[Promethean]Into the Furnace!

Screencap from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1999 (dir. James Cameron)
Screencap from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1999 (dir. James Cameron)

Lots going on this week. Exalted 3rd out to backers, Beast out to backers, some kind of big Paradox-related news yesterday…easy to get lost in the shuffle. I strolled on over to the Promethean forums yesterday, and noted that I said I’d put a preview up, like, months ago, and then got busy with (among other things) developing Promethean and forgot.

Well, no more! Promethean is in editing right now, and should be done and over to Mirthful Mike for layout early next week (I’m hedging my bets on a specific day, since the editor is also in the midst of running a Kickstarter). And it seemed like a good time to talk about Athanors.

Athanors were kind of a late addition to Promethean 1st Edition; the thinking being that we needed to keep up the pattern of adding what we called “z-splats” like bloodlines, lodges, and Legacies. I liked them OK, but they added a strange spiritual/totem aspect to Promethean that I thought could be better – an Athanor is an alchemical furnace, a place to test, strengthen, and purify before the completion of the Great Work.

What we came up with for Promethean 2nd Edition, then, is a difference system for Athanors. They aren’t tied to animals or symbolic expressions anymore. They hew much more closely to the notion of being repositories of power or knowledge. And, of course, any Promethean can make one, regardless of Azoth level. Below is an excerpt from Promethean detailing the different types of Athanors. Enjoy!


An Athanor is a legacy that a Promethean may create either for herself to maintain a Refinement, or to aid another Created on his Pilgrimage. An Athanor is created in Azothic memory, though it has a tangible component (be it in the form of an internalized furnace, or an item, marking or shrine) that serves as a gateway to reach it. Students of Aes, interested in Athanors and their value in aiding others, have long wondered if every Athanor carves out its own place in Azothic memory, or connects to a shared aspect. Does every Athanor that teaches the Refinement of Aurum tap into the same part of Azothic memory, or is each truly unique? The answer has eluded the Sentries for ages and will likely continue to do so.

An Athanor is created by pouring memories, emotions and beliefs into a physical key and connecting it to Azothic memory. This key is eternal in and of itself, but can be destroyed. A doll might serve as an Athanor to soothe Torment and, left on its own, that doll will endure forever. It can be burnt, shredded or otherwise destroyed, however and when that happens, its doorway to Azothic memory is also lost. This presents any Promethean creating an Athanor with an interesting dilemma, as she finds herself torn between durability and accessibility: does she create her Athanor on an abandoned mountain top and risk that no Created might ever reach it, or near a bustling city center where it’s easily found, even if it might be destroyed when city planning changes?

Azothic memory provides broad guidelines to a would-be Athanor creator. A Promethean must have completed all three Roles in a Refinement and may then pour what she has learned into an Athanor. “What she has learned” is hardly a clear-cut requirement, though. Finding the right roles for the right Athanor, is sometimes a matter of following her instinct. At other times, it’s trial and error. A Created is likely to believe that creating an Athanor that teaches the Refinement of Aurum, involves completing the three Roles of Aurum. Creating an Athanor that grants an Elpis vision on the Pilgrimage, however, might mean fulfilling all Roles of Aes in a desire to aid others, or it could mean fulfilling all Roles of Cuprum to grant insight to the self. Trial and error notwithstanding, though, a Promethean generally finds her way to crafting an Athanor at some point in her Pilgrimage.

Athanors hold a special place in Promethean society, such as it is, and many Created actively pursue any lead on an Athanor. Not only can an Athanor provide practical aid on the Pilgrimage, it also grants profound insight into the Promethean that created it, her struggles and triumphs. To someone as disconnected and lonely as a Promethean, learning more about the people that came before her is a powerful motivator. In this sense, an Athanor left by her own Creator is perhaps most valued of all.

Because every Athanor exists in Azothic memory, a Promethean can search for it there and then track the Azothic resonance back to the physical Athanor that serves as its key. Such a process is tricky, however, and requires extensive knowledge about both the Athanor and its creator as well as serious power on the searcher’s side. Fortunately, the Created have an easier, if more roundabout, way of finding an Athanor. Every physical Athanor sends out an Azothic call (though an earmarked Athanor might only call those it is intended for) which the Promethean can feel even on a subconscious level. Thanks to this Azothic failsafe, even the most remote Athanor is eventually found and put to good use.

Azothic memory recognizes several different types of Athanor, each with a different function and effect.

Jovian Athanor

Jovian Athanors are often, though not always, created by accident. When a Promethean seeks to shed the negative emotions that are dragging her down, she might subconsciously pour this negativity into a Jovian Athanor. A Jovian Athanor might call Pandorans, drain Pyros, or cause Torment, Disquiet or even Wastelands. This baleful legacy can only be destroyed if a Promethean, not necessarily the Athanor’s creator, absorbs the Jovian Athanor into her own body and resolves whatever issue it represents. In doing so, a Created might learn from her predecessor’s mistakes even if the predecessor himself did not. Creating a Jovian Athanor yields neither milestone nor Vitriol, though absorbing and resolving one usually does.


Pilgrimage Marker

When a Promethean creates a Pilgrimage Marker, she distills some of her own journey, experiences and hopes into the Athanor. Pilgrimage Markers are among the hardest to create, so most creators come down on the side of durability and opt to carve the Athanors into cliffs and monuments that have proven to withstand time. Meditated upon, a Pilgrimage Marker provides insight into the Pilgrimage, often in the form of an Elpis vision, and reveals clues to future milestones. The Seer’s Pilgrimage left a series of Markers carved into shrines all over the world, with many Prometheans eagerly following in the Seer’s footsteps to partake of her wisdom.

Refinement Furnace

The Promethean can use a Refinement Furnace to lock part of her alchemical body in attunement to a certain Refinement, whilst the rest of her changes. In essence, she has created an oven within an oven, a feat that she can only accomplish by being a walking alchemical laboratory. The resulting Refinement Furnace allows her to tap into that Refinement’s benefits without spending Vitriol, even when she has left its philosophy behind. This is the only type of Athanor that benefits solely its creator rather than other Prometheans.

Refinement Mentor

A Refinement Mentor directly impresses a Refinement upon the student’s alchemical make-up, rather than working through words (either spoken or on paper) which must then be understood, learned and internalized. While touching the Athanor, which can be anything from a portable object to a mark carved into a mountain, the Promethean assumes the teacher’s mindset, experiencing the Refinement as he did and understanding all its intricacies. This experience fades when the students sets the Athanor down, but if she meditates while holding it she can learn the Refinement significantly more quickly than she otherwise could have.


Usually created by a throng of Prometheans studying Aes or Cobalus, a Sanctuary is instilled with harmony that lessens the pain of Torment and Disquiet. As such, Sanctuaries are considered of great value by all Created, which often leads to a group of Prometheans banding together to protect the Athanor. A Sanctuary is always tied to a fixed location and while it appears to shield its Azothic call from Pandorans, that does not prevent a clever Pandoran from finding out about it and lying in wait for new arrivals.

Vitriol Fount

The power of change can be distilled, albeit with some difficulty, and placed inside a Vitriol Fount. When accessed, this Athanor serves as an external source of Vitriol that a Promethean can absorb into her own alchemical body. Pandorans typically can’t use these Founts, but a clever Pandoran might lead a Promethean to the Athanor and then rip the Vitriol from her. A Vitriol Fount is active for only a few moments, during which time any Promethean present can partake of it. A Vitriol Fount isn’t depleted after use, but does need to recharge, which could take decades or longer. Vitriol Founts are amongst the smallest Athanors and many are even portable.

17 thoughts on “[Promethean]Into the Furnace!”

  1. This is a huge, most welcome change. One more objective for Prometeans to find: the pursuit of knowledge, power and solace left behind by those who came before them.

    I can sense Athanors add a whole new layer of Storytelling, still in line with the Humanistic view of the game.

    This pleases me greatly.

    Thank you, Matt!

  2. Thanks for the extensive preview! These changes are cool.

    Was there any inspiration from the game’s source material(s) for the revision or was it mostly thematic necessity or whatever?

    • An Athanor is a furnace used in alchemy, providing a uniform heat that didn’t need to be tended. It’s the furnace used for digestive reactions.

      The idea behind this version of Athanors is that they act as alchemical digestions of learned experience, manipulating the very soul-stuff of the Promethean condition into a stable form outwith the fiery crucible of a Created’s own form.

      • In hindsight, and a Google search relating to the topic, I realize this was a pretty dumb question. Thanks for answering, though!

        I guess I was thinking of ‘source material’ less as general alchemy and more like works involving ‘created people/Frankenstein’s monster’

      • Good point, and ultimately why I don’t much care for First Edition Athanors. I mean, the goal is to be human, messy, willful, fragile human… And Athanors’ carrying over after the New Dawn felt needlessly ‘power-gamer’y to me. Can’t a human – just a regular person – find plenty of other options for power? Yeah, this is a good change.

  3. One thing I really liked about 1e Athanors was that they were something that stuck around after the completion of the Great Work to make Redeemed Prometheans *just a bit more* than regular humans, as a reward for having worked so hard to get something everyone else gets for free.

    I’m not seeing that anywhere in this update, so will 2e Prometheans still end up with something that fills that niche, wherever it ends up coming from?

    • Uh… My response to the above is also response here.

      The point of the game – from where my troupe plays – is that being ‘just’ human is all the reward any of the Created hope to achieve. The Athanor Z-axis worked okay prior to the New Dawn, but it ‘carrying over’ afterwards felt like it cheapened the thematic meat of the game. Like saying, you get everything you wanted… Plus super power! Super power kinda falls flat.

      No doubt every game and every gamer is different, so don’t feel like I’m saying I’m right. I do think it’s a great addition, and maybe there IS something to carry on that role in Second Edition.

      • I don’t mind Promeheans getting something that “carries over” to their subsequent mortality — as long as it’s something that regular mortals can have, too.

        Take the Sleepwalker Merit from [b]Mage[/b] as an example, as it’s the closest thing to a supernatural ability that I’d allow: according to Dave B, being a Sleeper amounts to being under a supernatural curse, and the Sleepwalkers represent man’s natural state. So I’m perfectly fine with a Promethean be able to retain his immunity to the Quiescence when he Redeems. If anything, I think it should be easier to retain that immunity than 1e made it — possibly even going so far as to say that you only fail to get it if you do poorly on the post-Redemption “what are your rewards?” roll (in 1e, the “Final Azoth Roll”).

        IMHO, the sorts of rewards you should be able to earn in the New Dawn should be things like “a place in society” — similar to what the Unchained get with their Covers but as something earned and fully integrated into your being, not stolen and hidden behind — and maybe some of the “character creation only” Merits (“I didn’t have a photographic memory or striking looks when I was a Promethean; but I do now”). If there are any New Dawn buffs that are available that push the Redeemed beyond “ordinary mortal”, they should remain within the bounds of “extraordinary mortal”, with a bias toward stuff that ordinary mortals could also achieve if they put their minds to it.

        But I’m fine with Athanors being taken out of that particular equation, and it strictly being a question of how 2e will handle the mechanics of Redemption.

        • I like the idea of them keeping their superhuman attributes (with no capacity to increase them further of course), but I’m happy with them getting nothing else.

          The place in the world is an interesting take though (and reminds me of an idea I had of a Promethean who Redeems over and over, but instead of taking the new life for their own, giving each one to a demon as a true identity) (it was in response to someone asking for a Son to go with the God Machine as a Father and the Principle as a Holy Spirit).

  4. We should never feel like we just HAVE TO include a z-splat, or any other game element really, if it doesn’t immediately leap out as what it should be and roughly how it should function.


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