Endless Wonder (Mysterium) [Mage: The Awakening]

Mage: The Awakening, Open Development

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(Warehouse 13, property of SyFy)

Welcome back, faithful readers, to another in the pre-GenCon Order writeups. This time, we’re looking at the Mysterium.

If the Guardians, early in Mage‘s gameline, showed what the Orders could be like when expanded upon, the Mysterium were the first Order I really got,” as I one of my players had a Mystagogue PC when the Order book came out and I lapped it up. I unashamedly love the Mysterium – the adventurer/archivist archetype appeals to me, and I’ve greatly enjoyed using Athenea in my games. They also, from the point of view of other Orders, make for excellent antagonists; my own work on books like Left Hand Path is indebted to the seeds sewn in that Mysterium Order book.

In second edition, the Mysterium are probably the least-changed Order, or tie for it with the Silver Ladder. They’re a dedicated mystery religion devoted to the worship of magic itself. They’e the librarians and curators of Athenea, treasure-troves of plot hooks and complications. They’re adventuring scholars, determined to seek out the strange, putting the Obsession with Mystery into Mage long before it had mechanics. They came with their own sense of history already included; their creation from two rival Orders by an Archmaster of Prime is one of the few things on the post-Atlantis pre-Nameless War timeline in the middle period of first edition’s line.

Readers less familiar with Mage sometimes see the Mystagogues as “generic mages,” the happy medium between all the other Pentacle Orders. We’ve attempted, this time around, to push the motive behind the Mystagogue’s neverending quest to find the uncanny and put it on a shelf where only the worthy can see it. Like the esoteric tenets of the Guardians, the Order makes more sense if you know their internal philosophies, so we’ve gone into it in their writeup a little more than in the original core.

Having their Perk Merit helps. Mystery Initiation was in many ways the foundation for how we’re treating all of the Orders now; its first-ed form allowed mages to access rotes, borrow Imbued Items and study Artifacts, all functions of Order Status now. That left a five-dot Merit offering bonuses to the Mysterium’s ethos, though, which smoothly adapted to new mechanics. It was, however, in need of a name change. In a second edition where Mystery Cult Initiation is a central Merit for many mortal characters, calling it “Mystery Initiation” was needlessly confusing. So, renamed after the concept it embodies, I give you…

New Merit: Egregore (• to •••••)

Prerequisites: Mysterium Status •

Effect: This Merit reflects a deeper inclusion into Mysterium secrets than the Mysterium Status Merit normally grants. Mystery Initiation opens the doors to the communal experience of living magic the Mysterium calls the egregore. Access to the egregore opens certain techniques for use within Mysterium rituals.

Each level of this Merit allows an additional ability.

Mysteriorum Arche (•): Your character does not need to roll to provide a bonus die when assisting another Mystagogue in a ritual. The caster receives one free die for every other Mystagogue with this Merit participating in the spell.

Mysteriorum Anima (••): At this level, your character does not need to know the other party for her Status Merits to apply, since her reputation within the egregore precedes her.

Mysteriorum Barathrum (•••): Your character is initiated sufficiently as to be part of the knowledge base. She’s considered to have the Eidetic Memory Merit (see p. XX) specifically pertaining to Mysterium lore and membership. The normal +2 becomes a +4.

Mysteriorum Calamitas (••••): Your character has been granted secrets of techniques which decouple physical objects from magic. The first magical tool your character uses in a spell counts as a dedicated magical tool.

Mysteriorum Focus (•••••): Your character connects with the Order’s fundamental ethos, on a level beyond most any other members. When she’s in an Order Sanctum, she’s considered to have a medium sympathetic connection to all members of the Order.

Mysterium Writeup

As with all the faction posts, I’ll finish up with a link to the Development-Phase Draft of the Mysterium. Enjoy!

Next up, the Silver Ladder!

  28 comments for “Endless Wonder (Mysterium) [Mage: The Awakening]

  1. Jack Stephenson-Carr
    July 16, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Maybe one of the least changed (as you, Dave, state) but the write-up goes a long way making them sound like a dynamic order with its highs and lows. Excellent job.

  2. JSinclair
    July 16, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    In most cases, I’d be the one running Mage, and for most of the face-to-face tabletop groups I’ve had, I’m the only one reading anything more than the core book. Typically, players in the past would only read what they felt like they needed to to create their character. So I really, really appreciate the effort to make the core book information thematic, flavorful, and comprehensive of the good and bad qualities of the Orders.

  3. Snare
    July 16, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    First dot: Dependent upon other mystagogues being present. Not a lot of my groups tend to play the same orders. Second dot: You can use status on people who don’t know who you are? By RAW you can already do that. Literally worthless. Three: I get a two dot merit for three dots than only works for one topic. But it gives a couple more dice. Underpowered. Four: You can use your dedicated magical tool for any spell anyway! Why would you need multiple tools? Worthless unless they changed tools dramatically in the game and I wasn’t aware of it. Five: You can more easily target your allies and be targeted by those allies (and traitors). Not exactly five dot material.

    I don’t see the average PC taking this merit and it’s a real shame because I like the fluff and idea behind it. Mechanically speaking though it just seems like a real waste of time or incredibly niche.

    • Neall
      July 16, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      So ask other Mystagogues to participate instead of your cabalmates.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      July 16, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      1) Are your PCs the only members of their Orders?
      2) Not actually true.
      3) Uhuh
      4) No, you can’t. It only gives bonus dice when appropriate for the spell, this makes any tool you’re using have the oaradox-reduction effect, without going through the timeconsuming process of rededication
      5) Sympathetic links are and have always been one way. You’re thinking of scrying windows.

      • Strill
        July 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        Needing to know someone in order to benefit from Status is news to me. Where is that stated? The Merit in the GMC rules just says you apply Status to any social roll against people in the group. I don’t see any exceptions.

        • Dave Brookshaw
          July 19, 2015 at 1:04 pm

          And as Order Status is defined in the text I have in front of me for Mage Second Edition as “Status in an individual Order Caucus”, it’s like saying someone with Status 4 in the New York Police department can take over the Hong Kong Firehouse.

      • Strill
        July 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm

        5. I’m rereading the sympathy rules in 1e and I don’t see anything to indicate that they’re one-way. In fact, on page 114, the label “Sympathetic Connection Between Caster and Target” suggests that they’re two-way, since the connection is “between” them, rather than “from” one to another.

        The New Threads spell also uses this nomenclature.

    • Strill
      July 18, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      3. I get a two dot merit for three dots than only works for one topic.

      It’s not for three dots. It’s for the third dot.

  4. Falco1029
    July 17, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Compared to the benefits the other Orders get, Egregore seems fairly underpowered and uninspiring to me, to be honest. Mysterium is my favorite Order, and it just feels like their benefit is weak when stacked up against the others, and of limited use even within the Mysterium.

  5. wyrdhamster
    July 17, 2015 at 2:54 am

    I must agree with Falco, the Merit itself sounds like a waste of Expiriance to take. One bonus die for Teamwork? Typical memeber will get always one, maybe more, on his Gnosis 3 + Arcanum X ( even if Arcanum is 0 ). But even to use it on full power, you need those 10 Mysterium members to make it work. So you go to Athenemu, exchange Favors, add nice bribes, and spent half of game session to get this +10 bonus to one ritual roll. When in the same place Gurdian could 3 times assume his Masques, Libertine could use 5 times his Techne and Arrow would summon every turn his Adamantine Hand! The Egregore’s first dot would have sense if it give SQUARE of Mysterium memebers as bonus – then two cabal mates would give your +4, three of Mysterium would give you +9 etc. Or just give one autmoatic success for one other member of Mysterium working the ritual – need all god might power (With Success needed like 15-20)? Callect all local Mysterium. Need to work easily this spell for you? Ask your cabalmate Mysterium, or 2-3 friendly NPC Order members.

    Now I think one automatic sucesses per member joining ritual is the way to go with Egregore! 😉

    • Travis Stout
      July 17, 2015 at 10:55 am

      I have two words for you: grad students.

      Sure, maybe if you’re gathering a bunch of Gnosis 3 disciples, adepts, and masters you’re better off rolling the teamwork action, but the ability to grab any five apprentices currently archiving in the Athenaeum (and remember, this is the first dot of the Merit, so it’s reasonable to assume the recently-initiated probably have it) and say “you lot, come with me” for an automatic +5 on a spellcasting roll (a +5 that isn’t a Yantra, BTW, it’s a teamwork bonus) is not to be sneezed at.

      • Strill
        July 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm

        But you can’t do that. Ritual Spells take a very long time to cast. Maybe they have something better to do.

        You’d need to go through a whole ton of hullabaloo to organize a ritual spell with that many people, even assuming there were that many apprentices available, AND assuming you have any authority to order them around.

        A great many settings simply won’t have anywhere near enough Mysterium NPCs for it to be effective, and even among those that do, there’s no guarantee that you’d even be able to get all of them to agree to help you. And that’s assuming you want to even bother with a ritual spell in the first place. It’s a really really niche ability.

        • Eolirin
          July 19, 2015 at 2:04 pm

          That depends entirely on Gnosis; Gnosis 3 takes an hour. There’s no more extended casting, it will always only take an hour. That is not a big ask.

          And Egregore 2 gives you order status to all Mysterium, so if you’re not a rank neophyte, you can get the the rank neophytes to help out without too much problem; this doesn’t need to be in the form of orders, Mystagogues generally help each other out, it’s what they do. They may call the favor back in at some point, but it’s central to the traditions of the order. Otherwise, having the first dot in that is an ST opportunity to yank you into the affairs of your Order when higher status Mystagogues need you to help *them* with a ritual.

  6. Masa
    July 17, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Perhaps Mysteriorum Arche’s bonus could be a bit higher so you need less mages to build a good pool. This way you only would need 2-3 mages and make it easier to use.

    I also think Mysteriorum Calamitas is the real powerhorse here. It’s really powerfull, perhaps the strongest of all the orders. You can use it to get a free -2dice to all Paradox rolls, including the codified skill in Rote Mudras.

    • Zooroos
      July 17, 2015 at 6:29 am

      No, it does not. Remember that now magical tools are only a subset of Yantra. You could not make Mudras a dedicated tool with this, since it’s an action yantra.

      • Masa
        July 17, 2015 at 7:46 am

        Good point, thanks for the clarification. But still is a good Merit.

  7. Ulanthe
    July 17, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Alright, lots of discussion of the power of the Egregore merit, little of the preview. For my money: the preview is much better than the original, and if it avoids the pitfalls of the history section of the Order book, I’ll be pretty happy.

    The Egregore merit is very tightly designed around the idea of academia and the idea of inter-order cooperation. First-dot and second-dot are focused on interacting with the NPC order’s structure, and fits in with the focus being wider than a single town, encouraging the player to make ‘professional connections’. The third dot is basic but it’s what’ll allow the character to be the researcher among the PCs when it comes to order-related matters. The fifth is basically ‘academic hivemind’ and seems insanely powerful! It’s a potent force multiplier and I know it made me smile as soon as I saw it. The Mysterium is definitely the most cohesive and/or bureaucratic order previewed thusfar.

    I can’t really gauge the four-dot one, basically because my frame of reference isn’t strong enough. On the whole, I wouldn’t be disappointed if these ended up published. They seem more powerful than the Masque merit! I think it might be an expectation thing, where people expected something more applicable to the Indiana Jones-style away team than the home team.

    • branford
      July 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

      If as indicated in Dave’s earlier Yantra spoilers, that sympathetic spells still require a Sympathetic Yantra and penalties are still applied for lack of someone’s True Name, the fifth level of Egregore might not be as impressive in practice as it first appears.

      • Travis Stout
        July 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

        Since you don’t have to worry about the Yantra providing the sympathetic connection (the Merit already does that), something as simple as the target’s name written down or a rough caricature of them would be enough to satisfy the Yantra requirement. Hell, given the nature of the Merit you could make a pretty good case for some symbol of the Order itself (like say a copy of the Corpus) serving as a Sympathetic Yantra for any Mystagogue.

        Not knowing their real name will make the spell somewhat more challenging, but even in 1e it wasn’t insurmountable.

        • branford
          July 17, 2015 at 11:53 am

          Thanks, Travis.

          It’s difficult to accurately assess the value of the fifth level of the merit without knowing the full sympathetic casting rules for 2e.

          In 2e, what constitutes an “Order Sanctum” for use of Mysteriorum Focus? Would a simple sanctum used by any cabal with a Mystagogue, only a sanctum used exclusively by mystagogues, an athanaeum, or some other rarer and specially prepared sanctum like a Mithraeum from the Mysterium 1e sourcebook?

          Also, would Egregore 3 permit a mage to ascertain the true name of another mystagogue?

          Lastly, does a character need to have at least the same level of Order Status as each level of Egregore, or does Mysterium Status 1 permit purchase of all levels of Egregore?

          • Travis Stout
            July 17, 2015 at 2:32 pm

            Dave can correct me on this, but I’d say an Order Sanctum is specifically a Sanctum created by and for the Mysterium. Certainly Athanaea or Mithraea would qualify, but so would any Sanctum that incorporates the Order’s metaphysical symbolism and Yantra elements. Probably a mixed-Order cabal Sanctum would be too muddled symbolically to work. Whether an individual Mystagogue’s personal Sanctum qualifies I’m not as sure on–my personal rule of thumb would be “yes, if the Sanctum’s creator has this Merit,” but that’s just me.

            As for Egregore 3 letting you figure out another Mystagogue’s real name, sure–provided that that real name is listed somewhere in Mysterium membership rolls or libraries somewhere. Plenty of mages are secretive about that, though, and I wouldn’t expect real name to be a required field on the membership application, as it were.

            And finally, the Merit says Status 1 is the only prereq, so yeah, you can totally play the “deeply enlightened master of the Mysterium’s secret who maintains a menial posting because it suits her” archetype.

  8. James Harren
    July 17, 2015 at 8:55 am

    When is Mage The Awakening 2nd Edition going to be published?

    • James Harren
      July 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Or not

      • Dave Brookshaw
        July 19, 2015 at 1:05 pm

        We learned, after long trial, error, and heartache, to never give release dates. I don’t know when the game will be published.

        Or, more succinctly; “When It’s Done”

  9. Björn
    July 17, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    So, with the new Nimbus rules, what happens when a low-Wisdom, Egregore 5 Mystagogue walks into an Order Sanctum (Athenaeum or otherwise)?

  10. Michael Stein
    July 18, 2015 at 2:18 am

    Well I know what I’m playing when 2nd ed hits. One of the changes in underlying premise between Ascension and Awakening I always liked was the sift in away from What is reality? to What is the best method of understanding reality? Something closer to my heart. Intuition, Revelation, The Scientific Method and Revolution are all presented as having merit and drawbacks both methodologicaly and ethically. How do you even begin to understand the IDIC on cocaine, amphetamines AND LSD that is the supernal?

  11. crawlkill
    July 20, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I’m trying to remember, did it get said a while back that the Orders are supposed to be more coherent on a global scale than they used to be–as why wouldn’t they be, with instant travel and communication anywhere in the world being relatively easy? seems like there’ve been a few of those “sympathetic connections to your whole Order” things that would make that much more viable than it otherwise might be.

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