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How hard is it to be a thaumaturge?

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  • How hard is it to be a thaumaturge?

    I'm preparing a campaign for a single player centered about his character's, a tremere neonate, studies within a chantry.

    It will be roleplay heavy and I'd like some advices and ideas to make learning thaumaturgy more than merely buying dots.

    1/ the titular question of the topic, how hard is it for you to learn the discipline? Assuming you are a tremere in a good chantry and a willing teacher, how long/difficult would it be to learn the dots?

    Does ir requires heavy occult learning, mental exercices, or is it simple enoigh that the real difficulty for a vampire is to find a teacher?

    On a scale of 10 where 1 is hogwarts (mere learning of pronunciations, intentions and movements) and 10 is Brakebills (heavy technique and lore gathering) where do you put blood sorcery?

    2/ what are your techniques to make the use of blood magic more "magical" than mere "you cast vitae theft"?

  • #2
    Forum ate my post... twice. So the super twice abridged version.
    Look up Hermeticism, the Tremere belief system. .
    Look up alchemy. This is super insightful and I can't recommend it enough.
    Learning about OG Astrology may be helpful.
    Note that historic alchemists were nightmarishly obscure in writing their things down: dead languages, ciphers, dated references, proprietary notation, weird symbols and so on... Only the properly initiated would understand.
    You may want to compare the XP needed for disciplines compared to the XP needed for knowledges. But also remember a private tutor is going to be at least a thousandfold more time efficient than A BA course. Your Tremere could very well spend every hour of the night learning if the clan is willing to support that.

    Sample ideas:
    The player needs to calculate the exact amount of chemicals and elements to infuse into their body in order to purify it and make it more conductive for higher level magic. The concoctions get more complex each level, and the character may decide they need rare or difficult substances.
    The player learns there's something wrong/in optimal with his pathways and so needs to attempt a quack medical procedure to correct them.
    The player needs to learn part of the name of God. Or a spirit if you're less ambitious (I think Tremere won't like overreliance on spirits)
    The player needs to create a star chart for himself so that he can draw power from planets.


    For special effects... I think there should be none. Magic should be as subtle as it can be. The path of least resistance.
    Last edited by MyWifeIsScary; 09-17-2021, 07:39 AM.


    Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
    There's more coming soon. Pay what ya want.

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    • #3
      Thanks for the advises, I know the feeling of an eaten text. The system behind that forum is more hungry than a recently awaken antediluvian.


      Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
      Forum ate my post... twice. So the super twice abridged version.
      Look up Hermeticism, the Tremere belief system. .
      Look up alchemy. This is super insightful and I can't recommend it enough.
      Learning about OG Astrology may be helpful.

      Do you have good sources in mind for those? I did some researchs a few months ago and wiki pages are sparses, digitalised grimoire are unreadable and many sites about those subjects are heavily tainted by apparent new age style adaptation.



      "For special effects... I think there should be none. Magic should be as subtle as it can be. The path of least resistance."


      My bad, I expressed myself badly.

      I was thinking about esoteric flavour rather than pyrotechnics. Such as "You call upon the knowledge that all blood is one blood and that no distance or the thin protection of veins and skin can stop you from reclaiming your target blood" rather than "you made three success, you take 3 blood point from the guard with vitae theft.

      In short, little in game explaination for the magic behind the effects. Such as invented formulas, mental working, that kind of stuff. Such as studying a specific path power lean less toward "you study blood chauldron" and more toward a little bit of explaination of what the character is actually studying.

      Last edited by Nyremne; 09-17-2021, 11:27 AM.

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      • #4
        I just figured I would add that each Path in Thaumaturgy tends to have its own set of thinking, hidden meanings, and of course history. So while the Path of Blood would be deeply rooted in Hermetic teachings, something like the Green path or Neptunes Might could have druidic origins, or if you are using the Mage setting something like the Verbena.

        The tricky part is that most White Wolf games lean towards the narrative "soft" magic systems rather than the "hard" magic systems that require the player to extrapolate formulas and theories. Thus there is plenty of room for an ST to either draw out the learning process or speed it up based on the needs of the game.

        The last thing to consider is that if you are using a clan like the Tremere, pre-V5, they were very selective about whom they embraced, often looking for those mortals with some kind of arcane aptitude as a starting point. So there is a case to be made that while the student might have to take in huge amounts of information and abstract concepts, they probably will take to it like a fish to water. Thus it balances out to an average amount of time & effort to learn.

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        • #5
          Honestly, I don't think Tremere give half a shit about arcane aptitude pre-embrace. Recruit first, teach later. It's a flexible system, but teachings tend to work best on those that haven't been taught differently. The Tremere want their students to know that their way is the best way. Plus, most people that Practice, say, wicca or Neopaganism aren't likely to be good cultural fits for the Tremere. A Engineering student is going to be a better choice than an actual witch 9 times out of 10.

          Actually going for people with occult backgrounds is probably more of an Assamite Sorcerer kind of thing, and they're a mess.


          Throw me/White wolf some money with Quietus: Drug Lord, Poison King
          There's more coming soon. Pay what ya want.

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          • #6
            Canonically, most of the clan's Embraces in the modern nights have been people without any magical talent.

            Originally posted by Me in a previous thread
            Abraham DuSable was a lawyer.

            Victor was a CIA agent.

            Helena Tayor was an Awakened mage.

            Martin Franckel was an engineering student.

            Wan Zhu was a museum curator.

            Masika St. John was a computer science professor.

            Garwood Marshall was a jazz musician.

            Marie D'Richet was either an Awakened mage or being groomed to Awaken by her mage father.

            Hyapatia was an archaeology student.

            Valois Sang was a psychiatrist.

            Carna was a peasant girl.

            The Revised clanbook sample PCs had a coyote, a medical examiner, a nightclub owner, a corporate middle manager, a directionless smart kid, a union leader, an aspiring politician, and a security consultant.
            This was different during the Dark Ages, when the Tremere were essentially converting House Tremere into Clan Tremere and Embracing as many magi as they could. But in the modern era, the Tremere seem to prefer smart, driven, and educated people who can function well in a hierarchy.


            Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Nyremne View Post
              1/ the titular question of the topic, how hard is it for you to learn the discipline? Assuming you are a tremere in a good chantry and a willing teacher, how long/difficult would it be to learn the dots?
              This is really dependent on the ST and the player group. A lot of people see Disciplines as fairly easy and quick to learn. Others actually see them as a sort of "discipline" that needs to be mastered. So you are going to get a wide variety of answers. None of them are right, and none of them are wrong. It's really what the game group that you are with finds acceptable. What's cool? What's fun? What makes sense given the unique tastes of you and the other players?

              And of course since many chronicles take place in contemporary times, the actual time scale of a chronicle is quite short. So for the sake of having fun, once people get the XP they are able to spend it and instant learn. Because what player wants to be told that it takes so long to develop any of their cool powers that they'd only gain them after the chronicle ends?

              Personally, I believe any Discipline to be a kind of spiritual, mental, or physical discipline that has to be mastered. It's a natural feature of the Blood, but it still needs to be developed. Potence is just as hard as Obfuscate. You don't develop it by lifting weights because your dead and muscles don't grow. It's just an inherent power of the Blood. The way they do is probably some form of meditation and concentration or mental exercise. It's "easy" for a vampire only in the sense that it's like someone exercising - they don't need Dots in any Abilities to learn them. Just time and hard work, and any training to do so has already been done by their Sire or other backstory element. So it takes some time like any exercise, but not too long. If I was going to pull some figure out of my butt simply for a setting perspective and not for reasons of game, I'd arbitrarily decide it takes 1 month for each rank of dot you want. Blood Magic is even harder because while the Blood is mystically potent, it's not natural for a vampire to be able to use it in that way. They need in-depth occult training first.

              I think any form of Blood Magic requires some amount of time to learn, but I'd based it on two things in game. The first is based on their Occult trait. It is a knowledge trait, so you can't use it unless you have at least one dot. And increasing that trait is probably where it's best for an ST to extend the time to do so. After all, if a second dot is equivalent to a college education, that's several years of study. Another few more years to get to third dot. Now for the purposes of a game, unless you are doing a historical chronicle that spans decades or centuries with lots of downtime or other expedited passing of time, players and STs won't want to take that long to move up one dot. But a game group can probably agree on a minimum amount of time between improvements - so much in game time, or so many game sessions - that emulates the passage of time but doesn't anger players. I can't offer specific advice because too many things like how your gaming group handles IC time, frequency of play, length of game sessions, etc. all come into play. The important factor is that everyone is still having fun. One possibility is to limit such improvements to be one rank per "story" as opposed to a "chapter"/game session. (improving dots within a Path would then be handled like you do Disciplines).

              In actuality, you'll need to balance setting fluff and having fun at the game table. The fun is more important. Many things that make sense from a purely setting perspective, just ends up wasting time, becoming a grind, or frustrates the player.

              The other thing I'd do is limit any amount of time to "learn" would basically amount to how long before I can start buying dots in this specific new Path. Not the dots within that Path itself. (Though I'd only allow one dot to be bought in any one session. No multiple dots in the same Path. Again, if you want to limit then I think limiting new Paths to occur once per "story" would be good. If I ignore that it's a game and trying to think purely of it as setting phenomemon, I'd say mastering enough information for a new Path likely takes at least a year.

              Originally posted by Nyremne View Post
              Does ir requires heavy occult learning, mental exercices, or is it simple enoigh that the real difficulty for a vampire is to find a teacher?
              Assuming that in the World of Darkness, the Occult skill is a valid and important skill to do the work of magic, I don't see why anyone would even bother to teach someone any Blood Magic until they had at least two dots in Occult. It definitely should require any number of occult learning, training, etc. to really practice magic. It'd be a profession like any other - lawyer, physician, pharmacist, etc. with all the specialties and complexities that they have. Thus if the ST wants to restrict certain Paths, he might say that it requires a higher Occult rank (3 or 4) before even attempting to learn it.

              As for teachers, that depends on the character and the setting. Tremere would almost always have access to a teacher, even if they did not take a Mentor background. Other clans that have their own traditions, probably can get access to a mentor provided they are in good standing. But I'd likely require them to have a Mentor background. For an aspiring blood sorcerer that does not come from some justifiable background to explain how they learned a Path? They'd have to find a teacher during the game that would be willing to teach them and develop that relationship in game. That's probably difficult, but not impossible. It really depends on what the ST decides. And of course, you can always go the lone route - self teach by stocking up on actual occult texts (real life as well as fictional one that are real in your game world) and begin working things out on your own. That would take an extraordinary amount of time since you're trying to reduplicate what other people have learned, but certain texts might have the information you need and you just have to master it on your own. Getting those truly useful texts might be more difficult than one imagines.

              I also would limit certain Paths to specific groups. It's OK to have some Paths "popularly' known and out there. I typically say any Path that seems to be part of normal vampire lore isn't restricted to the Tremere, Kolduns, or anyone else. They are ancient and well known Paths. But certain Paths are Tremere only, Setite only, Assamite only, Koldun only, Sabbat only, etc. And not every Path may be accessible to everyone. I'd have it that a certain number of Paths are common among Tremere, but certain Paths are only known by students of this specifc Tremere, or those who are part of this specific chantry (that's where the Mentor background comes into play for Tremere!). Or the Tzimisce Koldun has to go to one of the Obertus Revenant communities to learn the forgotten lore of this Path. That makes good plots and scenes for the ST to run with players.

              Originally posted by Nyremne View Post
              On a scale of 10 where 1 is hogwarts (mere learning of pronunciations, intentions and movements) and 10 is Brakebills (heavy technique and lore gathering) where do you put blood sorcery?
              It'd be a 10 for me.

              Originally posted by Nyremne View Post
              2/ what are your techniques to make the use of blood magic more "magical" than mere "you cast vitae theft"?
              Rituals are where you are going to get the most flavor text because that is where the game is most like "casting spells." They are going to be elaborate, take a lot of time, have lots of symbolism, and can become very flavorful or bizarre.

              Most Paths are going to have instant effects that happen in a single turn. So there's limited opportunity for cool flavor text. Use movies as inspirations. They can't waste time so they have to do something quick to keep the audience engaged. It's probably a mix of hand expressions, eye movement, and short occult phrases. Rather than come up with everyone yourself, put the burden on the PC and then help them develop it or modify it until it turns into something you like. Some Paths might be very blatant to activate. Others might be very subtle. What makes sense thematically? For example, I'd probably have Moment of the Mind be fairly subtle. At low level, it might just be someone briefly closing their eyes and concentrating. At higher levels when it is more obvious something unnatural happens, the thaumaturge would have to act more blatant. But for Lure of Flames, the thaumaturge might need to speak to summon the fires of the inferno.


              Your tastes may be different, and that's OK.

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              • #8
                You got already quite good answers, so I'm just going to put on a few points.

                1 - On your scale I'd say Path dots are a 9 or 10, Rituals are a 1 or 2. Developing rituals may be a 6+.
                2 - Rituals will give most of the feeling you want. Also, developing them may be a part of the character's study.
                3 - Let the player come up with some of the work, too. Instead of wrapping your head around how a path power works, asks the player in the process of acquiring it.
                4 - Use your web research to give you an idea of how it looks like. Confusing and contradictory webpages? Yeah, it is a lot like that.
                5 - Make challenges. Tests of knowledge, services for teachers, journeys to secret libraries, experiments with unexpected or dangerous results, in loco observations. A good part of the feeling of magic is actually the obstacles the character must overcome.
                6 - If you have access to Mage the Awakening 2nd Edition, the sections on Arcane Beats/Experience may give you a lot of useful ideas for this chronicle.


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