in return, to spread his magic further. These are the Line of Quendalon, and the only cost was that they become Merinita if they were not already, and pledge loyalty to him as Primus. All later Primi have descended from this line. Quendalon encouraged allowing Gifted children to be raised by faeries, and many of this line gain immortality by Becoming. Quendalon never took a familiar, so those of this line are less critical of those who also forgo the bond. The most popular Arts of this line are Vim, Muto and Creo, as well as whatever Form represents the faeries they find most interesting. Quendalon is said to have favored Terram. These magi are also sometimes called the Last Commission, in reference to the legend that Bonisagus himself smiled on Quendalon's efforts and charged him the task of making Faerie more accessible to all magi. Thus, Quendalon's line occasionally initiates those of other Houses, primarily Bonisagus. Many are Seekers and more than other Merinitae they devote themselves to experimental research and exploring the frontiers of magic.

Next time: the Folk Mysteries

jadarx
May 25, 2012


Pththya-lyi posted:


I just love the name “Piggly Wiggly” so much.

I love this picture so much, because I'm from the part of the US where Piggly Wiggly's actual are.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The School of Folk Mysteries draws on the knowledge of the common people gained from Faerie. Merinitae have developed this common folklore into unique Mysteries, exploring faerie magic via charms. This begins with Charm Magic, allowing a Merinita to incorporate charms into spells, making them more potent via sympathetic magic. First, a spell must be invented which incorporate the charm, which can be either spontaneous, formulaic or ritual. You must decide how the charm applies to the target and include it in the spell - so, for example, a integrating the name 'Darius' could then allow the spell to be used on anyone named Darius. A spell might involve, instead, 'winter' or 'an axe' or 'the color red'. One charm grants a small bonus when casting the spell, and you must incorporqate the specified charm into the action of casting, either creating a temporary charm at the time or using a permanent, premade charm you have on hand. You might tell a story about a man named Darius, draw a picture that shows winter, cut a stick into the shape of an axe or sing a song about the color red.

A spell may incorporate numerous charms at once, depending on your Faerie Magic knowledge. There are several categories they can fall into: 'Darius' is a character, 'winter' an event, 'axe' an item and 'red' an aspect. When using multiple charms, you receive a small bonus for each charm used and a small bonus for each category represented by the charms. Of course, the more charms you have, the more limited the spell is in what it can affect. You may also use charms to improve the Penetration by having an Arcane Connection, as the spell will inherently use the sympathetic magic of the charms incorporated into it via that Arcane Connection. Creating one charm that covers all aspects of a spell's charms is possible, but more difficult than just designing multiple charms. The spell may also use symbolism - a spell to turn someone into a lion could use an aspect charm of bravery, but would have no benefit if the target were not in some way brave. Absurdly broad Charms give no bonus, as well as those inappropriate to the situation at hand. You may cast a charm-based spell without the charms or on a target to which the charms do not apply, and in those cases the spell functions normally, but loses all bonuses from the charms. The charms may also be used to provide spell mastery effects rather than increased power if desired.



Story Magic is next. Folk magicians know that things must happen in a certain way in medieval stories, and believe themselves to be taking part in a greater, unfolding story. This allows them to influence the story of their own lives, using folk magic to alter events by inspiring circumstances to occur as they should in story, just as faeries come into being via story. This requires you to first design a story charm, a special kind of charm that is never made spontaneously, for it draws on the unique quality of an event. A 'magus' story charm, for example, might need to be tied to a particularly impressive magus. A 'winter' story charm would need to call back to a memory of experiencing a terrible winter. An 'axe' story charm might need a particularly fine axe, one used to chop down an entire forest. Without this legendary frame of reference, nothing can be made. Once inspired, you make the charm as per normal, and the created charm gets a charm category as per normal to which the story event applies.

A story charm may be used at any time, but is most appropriate while on adventures. Activating it requires expenditure of Confidence, and afterward, the idea of the charm will show up at some point in the story - an event happens, an object shows up, a character is affected or a theme emphasized. Usually, this is to the magus' benefit. The player may suggest what they want to happen but ultimately it is in the GM's hands to incorporate the story element into the ongoing narrative in a way that benefits you, and it needn't be in the way you expect. Generally a story charm should be somehow applicable to the situation, manifesting as a clue to a mystery or an ally with a useful bit of aid. It's not a miracle or even especially powerful, as magic goes, but gives you control over the narrative flow of events. A story charm may also be used as a charm for Charm Magic spells acting essentially as wildcards for their category - so in a charm magic spell that has a character charm tied to it, you could substitute a character story charm, since story charms affect all characters. It still costs a Confidence point to do this.

Last is Symbolic Magic, allowing charms and the symbols of sympathetic magic to be used in labwork. A magus with Symbolic Magic may design charms as part of enchanted devices, providing the charm and category bonuses to the enchantment process. If used with an Arcane Connection, this also helps the device Penetrate magic resistance. However, the item will be unable to even target anything that is not covered by the charms, unlike charm spells, which can be cast without the bonus. The charms must also be incorporated into the trigger of the device, so the effect must be actively triggered rather than triggered environmentally or linked to some other event. You can still restrict who can use the device, however.

Further, you may link charms to your Talisman, allowing the Talisman to act as a charm in certain circumstances, increasing your spells' power whenever those circumstances apply, as if using Charm Magic. A Talisman may be attuned to as many charms as you like, but no more than one charm may be attuned per season, and your limit that can be used for a single spell is based on your Faerie Magic. You may also design permanent charms for others with this power, creating symbolic representations or even tying the effects of Arcadian Travel (if you have it) or Story Magic to the charm, so that they can use that power without having the Mysteries. The cost of activation is paid by the wielder rather than you.

Lastly, you gain the power to design ritual spells that use the Symbol range, duration and target. Each requires you make a symbolic representation that identifies the target through at least three different charms. The Faerie Queen of Winter in the area might be indicated by a 'queen' character charm, a 'winter' event charm and and a 'faerie' character charm, for example. And yes, if you want to use Symbol for all three of those things, you'll need nine charms. If any fail to apply when the ritual is cast, the spell simply fails. If any of them ceases to apply during the spell's duration, it ends. Each use of the symbol requires a unique ritual spell, but if the charms are broad enough to cover multiple situations, the same spell can be used again. The Symbol Range can target anything represented by a symbol as though you had an Arcane Connection to it. The Symbol Duration lasts as long as the identifying symbol does, and the symbol must be a physical object. If the symbol is erased, falls aprt, dies or is otherwise damaged, the spell ends. If the target changes such that the symbol no longer applies, the spell is interrupted but resumes once the symbol does apply again. The Symbol Target affects everyone in the range of the spell that is represented by the symbol.

Back at the inauguration of House Ex Miscellanea in 817, a great party of non-Hermetic wizards accompanied Pralix to the Rhineland and participated in her welcoming ceremony. Among them were the Welsh seer Emrys and his son Ambrosius. Emrys had foreseen his son's death while still a child, but made a pact with the Welsh faeries to trade his life for his son's. He'd long been an advisor to the faerie court, and by order of the king of Welsh faeries was granted a stay of seven years and a day, the remaining time his son would have lived, to see to the boy's future before his death. Emrys wanted his son to join House Merinita, for at the same Tribunal that Emrys swore his Oath to Ex Miscellanea, Quendalon declared the House's new tie to Faerie. Quendalon happily accepted the charge and took the boy back to Irencillia. Emrys went with them long enough to see Ambrosius settled and formally adopted as apprentice, then returned to Wales to face his death. It was said that afterward, those with Second Sight could see Emrys' ghost watching over the boy in summer months.

Ambrosius of Merinita clearly had strong faerie ties, and it is said his mother was a faerie enchantress, and he had signs of a potent Gift even before made apprentice and taught Faerie Magic by Quendalon. He seemed to grasp the Mysteries intuitively, especially the magic of charms and symbols as well as that associated with fortune and fate. He especially liked making charms out of poetic couplets. He took apprentices of his own, and taught them the arts of prophecy, though each used charms of a different medium. One used carved stones, while another composed songs. A third used heraldic devices. This lineage survives as the Heirs to Merlin, for many claim that Ambrosius' father was descended from that ancient wizard. The lineage often acts as court advisors to faerie courts. (They don't serve mundane courts, that'd be agains the Code, but nothing says you can't swear fealty to a faerie, so long as you don't bring their wrath on the Order.) The Heirs typically learn Charm or Story Magic early, and only learn Symbolic Magic late in life. Many have Faerie blood and supernatural powers related to second sight or premonitions. They by far prefer Intellego over all other Arts, and their initiations tend to involve fealty and loyalty to faerie rulers.

Next time: Illusion Mysteries

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


occamsnailfile posted:

Rifts:™ England Part 16: “The Well of Wisdom, Blood Druids, and France”

Now presumably we will be getting an explanation for what the table really is, which is apparently ‘an Ogeeyin’. They appear as balls of flesh that are mostly smooth and pale pink or tan, with sectioning lines marking it into equal quarters, with two antennae and four hemispherical life nodes. Each of these quarters is a separate mind that’s part of the collective body. Why do I feel like I just described a modron? Anyway these are psychic/magical beings who have an Alien Intelligence-like ability to astrally project and become resident in an object of stone and one of them felt sorry for Earth. They observed for decades and discovered the table--it does contain dead minds within it, but other than that its origin is unexplained :iiam: It’s indestructible and has some various magic to it, and the Ogeeyin (really?) put up this whole mound business over it to help protect it because they are one of the rare ‘generally good’ aliens in the Rifts universe.

I have one last thing to point out about this Rifts England book. The book closes with XP tables. Hey, what's that on the XP tables? Why, it's the Ogeeyin! So I guess if you want to play a floating pink ball of flesh that straddles multiple dimensions and animates stone avatars, it's supported by the rules.

Also there's an XP table for "Ancient Chiang-Ku" that goes from 16th level to 26th level, which I guess implies that hatchlings that hit 16th level get to be adults? Granted, you need 800,000 xp to hit 16th level, so assuming you get 1,000 XP a week (a princely sum by Palladium standards) and play without fail every week without dying (or losing your gamemaster) for over 15 years, you can play an adult chiang-ku!

At that point you might want to reconsider your priorities in life, or just play the hand you were dealt and go full-on chiang-ku otherkin. :psyduck:

johntfs
Jun 7, 2013

by Cowcaster


Soiled Meat

Evil Mastermind posted:

The R&E version didn't simplify things as much as just put everything in one book and add two more Everlaws.

Also, I goofed when I was talking about how damage works. When you hit, you add the bonus value to your weapon's damage, and that's the total you look up on the chart. But that doesn't alleviate the glass ninja problem, because again if you hit someone with a high defense then you probably got a pretty decent bonus, and weapon damage tends to be high anyway (an Uzi is damage value 17).

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Torg-ThePossibilityWars

If you go to the above site and join the group, you'll find the the Files section contains a writeup that translates TORG into Fate's Dresden Files RPG system quite nicely.

Also, there's a West End Games fansite with a well-populated discussion forum for TORG. There are quite a few dedicated fans who have put a lot of thought into the game. One of them already came up with a pretty good fix for the "Glass-jawed Ninja" problem.

johntfs fucked around with this message at 23:39 on Jun 7, 2013

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Yes, it's time for our eighth Rifts book and the sixth Rifts FATAL & Friends writeup I've worked on and...

Oh gently caress me, not this poo poo again. :stonk:

Rifts® Africa posted:

This book may be inappropriate for young readers.

The fictional world of Rifts is violent, deadly, and filled with supernatural monsters. Other dimensional beings, often referred to as "demons", torment, stalk, and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, faeries, monsters, gods and demi-gods, as well as magic, insanity and the supernatural, are all elements in this book.

Rifts Africa is a work of fiction! The Four Horsemen are not intended to be biblical or religious reference, but purely fictional monsters.

Wait. What.

WHAT?

Look, I understand that Kevin Siembieda was so steeped in the Satanic Panic that he did these warnings for over a decade after it had died out, reminding us that ridiculous nonsense like the Splugorth and their Blind Warrior Slave Women are fictional. Fine. Fine.

But when you have Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Death, Famine, Pestilence, and War - that combine to form the Armageddon Creature, and he wants to pretend this doesn't refer to Christian mythology?

Talk about wanting to have your religion and eat it too. :shobon:

Rifts® Africa posted:

The monsters, gods, and magic and places are not real. None of us at Palladium Books condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, or violence.

Some parents may the violence and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

I hardly have the energy to fight this anymore, but let's look at one last piece of the above under a microscope for a moment.

Rifts® Africa posted:

The monsters, gods, and magic and places are not real.

Yes, that's right. It's time to explore the fictional realm...

... of Africa.



Rifts World Book 4: Africa Part One: "Epic adventure."

A warning for new readers

If you haven't read my and occam's reviews of the other Rifts books, you may want to start with those. Rifts® Africa contains blatant references to earlier material. Shilling, repetition, and book references are all present in this book.

This F&F review of Rifts® World Book Four: Africa is not intended to be any more comprehensive than the book itself. Elements will be referenced constantly from other material. Reader discretion is advised.


So, there are actually two covers for this book. The first is from earlier printings, the second is from later printings. Why the change? No idea.


Here is where I introduce my revolutionary skull counter. Skulls counted: 20.

So, what do we have after Kevin's boilerplate warning that magic is make-believe? Well, we have this pic:



Yes, this is a man made of beetles with a beetle-staff riding a giant beetle.

I think it's safe to say he has beetlemania. :rimshot:

So! We have Kevin Siembieda doing the main writing, Kevin Long giving us the heavy metal horsemen, and Julius Rosenstein doing... something, I'm told. Alex Marciniszyn continues on as the "editor" with Thomas Bartold or James A. Osten also "editing". Interior art is by Kevin Long, Newton Ewell, Wayne Breaux, Kevin Siembieda, and Michael Gustovich.

So, on to the intro!

Rifts® Africa posted:

Why Africa?

Apparently Kevin was questioned on why he was doing Africa for World Book Four! So he talks about his inspirations - Kipling, Conrad, Tarzan, Zulu, and... uh... Frank Buck. Also, it's huge! Really huge! It's a huge place! And...

Rifts® Africa posted:

The sky is incredibly blue, the air sweet and fresh. There are just some places on Earth that are unlike any other. Africa is one of those places.

Has he even been to Africa?

Rifts® Africa posted:

From a game designer's point of view, Africa offered all the right elements of immensity, the kinds of setting and adventures I wanted for this book. The Africa of Rifts Earth is an enigmatic wildernesses inhabited by exotic creatures and few people. A land of contrast, mystery, noble people and monsters. A place both pure and primordial and yet somehow frightening and mysterious. A continent teeming with life, danger, adventure, and places to explore. Add to this the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and other supernatural forces, pit them against the gather of heroes in a fight to save not only Africa but the entire world (possibly the Megaverse), and you have the perfect environment for epic adventure. Well, that's my plan anyway. I hope it worked.

I hope so too, I hope so too, Kevin. :(

Please stop referring to Africa as exotic and mysterious and noble now.

Rifts® Africa posted:

A few notes about the contents of the book

Although there are some historical and mythological references to real places and cultures, Rifts Africa is a work of fiction. The magic, monsters, and heroes are all fictional - make-believe.

The inclusion of the Four Horse of the Apocalypse is not meant to have any religious significance and is used only for dramatic and fictional purposes.

nnnnngh

nnnn

nnnnnnnnnnnn fucccckkkkkkk

fuuuucckkkk yooouuuuu :smithicide:

Next: ERIN TARN.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Before we get to Erin Tarn, before any of us have to suffer more: I actually like the second cover better but I don't understand why it was necessary. I don't understaaaaaand. Even if Steve Scheiring (or however you spell it) stole the original didn't he have--

Oh nevermind.

Dung beetle mounts for all.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



johntfs posted:

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Torg-ThePossibilityWars

If you go to the above site and join the group, you'll find the the Files section contains a writeup that translates TORG into Fate's Dresden Files RPG system quite nicely.

Also, there's a West End Games fansite with a well-populated discussion forum for TORG. There are quite a few dedicated fans who have put a lot of thought into the game. One of them already came up with a pretty good fix for the "Glass-jawed Ninja" problem.

Nice, thanks! I'll definitely check those out.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The School of Illusion Mysteries deals with illusion and image, including those aspects of the physical world which faeries can see but humans cannot. This also includes odd tricks of magic. Spell Timing is the first Mystery, granting access to a new set of durations, usable and learnable only by those initiated into it. Three of these allow the magus to cast a spell but keep it dormant until needed. If by the time the spell goes off, its target is invalid or its parameters no longer apply, the spell fizzles. The first of these is Held Duration. The spell is cast as normal, but as long as the magus concentrates, it does not go off. When it does, it goes of all at once, in a single instant, as if of Momentary Duration. The second is Midday/Midnight Duration. The spell is cast, but does not go off until the soonest of dawn, midday, dusk or midnight. It then lasts until the next of dawn, midday, dusk or midnight - so a spell cast in the morning goes off at noon and ends at dusk. Last is Season Duration. The spell is held until the next solstice or equinox, and lasts to the following solstice or equinox. Such spells are always Rituals.

The Mystery also grants access to three conditional durations. First is While (Condition) Duration. The target must perform some activity, like reading a book, or fulfill some condition, like being drunk or sleeping. As long as that activity or condition lasts, so does the spell. Second is Not (Condition) Duration. The spell lasts as long as the target does not fulfill some common physical condition, such as sleeping or speaking, or until a month passes, whichever comes first. Last is If (Condition) Duration. The effect triggers when the target fulfills the condition. A second duration is attached to the spell to determine how long the spell lasts after the trigger is met. If the spell is untriggered when the caster enters even temporary Twilight or dies or a full year passes, the spell ends.

Lastly, the Mystery allows the caster's spells to have recurring effects, designed such that from their casting onwards, they trigger in response to an environmental or physical condition. A recurring spell is of higher level the faster it recurs, and may not recur more than once a minute. Such a spell must always be cast as a Ritual, and may not be combined with any effect that requires a Ritual due to its non-Hermetic origins or unusual effects. (For example: no recurring healing spells.) Recurring spells may be given triggers using the conditional durations. The recurrances do not stack - they replace each other seamlessly.



Glamours are the second Mystery. They are illusions with reality, castable only by those initiated. A glamour seems to have all the properties of a true thing, including substance. A glamour bridge supports weight, a glamour fire can light paper, and glamour wine quenches thirst. They are real things for the duration of the spell and may have lasting effects on the environment. Due to their solidity, glamours can be resisted by the Parma Magica, unlike many Imaginem illusions. This is because they do not simply change emitted species, but actually magically modify the species themselves. Despite this, they are still only species, and are affected only by Imaginem magic. Second Sight can determine that glamours are illusions, though knowing something is fake does not protect against it. Unfortunately, all Merinita initiations of Glamours grant the same flaw: Vulnerable Magic, making their spells automatically dispel under certain circumstances. This means that many believe it is impossible to be truly killed by glamours since each has a vulnerability that will undo its effects. It is said, for example, that if someone is killed by a glamour weak to the touch of iron, touching them with an iron nail will return them to life. Some say this might be because a faerie that resembles the dead man comes to replace them or the body is possessed by a faerie spirit. Some say it means that the ghosts of those killed by glamours remain in Arcadia until they truly die. (Either way, to be safe, stab a dude you killed with a glamour a second time with something real. Just to be sure.)



Last is the Mystery of Perpetuity. This grants access to three new spell durations - and all of them have the potential to last forever. First is Might Duration. Either the target or caster must have Faerie or Magical Might and must be alive. The spell lasts until these conditions are no longer met, such as if the caster is the one with Might and passes into Twilight, Arcadia or some other otherworldly state. Second is Aura Duration, which lasts as long as the target remains within a supernatural aura. If the target ever leaves the aura (or the physical world, via Twilight, entering Arcadia, etc.) the spell ends. It can move from one aura to another so long as the two overlap - they just have to never be out of an aura. Last is Hidden Duration, which lasts so long as the caster or target (or a significant part of the caster or target) is hidden - buried in the earth, say, or inside a box, covered with a curtain, disguised, whatever. Anything, even another spell, so long as the effect with Hidden Duration does not itself hide the target. If anyone other than the caster discovers the hidden thing, the spell ends immediately. All magi who learn this Mystery gain the Unnatural Magic flaw as part of their initiation, preventing any Creo magic they cast from ever having permanent effect, even if they spend vis on it, as well as rendering them unable to extract vis from an aura using Creo.

The magus Pendule is a legend in the Order, though none can say how much of his legend is true. Story has it that he was a wizard in Provencal Tribunal that was discovered by the Founder Flambeau and given the option to join or die. He was powerful enough to evade Flambeauand his followers and many comedic tales tell of Pendule the trickster defeating the mighty and blustering Flambeau with wit and illusion. Eventually, it seems Pendule grew tired of the game and adopted four Hermetic magi as followers No one knows why. Maybe he just wanted to share his secrets before his death or perhaps he wanted to learn Hermetic magic theory. Two of the four were Merinitae, and having been initiated into Faerie Magic, they were able to understand the illusion Mysteries Pendule taught. The other two could not comprehend them. Afterwards, these Merinitae began to teach the school of Illusion Mysteries to their lineage, the Followers of Pendule.

Pendule's magic was highly sensual and personal, and he especially loved used of color and sound. He expected magic to transform the caster rather than yield to them, and while he was oddly sensitive to passing time, he seemed to have great difficulty with standard Hermetic durations, preferring spells that relied on odd conditions or that triggered after a dormant period. He also practiced other Mysteries which his Merinita followers were unable to master, and other lineages dedicated to these may still exist in other Houses or cults within the Order - or perhaps even without. Typically, Followers of Pendule learn Spell Timing and Glamours from their masters, and their primary art is almost exclusively Imaginem. Commonly, their spells are vulnerable to the touch of iron, as were both the Merinitae who studied under Pendule. They also often learn Spell Improvisation or a Magical Focus in counterspells. Pendule died in 854, but not before teaching his final secret to his followers: Perpetuity. To maintain this tradition, the final Initiation of Perpetuity is usually kept from a magus until their master is dying, and given as the final lesson.

Next time: Nature Mysteries.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


The second cover is head and shoulders better than the first for RAfrica. And those faces under the title pages all look like they're from a Resident Evil game.

A MaOCT campaign where your kids are fighting to save their family from cartel killers would be pretty awesome if you set it against a backdrop of finally growing up and shedding your childhood innocence.

And a final character idea for Changeling: An ogre luchador. MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The School of Nature Mysteries has nearly been forgotten by House Merinita. These are the ancient practices of Merinita the Founder, a very different kind of magic from that of the rest of the House. It deals in the power of untamed wildlands, in the magical qualities of nature. These fall outside the bounds of Faerie Magic and, indeed, are usually unavailable to Merinitae. They can sometimes be found in magi of other Houses, particularly Bjornaer from the lost line of Myanar, and one or two nature magi supposedly remain within the House to show the way to others, teaching the Nature Mysteries alongside Faerie Magic. For the most part, however, these are truly mysteries to most Merinitae.

They begin with an Outer Mystery, much as the Faerie MYsteries begin with Faerie Magic. This is Nature Lore. The magus must choose a type of nature to be associated with - animals, water, weather, forests, deserts, mountains, whatever. They gain the magical power of Nature Lore, associated with that form of nature. For example, a magus associated with forests would name it Forest Lore. Merinita herself was supposedly associated with forests, and it is the most common variation. Nature Lore may be used as Area Lore for the place in which the magus learned it, including knowledge of the supernatural beings of that area. As the understanding grows, the magus can develop a rapport even with areas outside their familiar territory, communing with nature in other places. Outside their home region, a magus's Nature Lore is effectively three less than normal.



Nature Lore allows the magus to communicate with all nature associated with their lore, though for many aspects of nature this is slow and concepts are hard to convey, for the magus is limited to the senses and sounds the target possesses. Yeah, someone with Mountain Lore can talk to a rock, but it takes hours. Nature Lore cannot be studied in books - only by practice, adventure and exposure to nature while within an aura. Nature magi tend to develop a deep attachment to their home region as a result. They may learn the other Nature Mysteries by communing with nature, or 'walking the path', with the aid of a magical being. This tends to involve more painful ordeals and more arduous quests than learning from a mystery cult, of course.

Next is Awakening, the power to draw forth a natural intelligence within those things associated with the magus' Nature Lore. Essentially, it 'awakens' the spirit of an area, making it self-aware. Such beings are usually dedicated to the care and safety of the region, connected to it by their essential nature. It is said that Merinita's ritual of familiar binding was based on this Mystery. Awakening requires a season, and also a naturally exquisite specimen that represents the region but is not already awakened. For animals, the creature must have Magic Might or otherwise embody the area in some way, such as a leader of a wolf pack or the largest fish in a pond. For other beings, the area should have a magical aura and the subject should be the focus of that aura, such as the great tree at the center of a forest or the spirit of a mountain deep within the rock's heart. One spirit may be awakened per aura. For magical animals, similar standards as seeking a familiar apply, though not quite so strictly, since the result is more of a parent-child relation than the bond of the familiar.

The Technique and Form used to awaken determine the personality of the result and the larger the target animal or area is, the harder the ritual is. The process is vis-intensive, and extra seasons may be spent to imbue the newly awakened being with magical powers, similar to enchanting a magical device. The more vis was spent on awakening it, the more powers it can have. Investing this power does not cost vis, however - the new being will expend Might to learn them. Vis just reduces the cost of that. Alternatively, you can bind the being as a familiar and imbue with powers as normal for the familiar bond. Once you use the method of instilling powers via the Awakening rituals, however, it can never be undone and the being is forever unsuitable as a familiar.

Then comes Wilding, the power to draw forth the power of nature in physical things. This is similar to extracting vis from an aura, in that it takes a season of effort and produces vis, though the vis's form is temporary and must be used within a few days or it will fade. Thus, this vis is unsuitable for seasonal activity or study, and generally it is used only to cast ritual spells. The vessel must be appropriate to your Nature Lore, and determines the Form of the vis produced. Stones provide Terram, plants Herbam, beasts Animal and so on, though those are generally what is available as vessels. The object must be entirely natural, unworked by craft or artifice. A stone must be broken naturally from a mountain, not by picks. A plant must grow where its seed naturally fell. An animal must be untamed. Only those initiated into Wilding may use this wild vis, or even identify it as vis without magic specially designed to do so. Other magi simply see its natural form.

Last is the Guardian of Nature. A nature magus may join their spirit with nature and become a guardian spirit. They immerse themself in the surrounding area, which must have a magic aura and with which they must be able to speak fluently via Nature Lore Everything in the area becomes an extension of the self, called the locus. A magus bound to a mountain can feel footsteps upon it as a person feels a fly on the skin. One who becomes bound to the animals of an area may guide them as a hive mind flitting easily between them to see what they see. Within the physical limitations of the locus, they may control nature as an extension of the body guiding it as they see fit. To become one with an area requires a ritual said to be from Merinita herself. It takes at least an hour and is quite tiring as well as costly in vis, which must be of an appropriate Form. The larger the area is, the harder it is. You may take over a place that is already protected by an awakened spirit, so long as you beat its magic resistance. If you do, it is subsumed into your consciousness when the ritual is completed. If the ritual succeeds, you become ghostly and invisible, unable to interact directly with the world. Your body is like a living memory of your human form, and may be damaged or destroyed by Mentem magic, but while it remains you may control it as an extension of your locus if you desire, and you may even leave your locus and return to your mortal body though doing so takes an hour of concentration and ends the effects of the ritual.

Guardian spirits do not age nor have any needs for survival. They are invulnerable to extremes of temperature and all forms of physical damage. They may become fatigued or unconscious, and must still rest and sleep as normal. They cannot study, but do gain experience via exposure. They may still cast spells, though they cannot use words or gestures to do so and most be able to perceive the target within the constraints of the locus. Thus, to cast a spell of Sight range, you would need to possess an animal to see the target. You may still gain Warping and enter Twilight as normal, and you are Warped each year while you are a spirit. If any part of your locus is tamed or destroyed in an unnatural way, you feel great pain as part of your being is torn away, taking damage based on the amount of the locus which is removed. If these worsen, you age and suffer crisis rather than dying and appropriate Creo magic can heal these wounds, so long as some of the locus remains unspoiled. Your locus is your essential nature, and if it is entirely destroyed, you die. Painfully.

Back during the early 1100s, the Merinita Mendalus proclaimed that Quendalon had done a great wrong by the House by abandoning Merinita's ways and publicaly sought to remake her Mysteries. He died in Wizard's War, but a few Merinitae sympathized and secretly took up his cause. They came to believe that Merinita still lived somewhere in Europe, and thought they might reach her and learn her secrets. In 1158, an apprentice named Agnes announced that she had met a lady in green within Bohemia and learned a special sort of nature magic from her. She finished her training at Irencillia, but was soon hailed by Mendalus' supporters as one of the True Merinitae, believed to have learned Nature Lore direct from the Founder. In the years since, it is said that Agnes has Initiated other Nature Mysteries by communing with Merinita's spirit. She has helped her elders learn these Mysteries, often using Initiations that predate Quendalon, and by 1220 she has taught two apprentices of her own.

These two, and the older magi whom Agnes initiated, make up an unusual cult that is often considered a House lineage. However, the idea that Merinita herself could still live after so many years is simply absurd, and is believed by many to be a form of deliberate wishful thinking. More sensible magi believe that someone must have impersonated the Founder as part of Agnes's Initiation, perhaps to symbolically entrust her with the legacy. Distrustful magi have even said that Agnes may have learned her magic from Diedne magi, and not Merinitae at all, though the True Merinitae strenuously deny these allegations and refuse to listen to any such speculations. True Merinitae always begin with Nature Lore, but must also learn Faerie Magic if they belong to House Merinita. Over time, they may discover other Mysteries either by Initiation or "walking the path"with a nature spirit. They tend to have more inoffensive, even Gentle Gifts, and many learn a Magical Focus involving wilderness. Some Merinitae are suspicious of their origins, and True Merinitae often have poor reputations in the House.

Next time: House Verditius

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Rifts World Book 4: Africa Part Two: "By the fates that control space and time, Victor can it really be you?"

The art in this part doesn't actually appear until later in the book, but I figured, why make you wait? So today we go straight into Erin Tarn's newest missive.


Angela Lansbury is Erin Tarn in: Rifts Africa.

Apparently she is writing a letter to Plato from Northern Africa. Um. I have no idea how this is being delivered? There's no mail service in Rifts®, much less in Africa. So, basic logic out the window from the start. What next? :mad:

Well, she's recieved Plato's Edict of Planetary Distress (while in England, we learn later, even though it comes from Canada), and she replies she knows the nature of the big evil in Africa - the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! She found out from an old friend of hers - Lo Fung!


David Carradine is Lo Fung in: Rifts Africa.

Apparently he's not changed in 20 years and that is because he's a dragon, but the noted Rogue Scholar is a little slower to pick up on this obvious fact. Anyway, Erin and Lo met up at the court of King Arr'thuu (a name which just makes me think "Arr'thuuluu"), where Lo was like, "Hey, King, we need your guys to go and die against the The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

Because, I'm going to spoil, if you've looked at the stats for the Knights of New Camelot and the stats of the Four Horsemen, the Knights of New Camelot will have all the effect of a bug on a windshield. Wait, no, a gnat in a jet turbine. Lo Fung just might be a terrible dragon person. Or just a terrible strategist.

So Mrr'Lyn (the secret otherdimensional monster) busts in and is like "You rear end in a top hat, you are sending off men on a wild goose chase! I'll have none of your tomfoolery!", but and then Erin Tarn steps in and vouches for Lo. Oh, Erin Tarn, you poor, stupid old biddy. And it is only Erin Tarn that moves the king's heart and gets him to send some men with them to Africa. Four of those men will be dead before they even arrive on Africa's shore.

Lady Guinevere (the secret otherdimensional monster) gets King Arr'thuu to stay behind, but he'll still send an "army". Lo Fung metaphorically fistbump Prrcyel because they're both Chiang-Ku dragons which makes part of the Chinese dragon Justice League. Erin Tarn suspects this! That's our Rogue Scholar!

Rifts® Africa posted:

I politely questioned our oriental friend about this matter. He gave me famous coy smile and said that he has always admired my keen and intuitive mind. With that he squeezed my hand and recited a Chinese proverb about the inquisitive mind.

Oh, gently caress you, Lo Fung, you inscrutable oriental. :(

Anyway, the "army" that joins Erin Tarn and Lo Fung on the trip to Af-ri-caaa! is... uh... fourteen Knights of Camelot. So, more like a lance than an army, really. And there the letter ends.

And how the hell did she even send a letter from Africa to Canada?! :confused:

So we have another letter she sent. Somehow. I dunno. Maybe a wizard did it. Anyway, four knights are dead after fighting gargoyles and the Blood Druids of France. Man, if you got chumped by the blood druids, who are basically just homicidal hippies, they're not even gonna be a speedbump against the Four Horsemen. (Granted, gargoyles are a decent threat.)

She arrives at the "Gathering of Heroes" in Africa and there are all sorts of folks, D-Bees, dragons, and other heroes ready to fight the Four Horsemen. Apparently the Egyptian gods are supporting them in their heroes, except for the Egyptian gods of death, who are apparently pro-apocalypse. She points out that even there are a bunch of heroes, there won't be enough. (Sounds like what they need are some PCs.) It reminds her of the Alamo, which bums her out, because the Alamo had heroes, and they died! Bummer.

Then she meets a "young" "woman" named "Fang-Lo". Yes, you might guess, "Chinese" name = dragon. But then, guess who shows up!

Victor Lazlo! :v:


David Bowie is Victor Lazlo in: Rifts Africa.

Lo Fang and Lazlo have a bro-cry and then go into a tent for some... privacy. Anyway, Vic got sucked into a convenient rift in Ohio and got popped out near Germany, where he became a rogue scholar, wanted by the New German Republic for standing up for free thought in Germany.

Erin Tarn is sad she's too old to knock boots with Lazlo (?). I'm getting the impression Vic may already be in a relationship, myself.

And I still don't know how she's sending these letters. :iiam:

Next: I hope you like skulls! It's time for skullomania with Death and the gang!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

House Verditius has at last count 74 magi. Its domus magna is Verdi, in Sardinia (which is part of the Roman Tribunal). The Primus is Stouritus, and the most common places to find Verditius magi are the Roman and Theban Tribunals. Their motto is Omnia nostra instrumenta, 'All things are our tools.' They symbol is the hand bearing a ring on each finger. These represent the five rings made by the Founder Verditius, perhaps the most potent magical rings ever made. House Verditius is a house of crafters and enchanters that seeks personal excellence in craft. They have mixed the works of MEditerranean craft magic with Scandinavian mage-smiths, as well as research into item creation. Their domus magna is in a cultural crossroads, influenced by Christian alchemists, Muslim academics and Jewish scholars. The House tends to cross the normal medieval biases of religion and race, bound together by a desire to create. They jealously guard their secret Mysteries, and while Verditius shared the basic process of enchantment, the more potent practices of the House are strict secrets, bound by oaths with severe penalties.

The roots of the House lie with the Cult of Hephaestus among the ancient Greeks. Legend says that the smith-god Hephaestus was born parthenogenetically from Hera, but was deformed and lame, of little interest to his mother. Zeus cast him from Olympus and into the sea, where he was rescued and raised by the nymphs Thetis and Eurynome, who built for him a forge beneath the sea in an underwater grotto. He created beautiful brooches and jewelery for his foster mothers, earning them the attention of Hera, who demanded to know where Thetis had gotten the jewels. The nymph revealed her secret that Hera's son still lived and worked. Hera retrieved Hephaestus and restored him to Olympus, building him an even grander forge and arranging his marriage to Zeus's daughter, Aphrodite.

His stay in Olympus was brief; to punish his wife for a domestic dispute, Zeus threatened to torture Hera. Hephaestus begged for his mother's clemency, which angered Zeus, and he was cast out a second time. This time, he landed on the isle of Lemnos, weak and near death. The people of Lemnos nursed him back to health. Furious at his treatment, Hephaestus chose to remain on Lemnos, taking twelve forge-companions from among the people who shared his love of industry. They worked dutifully with the god, and two of the twelve had the Gift, learning many of his magical secrets. While they made potent items, none were equal to the god, who forged items of legend to gift to other gods. Hephaestus did not remain at Lemnos but traveled to magical locations and set up other forges, though he often returned to visit. His cult grew and prospered, with both Gifted and unGifted members. Only two of the other forges are known: one in Yanartas, near the Antalya Gulf of Asia Minor, on the very site where the Chimera fell and fire still leaps magically from the ground, and the second in a cave on the isle of Sardinia.

The Sardinian forge is vital to the history of Verditius, and the home to Verdi, the domus magna. Both locations were active centers for the Cult of Hephaestus. With the rise of the Roman Empire, many cults were changed, adopting new names and incorporating new practices. So too was the cult of Hephaestus transformed, despite the reluctance of its Greek members. Pressure from the empire led to more initiates joining who were familiar with the god Vulcan rather than the Greek Hephaestus, and they changed the nature of the cult over time. Vulcan's Mysteries placed more importance on the destructive power of fire over the natural wonder of the forge. They still made magic items, but far more weapons than anything else. The cult was renamed to the Cult of Vulcan, rising in importance under the Caesars by supplying them and the Cult of Mercury with magical items.

The Fall of Rome was particularly terrible for the Cult of Vulcan as was the darkness to follow. Other cults broke up, but they tried desperately to retain their organization. They failed, discovering that they had invested far too heavily in magical craft. None had the power to defend themselves in face-to-face confrontation, and they were destroyed or enslaved by potent overlords. As more and more fell, the leaders of the cult abandoned Rome, and small groups of magi retreated to their secret forges. Communication between them ceased and the unified Cult disintegrated. The smaller groups would not cooperate with other wizards. They still made and sold magic items, but made a complex network of agents to protect their safety. It wasn't foolproof and they were still sometimes found and destroyed by greedy wizards. The cult diminished in size as its members became increasingly paranoid of each other and the world.

Verditius was born on Corsica to the widow of a blacksmith. Her husband was dead a year before his birth, and people wondered who has father might have been. This plus his obvious Gift led speculation to run from faerie princes to demons. As his craftwork developed, some said he was a son of the god Hephaestus himself, returned to earth to resurrect the Cult. Verditius was raised by his uncle, also a blacksmith, and started in the forge at an early age. He was unnaturally skilled, and at the age of five he finished his first project: a pair of knives so sharp they could cut raw iron. He was a moody, fitful child, prone to violent rages. At seven years old, he killed a fellow worker over a simple quarrel, sparking a bitter feud between his family and the worker's. His uncle sent him to Sardinia, to another smith who secretly took him in to protect Verditius.

Though diminished, the Cult of Vulcan remained active in Sardinia, practicing their ancient rites in the hidden forge of Hephaestus. Within weeks, Verditius drew their leader's attention, for his potent Gift was easily seen. Verditius was bought from the smith for an enchanted soup ladle and initiated into the Cult. He excelled at their rites, and by 14 he had mastered every one of their Mysteries, invented a staggering amount of magic items and was the most skilled mage-smith they had ever seen. He was the only member of the Cult who could understand the golden maiden of Hephaestus, an ancient automaton made by the god and left abandoned in the forge. Verditius dismantled and rebuilt it, even making it work once more for seven days before it fell idle. The Cult declared it had no more to teach and that Verditius should go to Lemnos and return the fallow forge there to glory.

Verditius, always headstrong, had his own ideas, and sailed north instead, then headed overland in search of legends of the northern barbarian-smiths who could carve runes of power for greater enchantment. The craft of the Northmen descended from Wayland (or Volund), a legendary smith who had learned the craft from Mimer the Old, a minor Scandinavian deity. Wayland learned all of Mimer's techniques and coupled them with his own skills, learned from the black elves and dwarfs. He apprenticed under Regin, the evil dwarf who forged the magic ring of the Nibelungs and played an integral part in the life of Siegfried the Dragon-Slayer. Wayland lived during the 400s, but Verditius hoped that enough secrets of his work survived in those who learned from him.

Verditius visited all the sites associated with Wayland in Scandinavia, Denmark and England, finding a few mage-smiths, but they refused to teach him. They did imply, though, that Wayland still lived, removed from the world and living in a magical otherworld. The only way to find it was via a sacred glen in the deepest heart of the Black Forest. So Verditius headed for Germany. He was unsuccessful in his search until he met a raven on a dying yew which told him that the only way to reach Wayland was to permanently wound himself in a way reminescent of Wayland's own wounding of legend. Verditius cut off his left foot in a single blow, falling unconscious from the pain. When he awoke, he was lying in a bed in a wooden lodge, his wound tended and dressed by Wayland, who agreed to take him on as apprentice. Within two years, Verditius had learned all Wayland could teach of smithing and runes. In this time, he made five rings, one for each finger and the thumb of his right hand, which used all he knew of the Cult of Vulcan and the runic Mysteries of Wayland. These rings were more potent than anything he'd ever seen or made.

Verditius returned to Sardinia, making enchanted items there. He gathered twelve forge-companions in the tradition of Hephaestus, teaching his Mysteries to the Gifted apprentices and slowly reforming the old Cult of Vulcan, which he renamed the Cult of Verditius. It was in these days that Trianoma found him and invited him to join Bonisagus. The thought appealed, for he remembered the old stories of wizards robbing the Cult, and the Parma Magica was a grand incentive. Verditius accepted, provided Trianoma swore he'd be the only enchanter and that none of the northern smiths would be invited. Trianoma hedged, having already had to agree to one such condition for another Founder, but eventually relented based on the reputation and quality of his work.

At Durenmar, Verditius taught Bonisagus to enchant, and Bonisagus taught Verditius Hermetic magic. Bonisagus loved the learning, and wanted to learn more, but Verditius refused, saying he'd shown enough. Verditius learned magic quickly, but was never very good at spellcasting. He could do spontaneous magic, but was unable, despite learning the spells, to actually cast formulaic magic. He stayed at Durenmar only a short time, leaving soon after swearing the Founding Oath. The forge he built and used there still survives to this day. In Sardinia, he decided that Hephaestus' Forge would serve well as the foundation for his House, and he built the first tower there, naming it Verdi. He never returned to Durenmar, instead sending his first filius, Gelon, to attend the Grand Tribunal for him.

Next time: The history of the House

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Verditius spends the next few decades recruiting a lot of people to his cult. Gelon is his first apprentice, as noted. His second, Fenistour, invented casting tools; before then, none of Verditius' students had any more ability to perform formulaic magic than he did. Another apprentice, Milo, scoured the ruins of the ancient world in hunt of magic items made by Hephaestus. House Verditius spread from Sardinia to Lemnos, the other Greek islands, Greece proper and North Africa. While Milo was in ruined Ravenna, he discovered several books written by the philosopher-statesman Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. Boetheius was an inventor, and these notebooks dscribed the construction of a magical water clock and sundial, capable of unnatural accuracy not by any logic but based on the magic of the planets.

Verditius and Milo studied the texts, discovering that the ideas within illuminated some of the failures of rune magic that Verditius had incorporated. They also discovered a tangible link between the benefits of the carved runes and philosophical understanding of them in the carver. It seemed as if the better the enchanter understood the philosophical meaning of the runes and their connection to the symbolic object, the more power they could imbue. Verditius and Milo set about stripping the runes of their pagan implications, as Bonisagus had with magical theory, connecting them instead to philosophical principles based on the work of Boethius. These new runes were dubbed Verditius Runes.

During his years as Primus, Verditius rarely left Verdi and traveled only to secure components and other resources he needed for his projects. At the beginning of the 9th century, his ship foundered off the coast of Corsica, and he was captured by his hereditary foes, the descendants of the man whom he had murdered so long ago. They had not forgotten him - Corsican vendettas run deep. They killed Verditius, leaving his head and heart for the crows. Gelon took on the role of Primus, beginning the long tradition of the eldest living filius of the Primus inheriting the role on the demise of the former Primus. Gelon unwisely sought out and killed the murderers of Verditius, continuing the blood feud. This was easily his greatest failing, perpetuating the vendetta that would otherwise have ended with Verditius. It also began the terrible legacy that poisons the House, but in a much more subtle way. Gelon did realize his mistake when a group of Corsican assassins came to Verdi and tried to kill him, and killing them only worsened the feud, and Gelon realized it would only end after the Corsicans gained the upper hand. The vendetta lasted another 30 years, with flare-ups every five years or so until Gelon stepped down as Primus, gave the title to his eldest filius and surrendered himself to the Corsicans.

Turnis, his successor, did much to foster growth. He developed the ritual that allowed outsider magi to join the House, rather than only apprentices raised in it, he set and enforced the rules of the Contest (more on that later) and provided a free-spirited atmosphere that allowed magi to follow their own paths through the Mysteries. Perhaps in response to the notoriously poor social skills of Verditius and Gelon, he focused on relationships between House magi, encouraging Verditius magi to cooperate with each other and share lore and Mysteries. This introspective approach remains popular today, and the Primi following Turnis have continued to concentrate within rather than on the House's connection to the greater Order. The exchange and sale of magical items remains regulated, but interactions with other Houses and magi are left to individual Verditius. The House as a whole has no desire to manage these interactions.

House Verditius and its introverted nature have meant that the Order's crises don't really bother them much. They appreciate the peace and prosperity of the Order, and have little real interest in contributing to the greater scheme of things. They didn't participate in the Sundering of Tremere, nor the purge of Tytalus. During the early years of the Schism War, they were accused of selling weapons to both sides, but that remains unproven. If some Verditius did sell to House Diedne, they seem to have stopped immediately after charges were brought against them. To Verditius magi, the biggest threat came in 1061, when the Order ruled that Hermetic magi could no longer sell their devices to mundane society. The could, however, use unGifted intermediaries to perform the sales. Since the House already had a substantial number of underlings and craftsmen, they quickly adapted some of the staff to sales. In order to avoid legal repercussions, they set the number of items that any member could sell to mundanes at one per year, exclusively via intermediaries. This applies, however, only to mundane buyers - any number of magic items may be sold within the Order. Individual Tribunals have modified this over the years; the Roman Tribunal, for example, allows the sale of one magic item per year per mundane race - a Roman magus may sell one item per year to a Jew, one to a Muslim, one to a Genoese and one to a Milanese, all without problem.

Unlike other Houses, House Verditius has had relatively few internal problems. Conflicts do arise, but none have polarized the House into factions. Personal conflicts are settled by vendetta, a term stolen from the Founder's blood feud with the Corsicans, but watered down to mean a long-lasting, nonviolent grudge. The Primus rarely stops such squabbles, and the House prefers this to the legal practices of Guernicus or the lethal Wizard's War. However, near the middle of the 1100s, the House was mortified to learn that Icilius of Normandy was teaching the secret of automata to any magus who wanted to learn. This is one of the House's most prized secrets, and such an affront could not be ignored. However, Icilius insidiously spread the knowledge with books, and while nearly a dozen Verditius declared Wizard's War on him and he did get killed, the damage was done. Automata have become much more prevalent in the past century.

In September of 1219, the Prima Imanitosi entered Final Twilight while experimenting in her lab. Her eldest filius was the magus Stouritus, a personable man whose main interest is increasing the number of goods that a magus can sell to mundanes. He lives in the covenant of Ingasia on Lemnox and flatly refuses to relocate to Verdi as tradition demands. Since the Primus must live in the domus magna, he wants to make Ingasia the new domus magna. The House has no idea how to deal with this situation, which has no precedent, and there are no House means to override a Primus's decision. The next scheduled Contest is in 1234, and it'll be interesting to see how this attempted relocation unfolds, and where the Contest will be held.

Now, Verditius society. All Verditius are both magus and craftsman, and their souls burn to create. A Verditius without a workshop is like a bird without wings. Some go so far as to call their work as close to them as children, naming an enchanted sword a son or a brooch a daughter. Despite their immense skill in the workshop, they are stigmatized throughout the Order because they lack the ability to cast formulaic spells without aid of casting tools. While many see their art as ingenious, they still laugh at the idea of a Verditius casting a spell, and some critics even say that their work weakens the Order, for so many of their items end up in the hands of mundanes.

Verditius apprenticeship is much like that of other magi, save that they are initiated into the Verditius cult very early and taught how to craft as well as cast. They are expected to excel at both. They tend to have little spare time to study - they are at work as much as possible, honing their craft skills and learning the connection between magic, mystery and item creation. During this time, they also tend to get introduced to other Verditius magi, for the Verditius enjoy displaying their work in studios, rooms made to show off their objects and affects. Apprentices witness these displays of grand opulence as part of their training. As the apprenticeship ends, the apprentice works on a 'masterpiece', a lesser enchanted item that exhibits their understanding of Hermetic magic, the Outer Mystery of Verditius and their crafting skill. This masterpiece is their Gauntlet, and every Verditius goes through it. The parens supplies any vis needed and gives the apprentice a full season to work unaided in the lab, in addition to the regular 15 seasons of instruction over 15 years. If the result meets with the master's expectations, the apprentice passes. The item is then given as a gift to the master, who gives the apprentice a new name, a voting sigil and full membership in House Verditius.

After passing the test, a magus is a full member and may compete in the Contest or be eligible for initiations. They must swear never to reveal any secrets of the House, nor to copy a text on Verditius lore for any purpose but personal study. This measure was enacted after the treachery of Icilius, in hopes of maintaining House secrets. It encourages Verditius magi to cooperate with each other in study of the House lore, too. They readily cooperate in such things, and often enjoy long philosophical discussions on the connections between crafting and creating or enchanting. These are often lost on other magi, not because they are overly elaborate, but because they center on the making of things. It is generally easy for a Verditius to find a Mystagogue for Initiations. Most end up in multi-House covenants, for they appreciate the strengths of the other Houses and the chance to get as much lab time as possible. They prefer less remote places, since they rather enjoy visiting each other and comparing their work. The more isolated a covenant is, the less likely a Verditius will join it, though if they have plenty of vis, that is strong incentive. Verditius magi need a lot of vis. Sometimes, more than one Verditius magus will live at the same covenant, but it is rare. As they grow in power and arrogance, they tend to resent each other, and many vendettas have begun this way. The only exceptions to this rule are Verdi and the covenants of Mount Olympos and Lemnos, which are inhabited exclusively by Verditius magi in order to guard and watch over the forges of Hephaestus.

Verditius magi sometimes identify themselves with the titles of craft guilds. Apprentice is an apprentice, journeyman is a magus who has not yet learned any Inner Mysteries, and masters are those who have. However, it's not much of a ranking system, for no Verditius magus has power over any other. They're mainly used at the Contest to divide magi into competition categories. The rest of the time, they measure themselves by wealth, fame and property. They tend to have large staffs of forge-companions, which can be problematic at times. The forge-companions help with the work, keep the fires going, and so on. They know nothing of the Mysteries nor the process of enchantment, but are skilled crafters who often have reasons to not fit well into mundane society. They also have venditores, selling agents, who distribute their items and collect money for them. Each magus has a single venditor, someone they trust implicitly with their work and who will get them the best price. These agents are typically the outcasts of noble or merchant classes due to their pasts or personalities. They live with the magus's household, and since they only negotiate one sale per year, they spend a lot of time traveling around to find theb est deals. Venditores who break the law and sell more are much busier and more careful. They aren't needed for sales between magi, but are often used if distance is an issue. The Code of Hermes does not cover either forge-companions or venditores. They belong to a covenant, but see themselves as the servants of the Verditius, and are protected by their master's fame and magic. They are often the targets in Verditius vendettas, or turned to become spies in them. Most Tribunals have ruled that they are neither part of the Code nor mundane, but reside in an unprotected gray area of law, which suits the House fine.

Next time: Vendettas and the Contest.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The Primus is head of the House, both political leader and sole arbiter for personal matters between House magi. Since there is no political infrastructure, the Primus is the only authority. For important matters, they may ask their fellow magi their opinions, using the advice as a guide, but the final decision belongs solely to the Primus. Most decisions concern price-fixing and ending vendettas that have gotten too violent. Every Primus can trace their lineage back to Verditius, and the method of primogeniture is fully accepted by the House, as it removes succession concerns and allows people to get back to the important work of crafting. The Primus's main concern is the longevity of the House. They set prices and decide if the pricing structure must be changed to accomodate demands. They have no control over what other magi might charge, a common complaint among Verditius, and while the Primus cannot decide to raise the limit on the number of items to be sold, their support would be essential in convincing the Order to vote for it. Often, the Primus is the only Verditius who attends the Grand Tribunal, or at least in theory. (In practice, they may send another as their legate.) Their main goal in the past has been to keep the House removed from major Order decisions, preferring isolation. They have limited authority over other Verditius save by setting fines as part of settling disputes. Few magi bring that sort of suit to them anyway, preferring short-term vendettas. They do ensure that no vendetta breaks the Code overtly, and may declare that a formal Wizard's War is required. The Primus's ultimate threat is to call in House Guernicus, which has always worked in the past to quell animosity between feuding magi. Also, the Primus settles ties at the Contest. The current Primus has been basically typical in every way save for his desire to move the domus magna.

The standard price, as a note, is twice the vis it took to make an item. If a project didn't require vis, the price is however much vis could have been extracted from an aura in the time the project took. The client also provides any necessary ingredients, and the Primus has declared that one pawn of vis is worth 15 pounds of silver for mundanes. The Primus has fixed these costs, though prices always fluctuate with time. Those who under or overcharge may anger other Verditius, who typically complain that such aberrant pricing affects the entire market. The typical response is then a vendetta against the price-gouger.

So, vendettas. A vendetta is a personal grudge between two Verditius. The term comes from Corsica, where it refers to protracted and lethal feuds between families. For Verditius, the term is just flashy and helps the grandiose self-identity of the House. They are not lethal nor always hereditary. They are viewed with a certain sense of honor: when two magi are in vendetta, it is their duty to antagonize or outdo each other until one submits and declares the other a more potent magus. They may bristle at the wounded pride, but the House as a whole finds the whole thing very honorable. Vendettas arise from insults, generally between arrogant elder magi, and any perceived slight or insult can trigger one. The vendetta is declared with a malicious or vengeful act that openly declares who is responsible and dares the enemy to respond. Refusing to do so is a sign of weakness, and any magus who refuses vendetta will gain a reputation for being dishonorable until they prove their skill and engage in vendetta against the foe they refused.

Feuding magi seek to ruin the reputation of their foe or interfere in their lives by subtle means. They would never seek to kill each other, and tend to view each other as honorable foes. Typically, they will seek to prevent item deliveries, delay raw materials, contaminate personal vis sources or make inferior items to sell in the other's name. Vendettas can last years. High Crimes are not committed as part of vendettas, but many 'attacks' could be seen as Low Crimes. The magi in the vendetta prefer not to take them to Tribunal, however, seeing the vendetta as the proper recourse. Occasionally, a magus in a vendetta will attack the foe's forge-companions or venditores, rarely directly but generally via their own assistants. This has resulted in deaths before, as the Code holds that killing these servants is neither depriving a magus of magical power nor interfering with mundanes. The Primus is quick to stop vendettas that grow beyond this level of violence by threatening to turn the matter over to the Quaesitores. Vendettas are never secret, and many Verditius delight in discussing the specifics of a vendetta between two magi of the House. Magi of other Houses tend to take attempts to start vendetta directly to Tribunal, and other members of House Verditius do not recognize the validity of vendetta with those outside the House.

Now, the Contest. This dates back to 802 and Milo's discovery of a mechanized torture chamber made for Zeus by Hephaestus in order to interrogate Hera. Milo returned it to Verdi, and quarreled with Gelon over who should get to keep it. Verditius declared it would be owned by that filius of his which could invent the most wondrous magic item, giving a year to complete the task. He summoned the entire House to serve as judges. Gelon won, and then benevolently donated the chair to the covenant of Verdi rather than keep it. The event was so well-received that Verditius held it again 18 years later, allowing the entire House to participate. The tradition has lasted centuries, and even the Schism War did not interrupt the Contest of 1018.

Every 18 years, all able-bodied Verditius travel to the Contest at Verdi, stuffing the place with guests. Magi bring their most fabulous works to enter in competition, and those who bring no entry still come to be judges, meet with old friends, make contacts and glare at rivals. The event begins on Midsummer's Eve and lasts a full week. The first half of that week is for feasting, House meetings, Initiations and other business. The judging of items is done in the last three days. The Contest itself takes place in an ancient Greek temple in a regio just outside Verdi, into which only Verditius magi are allowed. There are three categories: items made by apprentices, journeymen and masters. All are displayed for the entire week. Apprentices are judged on the fifth day, journeymen on the sixth and masters on the last. All assembled Verditius may act as judges, casting their sigil for the entry they deem most unique or clever. Raw power is hardly the only criteria for judging, and others include usefulness, inventiveness, beauty, cost to make and innovation. Majority vote wins, with the Primus breaking ties. All entries become property of Verdi. Winners earn acclaim and respect. Each winner selects one entry from the vast stockpile of Contest entries over the centuries to be their prize. The master winner selects first and gets three items, then the journeyman (who gets two), then the apprentice, who gets one. No winning entry may be selected as prize until the next Contest.

Now, let's talk Mysteries. The House is a Mystery Cult, and has much in common with esoteric Mystery Cults. There is a structured but not formalized process of gaining initiations, and the Mysteries may be learned in any order, matching needs and goals of those magi who learn them. Some Verditius band together into confraternities, small groups of likeminded magi who follow a path laid out by an earlier magus. They typically learn the Mysteries from other Verditius rather than self-initiating, and it's not too hard to find teachers most of the time. However, there is a price. Upon being initiated into any Inner Mystery for the first time, a magus gains Hubris. This arrogance and egotistical nature is the mark that scars all magi of Verditius, an unavoidable consequence of the Founder's Mysteries.

The first step in the House is the Outer Mystery of Verditius Magic, which is granted very early to all apprentices. It takes a full, arduous season of preparation and training, one of the worst in the entire apprenticeship. As the season ends, the master brings the apprentice to one of the House's sacred sites, one of the Forges of Hephaestus in Lemnos, Olympos or Verdi. This can take up to a full second season depending on travel time. The Master then casts vast amounts of money and jewels into the forge, seeking the powers of Hephaestus, Wayland Smith, Boethius and Verditius to bless the apprentice. The forge consumes the money and the apprentice falls unconscious, gaining the power of Verditius Magic, which enhances any magic item whose core was made by the magus's own two hands.

The Inner Mysteries are taught by other magi, and understanding the responsibility of teaching is vital to them. The House expects you to teach others and those who do not get a bad reputation for selfishness. Other magi are reluctant to teach the selfish. Regardless of the path, though, as mentioned, Initiation into the Inner Mysteries grants Hubris. Every Verditius who seeks the Mysteries is plagued by it. The magus understands the benefits that can be reaped from creation, and their pride blossoms. It starts small, but as the magus profits from craft, it grows. It is more than just a personality trait - it is also the curse of pride that plagued the Founder and a measure of how much of that curse falls on you. And yet, that pride is coupled to the Gift itself, and as Hubris increases, so too does the power to craft. Hubris enhances all work to create talismans, enchant casting tools, bind magical animals, make automata or create attuned items. Hubris grows over time, and as it does, it becomes harder to resist situations that would increase it. As it increases, it also becomes difficult to resist declaring vendetta for insults or to turn away from vendetta when offered. The Infernal is quite aware that Verditius magi are prone to the sin of pride, and many like to offer seemingly innocuous help to propel them along the path of Hubris - anonymous gifts of vis or texts, accidental meetings with wealthy clients, that kind of thing.


Yes, Hubris is a literal statistic.

Common Ordeals in Verditius initiations involve the severing of emotional bonds to friends and family, potentially including destruction of the familiar and abandonment of the apprentice, though such a grand severing is exceptionally rare. Those in the line of succession for the Primus may never undergo such an Ordeal. Others include self-mutilation, dedication to risk and experimentation even when it's a bad idea, aversion to risk and experimentation or willingly increased Hubris.

Next time: Confraternities and Inner Mysteries.

HitTheTargets
Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.


Man, wizards are dicks.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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HitTheTargets posted:

Man, wizards are dicks.

We haven't even gotten to Himinis and his Curses yet!

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Confraternities are subcults within House Verditius, generally containing no more than four to eight magi at a time. They help each other out, and it's rare for them to have vendettas against each other. Each confraternity does offer one unique Mystery to its members, which no other group learns. These unique Mysteries are generally not truly unique, in that other magi have similar abilities, but are still offered as Mysteries within Verditius only by the confraternity. Confraternities are usually (but not always) linked by a shared crafting speciality, as well as a set of Mysteries which a member will always be able to find a teacher for.

The Confraternity of Roland is named for the knight Roland, one of the 12 Peers of Charlemagne, who was slain in a Saracen ambush in the Pyrenees at the Battle of Roncesvals in 778. He slew hundreds with his magic sword, Durendal, before he finally fell. The sword had been made by Wayland Smith and Verditius, and Charlemagne retrieved it after the battle, but it was stolen by the magus Roscius later. Roscius was an apprentice of Verditius, and he took the sword home to Verdi. By studying it, Roscius and his lineage became experts on magical swords. Each blade they make is carved with the letter R, initially meaning 'Roscius' but now taken to mean 'Roland.' Swords made by the confraternity spread widely in the 9th and 10th centuries, but were more restricted after the Grand Tribunal of 1061. The Confraternity makes swords and other weapons. They are all weaponsmiths, specializing in swords, and produce a range of blades. These swords are usually sold discreetly to Christian knights, often Crusaders. Their unique Mystery is a magical focus on swords. They then teach Initiates the secrets of Reforging, Items of Quality, Verditius Elder Runes and Item Attunement.

The Confraternity of Balento descend from the pagan Balento of the 9th century, who believed himself a direct descendant of the god Vulcan. He studied the magic of fire and taught his apprentices the pure art of the destroying flame. During the Schism War, they produced hordes of items that hurled fire, particularly wands and staves. Once the war ended, so too did the demand for them, so the confraternity diminished to its current small size. They tend to spend as much time casting fire spells as "field research" as they do at work in the lab. They are woodcarvers, one and all, and tend to focus their sales on other magi, particularly of House Flambeau, who have a shared fondness for fire. Their unique Mystery grants them an affinity for Ignem magic at the cost of a deficiency in Aquam. Following that, they learn Enchanted Casting Tools, Verditius Elder Runes and Bind Magical Creatures.

The Confraternity of Irene the Younger descend from a princess of Constantinople who became a magus of Verditius. She retained her love of religious icons, becoming of the foremost makers of magical paintings and figurines. Like her, the Confraternity focuses on Imaginem and Mentem, instilling paintings, mosaics and statuary with powers to beautify and beguile. Every member is either a sculptor or painter, and their items are primarily sold to churches, princes, magistrates and the wealthy. Their unique Mystery grants puissance in Imaginem or Mentem, but slows their casting due to attunement with their slower, more deliberate craft. They then study Verditius Elder Runes and Automata.

The Confraternity of Himinis the Mad descends from the 11th century magus Himinis, a particularly Hubristic and avaracious man who is said to have been one of the most greedy Verditius to ever live. He became paranoid that others would steal his work, so he began to make trick items that would attack the wielder when triggered. Unsatisfied with this, he even invented a potent Mystery to instill curses into items. His apprentice and lineage continue the tradition. They do not specialize in any one form of craftwork, though their unique Mystery does grant a magical focus in wooden wands at the cost of making the magus envious of others. They then learn the Verditius Elder Runes, Item Attunement and Himinis' gift to the House: Bind Curse.

House Verditius has eight Inner Mysteries. The first is Enchant Casting Tools, developed shortly after the invention of casting tools by Fenistour. She and her apprentices sought to enchant them in hopes of compensating further for the House's flaw. In the 9th century, they succeeded, and the Mystery is now quite common in the House. Essentially, the tools mirror the effects of certain mastered spells and allow for casting bonuses when used. Each tool can only be enchanted once, and it must be finished in a single season. The tools cannot be instilled with other powers or used as the base for greater items. They can only be enchanted with the Technique or Form they are associated with, and they become permanent Arcane Connections to you, allowing you to draw on your Hubris in the enchantment process. The spell that is used as the basis for the enchantment is then empowered when you use the tool, as if you had mastered the spell. You may also use the enchantment to make the tool appear in your hand when needed, or dismiss it to a preset location.

Items of Quality allows the magus to draw out the magical nature of an object via sympathetic magic and Verditius Runes. These are not true enchanted devices, and were the majority of the items sold in the early days of the House. They are easy to make, if weaker than true enchantment, and quick to produce, taking only a single season. The item must be a tool used in daily life - a hammer, a sword, a scepter, refined clothing, anything so long as it sees use by someone of skill and is known to have a shape or material bonus for enchantment. (Many, many, many things have those, and alchemists discover more every year.) Once you select the item and decide what of its innate qualities (based on those bonuses) you wish to draw out, you spend the season empowering the item with runes and a small amount of Vim vis. It is always succesful - this creation cannot fail. The item then produces a bonus when used in the manner appropriate to it. Technically speaking, these are not magic items and do not provoke magic resistance or get detected by spells which detect magic, though they can be detected as mystically aligned. Despite this, the House views them as magic items and regulates their sale as normal.

Reforging Enchanted Items is a process developed by Verditius while studying under Wayland Smith. Sometimes, magic items break, and most magi can do nothing with them. This Mystery allows them to be repaired, and for unbroken devices to be recrafted to enhance their magic, or deconstructed for the vis within. Repairing a broken item reunites the magic in it, and it is immaterial how the breakage occurred so long as you have all the pieces and can put them back together. An item whose charges have been spent entirely is not broken, and cannot be repaired. The item must be physically remade, which is not generally especially hard, and then the magic repaired with Creo. Knowing what the device originally did really, really helps with this. Once you figure that out, you can reawaken the magic, and it will once again function as normal. For items with multiple powers, each power must be repaired.

Reforging an enchanted item is similar in principle, and compresses the magic within to make room for more. Verditius did this, it is said, when making his famous rings. This allows an item to surpass the normal limits placed on its magic by its size and form. Most economically-minded magi will fill an item with enchantments, using all available magical space. Reforging adds to this space, and may be done on lesser or greater enchanted devices that the magus originally made, any attuned item, or any greater enchanted device prepared for enchantment by the magus but not yet enchanted. You may reforge the work of others if you have a lab text on their construction. This is harder the more potent the magic within the item is, but if you succesfully compress it, you allow the item to hold more pawns of vis (and thus more spells). This is somewhat costly in vis, but there is no limit to how many times a device can be reforged, though typically only the most potent magi can reforge an item more than three or four times at the most. A device reforged before any enchantment is done (which can only be done to talismans, attuned items or greater enchanted devices), you expand how much it can hold based on the amount it could already hold, rather than the spells with in it - a somewhat easier task, but able to backfire and remove space, or even destroying the item if you really gently caress up. Items can then be instilled with power, and then reforged again, as normal. The more you reforge, the harder it gets each time.

Lastly, you can deconstruct or "smelt" an item down, using the process of reforging to extract the vis within it. This is a particularly insidious use of the power, allowing Verditius magi (and no others) to extract usable pawns from magic items. This takes a full season, and you'll need to investigate the device to learn what it does, as normal. Then, you can strip it of all power, extracting the pawns of vis used to instill those powers, though you are limited by your knowledge of magic theory and philosophiae. Any excess is lost forever. The item is always disenchanted, even if you fail to extract any vis succesfully or gently caress up massively. The process is also not 100% efficient - one pawn in ten is always lost, and even the most successful extraction will lose at least one pawn of what was used to enchant it. Only talismans, attuned items and lesser or greater enchanted devices may be smelted down in this way.

Verditius Elder Runes draw on the futhark as taught to Verditius by Wayland Smith. Many of the Scandinavian ideas of magic were alien to Verditius' Greek training, more concerned with Norse symbolism than practicality. As Verditius learned each rune, he turned their associations into terms he could use, linking each to a tree and later modifying them further with the aid of Milo, developing the standard Verditius runes that draw on Boethius' philosophy rather than Norse symbology. The elder runes are more potent, but less flexible. Each rune is linked to a tree and a Hermetic Art, and those who know this Mystery may inscribe them while enchanting. This makes the device able to receive more magic than it otherwise would be able to, effectively doubling the associated Art's power. A device may bear up to two runes, typically a Technique and a Form. These make the object slightly more difficult to enchant, but capable of holding more power, especially if you have a valid magical focus. They can be used for devices which hold multiple effects, but the benefits are given only to those effects that fall under the domain of the rune. The tree associated with the rune is also important, if you are making a wooden device such as a wand or staff, making it slightly easier to enchant devices of the appropriate wood; this is a minor benefit at best, though, and not the true power of the rune. There are 24 elder runes, and only half have been adapted to Hermetic enchantment. Three Arts have yet to be linked to a rune, and this would be good avenue for research, which some Verditius are already attempting. Any Verditius can recognize the Elder Runes and tell them from normal Verditius Runes fairly easily. Further, knowledge of the Elder Runes and the Mystery of them also expands how much vis you can use in a single season for enchantment.



Next time: Automata and Curses

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Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


Want to play an Ars Magica game where the Covenant wakes up to find "GET BENT - DELTA LAMBA CONFRATERNITY" burnt into their grounds, thus sparking medieval hijinks.

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