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The Mysteries Revised Edition

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The Mysteries Revised Edition
Cover illustration for The Mysteries Revised Edition
Product Information
Rules Edition: Fifth Edition
Product Type: Sourcebook
Author(s): Neil Taylor and Christian Jensen Romer
Publisher: Atlas Games
Product Number: AG0279
ISBN: 1-58978-076-0
Release date: July 2006
Format: Hardcover, 144 pages pages
Availability: In print

The Mysteries Revised Edition is an Ars Magica supplement that elaborates on the rules of Mystery Cults presented in the ArM5 core rules, and presents many Mysteries to explore and sample Mystery Cults.

Subject and Contents[edit]

TMRE's main focus is to describe a host of Mysteries, arranged by topical chapters, and provide several Mystery Cults and initiation scripts as examples for their use. Along the way, it provides the most thorough treatment of initiation into Mysteries and Mystery Cults in canon, and a small selection of rule and setting extensions. While it contains historical and Mythic background, it is designed and read more like a tool-kit, and the Mysteries often have only tenuous connection to the flavor.

The Mysteries[edit]

The book contains some 36 virtues, most of which are new Mysteries. They are arranged in themes, according to chapter:

  • Hermetic Alchemy includes a series of mysteries, including Hermetic Alchemy itself, that revolve around purification of raw vis and, ultimately, the self. The chapter defines a more-or-less clear chain of mysteries that starts with Vulgar Alchemy that teaches the mystical resonances of materials, passes through virtues such as Hermetic Alchemy that improve the extraction of raw vis, and culminates in the Great Elixir that grants immortal life.
  • Hermetic Astrology deals with the effect of the celestial periods on magic. Celestial Magic allows you to get bonuses to your Lab Total or spells by doing things at the right times, and to have greater control over spell durations. Note that this is not related to divination.
  • Hermetic Theurgy is the art of calling on powerful Magical spirits. The principal virtue, Hermetic Theurgy, allows you to summon spirits achieve magical effects instead of casting spells to do so directly, and to make invocations to summon daimons and bargain with them. Other virtues are more broad, like Hermetic Synthemata that allows you to learn the True Name of spirits and thus increase your Penetration dramatically against them. Names of Power allows you to invoke names of power - like pagan gods - to bolster your magic. The highest mystery in this domain is certainly Ascendancy to the Hall of Heroes, which transforms you into an immortal daimon.
  • Arithmetic Magic deals with numerology, geometry, and architecture. Its most dramatic aspect is Hermetic Architecture, which allows the magus to manipulate regio levels and boundaries, as well as to enchant massive structures.
  • Spirit Magic relates to magic that affects immaterial spirits. It includes the dreaded Hermetic Empowerment that saps spirits of their Might to power spells, and the greater mystery of the Living Ghost, which is a form of undead immortality. This chapter also include less macabre mysteries, like the Spirit Familiar mystery, which allows you to gain an immaterial spirit (like a ghost...) as a familiar. It also includes the Inscription on the Soul mystery, which allows one to turn his body or spirit into a talisman.
  • Dream Magic allows magi to enter and manipulate dreams.
  • Two utilitarian virtues related to Talismans share their own chapter.

In addition, some further mysteries, and other rules, are provided in the second chapter, "Entering the Mysteries" (page 8).

Mystery Cults and Setting[edit]

Ten sample Esoteric Mystery Cults are provided in TMRE. All are optional, but at least some seem to fit well into the standard setting. There are some that, if accepted into the saga, would form an important element in Hermetic society.

  • The Order of the Green Cockerel is an alchemical society of magi exploring the new science of alchemy. The society encourages mundane alchemical research, but its main focus is in teaching its magi how to purify themselves and reach alchemical perfection.
  • The Magoi of the Star are astrologers, using the power of the stars to enhance their magic, and even prophesy. They follow a strange, heretical, variant of Christianity based on the writings of Origen, and consider themselves the inheritors of the Three Magi.
  • The Volehsbnii Mechtateli are 'dream witches' that play with the dreams of others as an artist plays with paint. The members of this highly secretive society, meeting only in the dream world, have great power over dreams and nightmares, and no moral restrictions whatsoever.
  • The Neo-Mercurians are a society that toils to rebuild and discover the Mercurian ways of magic of old. Its priests call upon the power of the old pagan gods, conduct Rituals at nearly no cost, and wield some unusual magics to do with roads and spell mastery.
  • The Legion of Mithras is a secretive organization devoted to heroic defense of the Order. It encourages the ideals of Greek heroism, and in the higher echelons its magi are privy to secret ancient magic.
  • The Philosophers of Rome are a highly-secretive and loose Gnostic group of proud, show-offish, licentious heretics. These charismatic cultists encourage themselves to bask in their own glory, to live and be admired as gods amongst men, and ultimately to achieve true divinity by such worship.
  • The Children of Hermes are a growing cult reminiscent of modern televangelism. Led by a highly charismatic figure claiming to be a reincarnation of Hermes himself, and by his consort who he claims is Cleopatra, they claim to open up a new era of magic and open the path to all Mysteries of magic. Its members pass on initiation rites stolen from other cults up the cult's chain, and Hermes' revelations down it.
  • The Mystic Fraternity of Samos is a group of Pythagorean cultists who master the magic of harmony, geometry, and numbers. Although membership is openly acknowledged, and middle-ranking cult members even teach their more mundane arts openly, the cult's powers are kept in secret. They are somewhat famous for their huge architectural works, sorcerous music, and mastery over all manner of spirits.
  • The Disciples of the Worm is a secret and abhorred society focusing on learning the secrets of death and beyond. If you meddle with it, expect to hear of graves, ancient ghosts and ancient magic, bound spirits and awakened guardians. Some whisper it is led by the ghosts of long-dead magi, living-dead maintaining a mockery of life by the cult's hideous magic.
  • The Knights of the Green Stone are a group of magi knights, searching for a legendary stone in a quest similar to the mundane's search for a holy grail.

Other Content[edit]

In addition, the book contains several tidbits of general interest.

New virtues and flaws accessible at character generation are presented. These include Spell Binding (p. 27-29), Performance Magic (p. 29-30), Planetary Magic (p. 30-31), Potent Magic (p. 31-32) (and hence potent spells, which may be used by any magus), Vulgar Alchemy (p. 32-35), and Withstand Casting (p. 36). In addition, several Astrological Virtues and Flaws are suggested (p. 36-38). Further outer mysteries abound, some of which may be relatively easily accessible, but are beyond the interests of this index.

A new Academic Ability, The Art of Memory, is presented on p. 25. Rules for Memorization are given on p. 26.

New Spell Guidelines are the numerical guidelines (open to all) on p. 93. There are also the spirit summoning/control guidelines, on p. 28.

A few spells dealing with memory are given on p. 25. Spells to measure astrological times are on p. 51. Two more spells are on p. 116.

New Shape and Material bonuses are provided on p. 33. (Note that vulgar alchemy can discover more.) A few more are on p. 52. One more, for books, is on p. 92.

New mastery abilities include Ceremonial Casting on p. 38, in this version limited to Mystery Cults. Note that Houses of Hermes: Societates already has it spreading like wildfire amongst Jerbiton magi.

A discussion of Ghosts in ArM is on p. 72. Daimons are discussed on p. 75 and later on p. 81 and far more detail on p. 137 (with exampled), Gnosticism on p. 77.

It's noteworthy that Theurgic Invocations (see p. 80-81) can be cast by magi not versed in theurgic magic.

A discussion of Talismans, aimed to clarify the rules, is on p. 89.

An extended Shape and Material table is presented on p. 97.

General guidelines on how to construct rules for and specific rules for Immortal Magi are on p. 133.

Community Reviews[edit]

It is pointless to list the many Mysteries provided in the text, but perhaps it would be fruitful to make some comments on those that merit them.

The Vulgar Alchemy open Mystery employs a rather baroque mechanic to establish new Shape and Material bonuses. The issue of how to treat new bonuses should be considered in your saga - most sagas limit themselves to the book's list and perhaps add a few more items arbitrarily as the saga develops. Some troupes, however, treat these lists as examples, and have a policy of asking the storyguide what bonuses apply to a desired shape or material that thematically suits the item. If Vulgar Alchemy is to be useful and plausible, the latter option should not be maintained. Wizards must be limited to the established lists, with Vulgar Alchemy used to slowly, painstakingly, expand them.

Hermetic Alchemy apparently has nothing to do with the historical pursuit of alchemy. Troupes might want to consider incorporating Mythic Alchemy into the relevant Mysteries, and perhaps substituting it for Vulgar Alchemy.

Spell Binding is a curious common Mystery that seems to allow a magus to use elaborate Rego Vim ritual magic to create permanent effects. Note that the item to which the spell is bound need not be near the effect. All of this is rather weak in general, but can be open to strange and creative abuses on the other hand.

It's continuation, Hermetic Empowerment, seems useful only for creating expensive magical items to power Ritual spells for a set number of charges. Troupes may want to consider allowing bound spirits to regain depleted Magic Might as per Realms of Power: Magic, which would allow unlimited "charges" and make this Mystery both more useful and more in line with the flavor.

Inscription on the Soul is an extremely useful Mystery for Bjornaer magi, and the troupe may want to consider allowing it as a House Mystery. Thematically, an Inscription on the Body (incorporating foreign materials onto the body) seems to suit those "crazy" Criamon magi better than the Inscription on the Soul that seems otherwise superior given the Criamon's initiation paths provided in HoHMC. The troupe may want to consider preserving the benefits of the body modifications along at least some of the paths.

Divination and Augury do not provide true augury, but rather only a substitute for Intellego that is incompatible with the Art and has poor Penetration. Troupes might want to consider adopting other mechanics for divination, or allowing Intellego spells to benefit from the Mystery's exceptions to the normal operation of Intellego spells. In addition, Enigmatic Wisdom does not affect divination, including dream interpretation, even though the core rulebook implies that it should. Troupes can consider letting Enigmatic Wisdom serve instead of the Divination ability (although this is a large benefit), or to add to it. In this context, note that allowing non-ceremonial divination in any and all techniques is very appropriate for a Criamon; I suggest allowing it as a Minor Mystery to be initiated after Dream Interpretation, adding both to the House Mysteries of House Criamon.

It is noteworthy that the supplement Covenants allow to construct an "open air" or very large laboratory, so that enchanting very large items seems doable. This robs much of the punch of the Hermetic Architecture Mystery. Added to that is the fact that the practice of enchanting huge objects does not alleviate the need for impossibly high Magic Theory scores, and even costs more raw vis. While Hermetic Architecture still has its uses, a troupe might want to reconsider some of its mechanics so as to allow it more oomph for enchanting large items. Dividing the raw vis required into Size identical items, instead of requiring Size x Normal-requirement raw vis, seems most reasonable to me.

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External links[edit]

Legacy Page[edit]

The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:the_mysteries_revised_edition