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  • Synergy between Stygian and Jade Arcanoi

    I have some serious interest in Stygian wraith characters that can combine Stygian and Jade Arcanoi. Theoretically speaking, Yellow Spring characters too, except I find a little burdensome the supposed strong focus of most such characters on (living and Underworld) family concerns. Especially since long-standing familiarity with manga and anime, where characters are often orphans or with conspicously absent relatives, has accustomed me to think of East Asian characters in different terms.

    I find very disagreeable in practical and flavor terms the Wraith setting assumption that the Western civilization of the dead created a set of supernatural powers that is more or less a universal default for all characters of any cultural background, yet other major non-Western Underworld civlizations have their own proprietary special powers that are supposed to be largely off-limits to other cultures. This is especially true for Jade Arcanoi, since they often seem of comparable broad scope and general usefulness to the Stygian ones and the Stygian and Yellow Springs metaphysics concerning the nature of the soul and the Underworld appear rather similar to begin with. The Psyche/Shadow and Hun/P'o dualities essentially seem the same thing filtered through a different cultural lens. I find rather unfortunate Wraith20 edition left this setting element in place, an unpleasant legacy of '90s White Wolf orientalism/exoticism. Arcanoi are supposed to be the refined, structured expression of potential supernatural abilities that are basically universal to wraiths (e.g. Labyrinth society explicitly transcends all such cultural variations between the various Dark Kingdoms) and hence liable to independent reinvention in different places and cultures. And if we take mundane Eastern techniques of similar complexity (e.g. martial arts, yoga) as a comparison, they took relatively little time and effort to become freely accessible and fairly widespread in Western culture.

    Anyway, I'm strongly oriented to ignore the canon statements about the extreme rarity of Jade Arcanoi for Stygian characters and make them at least more or less as accessible as the least common Stygian ones in the Dark Kingdom of Iron, by whatever means feasible (e.g. acquisition through Pact of Doom, independent rediscovery, trade and military interactions between Stygia and the Yellow Springs, and subsequent teaching by knowledgeable wraiths). I suppose it might be reasonable to assume such spread to be recent enough for such Arcanoi not have yet caused independent structured Guilds to form around them, or perhaps they were subsumed as secondary techniques by Guilds focused on similar Stygian Arcanoi.

    It is a real pity after 20+ years the gameline still fails to provide adequate official rules about the marks of Jade Arcanoi, especially since Arcanos use itself creates the markings. I have a few non-canonical ones that were posted long ago on the old WW forums by the Doomslayers writer, but it doubtful if they would still be compliant with Wraith20 rules, given the extensive revision Stygian guildmarks got in the new edition .

    It seems clear that at least a few Jade Arcanoi would be highly useful for Western wraiths, at least as much as their Stygian counterparts with a similar purview, and often definitely complementary with interesting synergies. This makes their supposed failure to spread to Stygia even harder to believe, no matter the attempts of Yellow Springs authorities to forbid their teaching to foreigners (cfr. the historical failure of Imperial Chinese government to prevent the diffusion of sericulture to the West during the Middle Ages).

    Way of the Soul is exceedingly useful to any wraith that means to keep one's Shadow under control without relying on the services of a Pardoner. It also offers a few abilities Castigate is unable to provide (e.g. Inner Peace's ability to use temporary Angst as Pathos, starve the Shadow of it, and temporarily put Thorns under the Psyche's control). As a matter of fact, the two Arcanoi combine very nicely to give means to fight the Shadow in other wraiths and oneself.

    Way of the Scholar is highly synergistic for any wraith interested in mental manipulation with Intimation, Keening, Mnemosynis, and Phantasm, at least as much as these Arcanoi among themselves. Way of the Scholar covers direct mind control. Mnemosynis deals with memory manipulation. Keening is concerned with emotional manipulation. Intimation is a specialized hybrid of mind control and emotional manipulation, focused on desire. Phantasm is the main illusion Arcanos.

    Usefulness of Way of the Farmer in environments with no kuei is highly dependent on whether the ST is going to allow using Cowing the Bestial Spirit and Deaden Spirit on Spectres and wraiths in Catharsis. If this is possible, it would be rather useful to ward off and control Spectres and Shadow-controlled wraiths.

    The other Jade Arcanoi admittedly seem of more limited usefulness to wraiths who know the equivalent Stygian Arcanoi. Perhaps Way of the Artisan may be superior to soulforging in the creation of 'soft' Underworld materials, and so its White Jade techniques may have some manufacturing synergy with Inhabit and Flux. On the other hand, its True Jade techniques are of little value in cultures that do not make extensive use of jade. Way of the Merchant seems rather less useful than Usury to begin with, especially in a culture that lacks extensive, Pathos-generating ancestor veneration practices. For Chains of the Emperor at least, the argument its use is strictly dependent on the special mystical peculiarities of the Immortal Guard seems somewhat plausible, given the long-standing utter failure of other Yellow Spring wraiths and Spectres to master it.
    Last edited by Irioth; 02-16-2018, 06:54 PM.

  • #2
    For anyone interested, these are the non-canonical Jade Arcanoi markings that were conceived by the Doomslayers writer. I'm uncertain if and how to houserule them to make them more similar to equivalent Stygian Arcanoi markings in Wr20. Especially since the Wraith20 rules seem to rely on explicit, noticeable, and lasting physical features for guildmarks in pretty much all cases, and disallow such fuzzy stuff such as postures, clothing, and attitudes that was sometimes used in past editions, and apparently replicated in some of the following.

    * Way of the Scholar: Wraiths who know the way of the scholar carry themselves with the unmistakable dignity of the sage. Wraiths who follow the Way of the Scholar often shape their corporal fingernails to tremendous length or otherwise render their hands unsuitable for hard labor to show their elevated status.
    * Way of the Artisan: The Artisan's fingers are long and thin, trained to the very precise, almost insectile motions required to shape jade.
    * Way of the Merchant: Aside from the eerie greenish glow emitted when the Arcanos is in use, the art leaves its mark on the Merchant in other ways. Merchants smell faintly of incense and burnt prayers, and most seem deceptively outgoing, always brimming with good cheer or some other positive emotion.
    * Way of the Farmer: To cow and harvest the kuei, the farmer must themselves awaken the bestial characteristics within them. Farmers radiate a slight but unmistakable aura of menace, and their death's visage often has small tusks, kettle-black skin, burning red eyes or other vestigial demonic attributes.
    * Way of the Soul: Its intensely private nature makes Way of the Soul difficult to detect. Nevertheless, the canny observer may notice that the eyes of the wraith who has mastered this Arcanos glitter with supernal determination.
    * Chains of the Emperor: It may not even be possible to learn this Arcanos without enjoying the Guard's unusual spiritual condition. Nevertheless, if it were, it would tend to make the user's physical appearance resemble that of one of the Guard - surely a death sentence in the Yellow Springs.
    Last edited by Irioth; 02-16-2018, 06:41 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Irioth View Post
      I find very disagreeable in practical and flavor terms the Wraith setting assumption that the Western civilization of the dead created a set of supernatural powers that is more or less a universal default for all characters of any cultural background, yet other major non-Western Underworld civlizations have their own proprietary special powers that are supposed to be largely off-limits to other cultures. .
      Since that's not actually the case... Dark Kingdom of Iron functionally has 17 arts the Dark Kingdom of Jade doesn't have. Common arts are something anyone can develop with some practice and aptitude thus.. common. Thus why they are generally common through out the world. Initiate arts are secrets. Every initiate ability is GENERALLY unknown outside the Guilds so any initiate power is rarer outside the Dark Kingdom of Iron than any Dark kingdom of Jade arcanoi in Western lands. Every level of every arcanoi has a secret technique of the Guilds, some more so than others.

      Similarly as all jade arcanoi are functionally Intiate arts they require a teacher so no one is going to develop them independently.


      This is why all those soul forging powers inhabit grants are unknown in the Dark Kingdom of Jade and thus why the way of the artisan exists.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Lian View Post
        Since that's not actually the case... Dark Kingdom of Iron functionally has 17 arts the Dark Kingdom of Jade doesn't have. Common arts are something anyone can develop with some practice and aptitude thus.. common. Thus why they are generally common through out the world. Initiate arts are secrets. Every initiate ability is GENERALLY unknown outside the Guilds so any initiate power is rarer outside the Dark Kingdom of Iron than any Dark kingdom of Jade arcanoi in Western lands. Every level of every arcanoi has a secret technique of the Guilds, some more so than others.
        Except even initiate abilities can be independently reinvented by any wraith through spontaneous manifestation, without any need for or access to Guild instruction, or tapped through Pact of Doom and the Spectral Hive-Mind. Admittedly, in most cases the initiate powers, although definitely valuable in their own way, seem of less general or immediate usefulness than common ones for the average wraith. Since independent development seems to be at least as important a factor in Arcanoi diffusion as Guild instruction, and wraiths appear prone to reinvent the wheel in their acquisition of supernatural powers, this may well be a major reason why common abilities tend to stay common, and the initiate ones much less widespread, rather than any special nature of the initiate powers (which would raise the serious issue of how and why the Guilds were able to develop them in the first place, since Guildwraiths are not special) or any outstanding ability of the Guilds to limit their diffusion (hard to justify given their precarious status in Stygian society these last few centuries). In most cases, the most dedicated Arcanoi scholars and savants are the ones most likely to develop a full set of initiate abilities, and they tend naturally to cluster in the Guilds, barring serious factional issues.

        Similarly as all jade arcanoi are functionally Intiate arts they require a teacher so no one is going to develop them independently.
        Given the widespread diffusion of Jade Arcanoi in Yellow Springs and Labyrinth societies, and the lack of any equivalent to Guilds in both to provide teaching, this seems an entirely unacceptable conclusion. Since the gameline gradually and fitfully developed the distinction between common and initiate arts with the Guildbooks, and only truly systematized it with Wr20, it may well be an equivalent of initiate abilities for the Jade Arcanoi themselves (and perhaps even the Stygian ones in the Yellow Springs) does exist in the Wr20 setting, but the gameline has so far lacked a proper opportunity to give them any coverage. As a matter of fact, the natural equivalent of the Guilds in Yellow Springs society to develop prevalent mastery of such hypothetical initiate abilities and partially hoard their knowledge from the commoner wraiths would be the various branches of the Imperial government.
        Last edited by Irioth; 02-16-2018, 08:50 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Irioth View Post

          Except even initiate abilities can be independently reinvented by any wraith through spontaneous manifestation, without any need for or access to Guild instruction, or tapped through Pact of Doom and the Spectral Hive-Mind.
          No they can't, you can only spontaneously manifest common arts. Initiate arts require the instruction of someone who knows it. I would consider having access to the Spectral Hive mind to be a rather rare occurance and not one that effects the general ease of knowledge spread throughout either kingdom.









          Given the widespread diffusion of Jade Arcanoi in Yellow Springs and Labyrinth societies, and the lack of any equivalent to Guilds in both to provide teaching, this seems an entirely unacceptable conclusion.
          The Emperor has actively cracked down on anything resembling Guilds, this does not mean that there isn't a basic teaching method. It simple you can't sponaniously manifest Jade Ways. Someone can teach you. There aren't many Teachers in the West. A Stygian Wraith can learn non Stygian arcanoi, it just requires a Teacher.. or I guess a pact with your shadow.

          Seems simple enough to me. It means broadly these things aren't available but if you want you can have them.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Lian View Post

            No they can't, you can only spontaneously manifest common arts. Initiate arts require the instruction of someone who knows it.
            Unless I misunderstand the point of contention, you can spontaneously manifest initiate arts:

            "Spontaneous Manifestation

            Wraiths are creatures of passion. Strong emotion can alter their metaphysical being. Sometimes, this results in a character summoning a hitherto-unknown Arcanos art in moments of desperation. In game terms, a player can spend experience points during a scene to buy a new Arcanos dot. With Storyteller approval, the player spends Willpower equal to the art’s rating, then pays the full experience cost for the new dot. The wraith immediately gains the associated art — even an initiate art, if it’s appropriate to the character and the circumstances. This is best allowed sparingly, during climactic scenes, and at moments when the new art can tip the balance in the group’s favor" (147).


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Callishka View Post

              Unless I misunderstand the point of contention, you can spontaneously manifest initiate arts:

              "Spontaneous Manifestation

              Wraiths are creatures of passion. Strong emotion can alter their metaphysical being. Sometimes, this results in a character summoning a hitherto-unknown Arcanos art in moments of desperation. In game terms, a player can spend experience points during a scene to buy a new Arcanos dot. With Storyteller approval, the player spends Willpower equal to the art’s rating, then pays the full experience cost for the new dot. The wraith immediately gains the associated art — even an initiate art, if it’s appropriate to the character and the circumstances. This is best allowed sparingly, during climactic scenes, and at moments when the new art can tip the balance in the group’s favor" (147).

              Sure, but that would be rare. Ultimately, it's a matter for ST discretion, as is learning any uncommon art.

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              • #8
                Yes, rare, but rare is different from saying that you cannot do it and require instruction. And the rules as written do not actually directly state that spontaneously manifesting an initiate art is rare. Rather, they say that it should happen at narratively dramatic moments. In other words, when it would best serve the story and change important events, not just because a wraith feels really sad. I think it's important to take note of when the writers of the game are talking about in-game rarity as opposed to dramatic impact.

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                • #9
                  As Callishka pointed out, the rules explictly allow for wraiths spontaneously manifesting initiate arts, and pointed out this should happen when dramatically appropriate, and do not indicate this would be inherently rarer than for common arts. Spontaneous manifestation are, in all evidence, one of the main ways all Arcanos arts were originally invented (the other, in all evidence, would be purposeful research and experimentation). Moreover, and even more importantly, if we were to assume any Arcanos arts cannot be learned without instruction, we would run in the logic bomb that no one would have been able to create them in the first place.

                  A basic assumption of the Wraith setting is it is a rather meritocratic place, and with the single exception of the Neverborn, who are very much sleeping 'idle gods' that do not do anything except subtly influencing the broad trends of the Labyrinth with their dreams, there are no special 'Progenitors' godlike entities born with exceptional spiritual privilege. All existing Underworld luminaries, including Charon, Yu Huang, the Lady of Fate, the Deathlords, the Guildmasters, the Onceborn, the Ferrymen, the generals of Oblivion etc. once were ordinary wraiths (or Spectres) that rose into prominence by means of sufficient time, trial, and effort. They invented and developed everything useful in the Underworld, including all Arcanoi and all spiritual Technologies. Potentially speaking, everything they did could be duplicated, imitated, and further refined by any other wraith (or Spectre) with sufficient talent and dedication. Initiate and Jade Arcanoi, or any other arts for that matter, do not strictly require teaching to be learnt, or they would not exist.

                  If one wishes to find an answer to the different in-game status of common and initiate arts that would comply with these facts, the simplest, easiest solution IMO seems to look at their roespective features. I notice that as a rule, common arts tend to be of slightly less general and immediate usefulness than initiate arts (exceptions exist, but they seem to be the minority). Initiate arts are typically fairly useful in their own way, but their applications often seem to be more specialized and less immediate. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume the average wraith is somewhat more likely to spontanously manifest common arts than initiate ones. The wraiths more likely to invent most initiate arts would in all likelihood be the characters most dedicated to the mastery of such Arcanoi, and over time they would spontaneously tend to cluster in the Guild organizations by seeking like-minded fellows and concentrate knowledge about 'advanced' arts other wraiths are less likely to stumble on their own.

                  As it concerns Jade Arcanoi, one but has to review their features in terms of general usefulness, frequency and immediacy of application, and lifestyle value to the average wraith in comparison to common and initiate Stygian arts, to notice in the vast majority of cases they are much more similar to common Stygian arts than initiate ones, so their development should follow pretty much the same social diffusion and individual development trends as common Stygian Arcanoi. Their prominent place in Yellow Springs society and the lack of any apparent Eastern equivalent of the Guilds also suggest so. Now, one can certainly assume prevalent cultural factors in various civilization can influence the relative frequency of certain arts by making more or less easy for wraiths to 'think' of manifesting them, or make them more or less locally valuable. E.g. this can certainly explain why in a culture with prominent and widespread Pathos-generating funerary and ancestor-worship customs Way of the Merchant may rise to outshine Usury, or remain largely unknown, out of relative uselessness, in a culture that lacks them. Even so, reasoning indicates there would be definite limits to how much cultural factors can outweighs the hard universal facts of Underworld metaphysics, wraith nature and existence, and how they would apply to the potential usefulness of any art. This would explain why Yellow Springs wraiths developed pretty much all Stygian Arcanoi in addition to Jade ones, and why Stygian Arcanoi are pretty much universally known across all Dark Kingdoms. On the other hand, there seems to be no reasonable in-setting justification why non-Eastern Asian wraiths should not show similar proficiency as it concerns say Way of the Scholar or Way of the Soul. Ability to control one's Shadow on one's own or to exercise direct mind control would be exceedingly, immediately, and obviously so for large numbers of wraiths in any civilization of the dead, and there is no kind of cultural foible that would justify the opposite.

                  The attempt of the gameline to cluster them as the special proprietary powers of a single non-Western civilization and Eastern Asian culture frankly has no real good justification than a misguided, troublesome, and problematic (if largely unaware, being born of unrecognized wrong assumptions) legacy leaning of '90s WoD to cast non-Western cultures (and related supernatural splats) in the setting as mystically and spiritually superior, and Eastern Asian ones in particular as cooler, better, and usually having all kinds of special perks when they attempted to give specific coverage to the Far East and its supernatural landscape (cfr. the similar treatment most other Eastern supernatural subsplats got in the '90s, including vampires, changelings, and shapeshifters). To deny non-East Asian characters an equal in-setting chance to master Jade Arcanoi, the same way all wraiths can do for Stygian ones, was a bad mistake in the 1990s and a worse one in the 2010s to be houseruled away with utter prejudice, and frankly I'm not really interested in getting any more apologist arguments about it being sent my way. At most, it is certainly appropriate to assume each major civilization of the dead is going to develop their own names for such mystical arts of widespread usefulness, but that's it.

                  As it concerns the emergent unfolding of Stygian Arcanoi in common and initiate arts, if you ask my opinion the only proper way to reconcile this with the basic universality of most wraithly powers is to assume the equivalent of initiate arts for Jade Arcanoi should in all likelihood exist (e.g. there seems to be no good reason wny the Arcanos that controls direct mind control would be any less mystically 'fertile' than the ones dealing with emotional, desire, or memory manipulation), but given the current state of development of the gameline, we do not know anything yet about them. As for the apparent lack of any Guild organization equivalent in Yellow Springs and Stygian societies, I reason out in the former case, totalitarian Imperial government was able to suppress stable organization of any Guild, and in the latter case, certain Guilds with affine Stygian Arcanoi came to hoard advanced knowledge about similar Jade Arcanoi. E.g. it seems far from unreasonable to assume in the Dark Kingdom of Iron, the Pardoners are the place to go to get best instruction about Castigate and Way of the Soul alike, that Solicitors have the best insights about Intimation and Way of the Scholar alike, and Artificers develop advanced knowledge about Soulforging and 'soft' White Jade manufacturing techniques alike. Different Western Skinland funerary and religious practices alone explain why the vast majority of Stygian wraiths would have little reason to develop Way of the Merchant or True Jade manipulation techniques in the first place. As it concerns Way of the Farmer, its likelihood of diffusion outside the bounds of the Yellow Springs is critically reliant on how much it is useful to deal with kuei alone, or also Spectres and Shadow-controlled wraiths. Even in the latter case, however, it is easy to see how it would fall under the purview of Pardoners and/or Doomslayers.
                  Last edited by Irioth; 02-18-2018, 12:19 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Well looks like we need a correction in the books because Intiate arts says "you can only learn this if taught" and while i have no problem with the idea that Wraiths can invent new things it takes signficant time and effort. The ways of the Jade Empire are clearly passed from one person to another. They are Taught. The reason they aren't common in Stygia is lack of people teaching them.

                    This is a really simple solution and doesn't invalidate Stygians having Jade Arts. They just need an appropriate teacher. Or a dark Pact. Jade Teachers are more common in the Kingdom of Jade because they don't have Guild secrets. They are less common outside the Jade Empire.


                    The Dark Kingdom of Jade Explicitly has no access to Soul Forging, no soul steel, no Stygian steel nothing. They have to develop whole arts around this lack in their knowledge, if all knowledge is going back and forth freely why haven't some random Jade people spontaniously manifested Soulforging? Or if Initiate Flux?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Lian View Post
                      Well looks like we need a correction in the books because Intiate arts says "you can only learn this if taught" and while i have no problem with the idea that Wraiths can invent new things it takes signficant time and effort. The ways of the Jade Empire are clearly passed from one person to another. They are Taught. The reason they aren't common in Stygia is lack of people teaching them.
                      If one combines the two rule statements, it is easy to interpret their meaning as you can usually learn initiate arts in normal conditions if taught or through spontaneous manifestation. Besides, nowhere it is explictly stated you can only learn initiate arts through Guild instruction, although it indeed seems the most common method. A third rule instead says: "Though the Guilds might wish it were otherwise, it is sometimes possible for wraiths to teach themselves some Arcanoi simply through practice and dedication (reflected by experience points), though the player should still be able to explain where this desire comes from. Simply waking up wanting to fly is much less convincing than wanting to emulate a Harbinger he saw in action." without distinction between common or initiate arts, and then goes on to mention how Mentors and Guild ties can make learning easier by lessening xp costs. Taking all of this into account, it seems clear Guild status and teaching is usually meant to be a substantial facilitator to mastering common and more so initiate Arcanoi, not an absolute gateway or prerequisite. Also because the alternative is not logically sustainable.

                      If one creates a strict need for teaching to learn certain wraithly powers, no arts of that ilk could ever exist because there are no supernaturally privileged 'born Gods' in the Underworld that could have originally taught them in the first place. The sleeping true 'Gods' that exist never did anything known of import since their birth at the Sundering except for subtly influencing Labyrinth trends with their dreams, casually blessing a few Generals of Oblivion, and Gorool attacking Stygia, and it is heavily implied Charon's sundered Shadow caused the latter. All the other active advanced entities in the Underworld (the Ferrymen, the Onceborn, Charon, the Lady of Fate, Yu Huang, the Deathlords, the Guildmasters, etc.) originally were ordinary wraiths (or spectres) that evolved in a higher state, and by all evidence they created all the supernatural arts, techniques, and societies of the ghosts when they still were ordinary (if rather talented and dedicated) wraiths.

                      So it must be possible for normal characters in appropriate circumstances to duplicate their feats and potentially develop all Arcanoi, or no other arts could logically exist. If you cannot see or do not mind this contradiction, it's your way, YMMV and all that, but I refuse to accept the notion of such an illogical setting at my table just to entrench a supernatural powers privilege for any Guild or Dark Kingdom. Moreover, such a cultural privilege for the Eastern dead feels rather unpleasant by its very nature, so I'm not going to accept it in the first place. At my table, Jade arts are just as commonly known across any Dark Kingdom as Stygian arts, at least the ones that have a good reason to (i.e. their usefulness doesn't depend on the presence of kuei or Chinese-style funerary customs).

                      The Dark Kingdom of Jade Explicitly has no access to Soul Forging, no soul steel, no Stygian steel nothing. They have to develop whole arts around this lack in their knowledge, if all knowledge is going back and forth freely why haven't some random Jade people spontaniously manifested Soulforging? Or if Initiate Flux?
                      The solution for this is actually fairly simple, if one just gives up this silly and bigot notion certain cultures are especially privileged or utterly unable to manifest and develop certain powers by their very nature that the 1990s gameline inserted in the setting out of a misguided drive to make Oriental wraiths 'special'. There are some Jade wraiths that manifest Soulforging and Flux, and those arts are actually known in the Yellow Springs, if less widespread than Way of the Artisan. Fact is that local conditions in the Yellow Springs (i.e. prevalence of kuei as a potential source of White Jade, no easy source of soul steel ore) create an incentive for White Jade to be the most used manufacturing material, and consequently Way of the Artisan outshines Soulforging. Since Eastern funerary and ancestor-veneration customs favor generation of Pathos instead of lasting relics, Way of the Merchant outshines Usury and Way of the Artisan outplaces Flux. In Stygia there are no kuei and there is easy access to soul steel ore through the Venomous Stair, as well as different Skinland attitudes towards the dead that favor manifestation of relics, so Soulforging, Flux, and Usury become more useful than Way of the Merchant and Way of the Artisan, and displace them.

                      Rare arts in either civilization are so because local supernatural conditions greatly limit their usefulness, not because of any bigot and irrational innate aptitude for any art of any Underworld culture, and this lessens the frequency and likelihood local wraiths tend to manifest these powers. The status of Way of the Farmer is ambiguous because it is uncertain how useful the art is vs. spectres and wraiths in Catharsis, or just kuei. As it concerns all the other Stygian arts, Way of the Scholar, Way of the Soul, as well as Way of the Farmer if usable on spectres, there is no good reason why they shouldn't be equally useful and hence equally widespread among all the civilizations of the dead, and at my table, they always will, no matter how much writers may feel bound by backwards-compatibility to perpetuate an orientalist legacy blunder of their 1990s predecessors.

                      Likewise, at my table it is more difficult (although far from impossible) for characters to manifest or develop by practice initiate arts than common (Stygian and Jade) ones, and hence Guilds become more important as a source of instruction for them, because of their more specialized character, not any difference in their nature. Inspiration and need are rather important to develop the arts of the dead, and this makes some easier or harder to develop them w/o instruction than others, just b/c it is easier or harder to think of and visualize them on one's own, but it is a difference of degree, not an unsustainable one of quality.
                      Last edited by Irioth; 02-19-2018, 12:41 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Irioth View Post

                        If one combines the two rule statements, it is easy to interpret their meaning as you can usually learn initiate arts in normal conditions if taught or through spontaneous manifestation. Besides, nowhere it is explictly stated you can only learn initiate arts through Guild instruction, although it indeed seems the most common method. A third rule instead says: "Though the Guilds might wish it were otherwise, it is sometimes possible for wraiths to teach themselves some Arcanoi simply through practice and dedication (reflected by experience points), though the player should still be able to explain where this desire comes from. Simply waking up wanting to fly is much less convincing than wanting to emulate a Harbinger he saw in action." without distinction between common or initiate arts, and then goes on to mention how Mentors and Guild ties can make learning easier by lessening xp costs. Taking all of this into account, it seems clear Guild status and teaching is usually meant to be a substantial facilitator to mastering common and more so initiate Arcanoi, not an absolute gateway or prerequisite. Also because the alternative is not logically sustainable.

                        If one creates a strict need for teaching to learn certain wraithly powers, no arts of that ilk could ever exist because there are no supernaturally privileged 'born Gods' in the Underworld that could have originally taught them in the first place. The sleeping true 'Gods' that exist never did anything known of import since their birth at the Sundering except for subtly influencing Labyrinth trends with their dreams, casually blessing a few Generals of Oblivion, and Gorool attacking Stygia, and it is heavily implied Charon's sundered Shadow caused the latter. All the other active advanced entities in the Underworld (the Ferrymen, the Onceborn, Charon, the Lady of Fate, Yu Huang, the Deathlords, the Guildmasters, etc.) originally were ordinary wraiths (or spectres) that evolved in a higher state, and by all evidence they created all the supernatural arts, techniques, and societies of the ghosts when they still were ordinary (if rather talented and dedicated) wraiths.

                        So it must be possible for normal characters in appropriate circumstances to duplicate their feats and potentially develop all Arcanoi, or no other arts could logically exist. If you cannot see or do not mind this contradiction, it's your way, YMMV and all that, but I refuse to accept the notion of such an illogical setting at my table just to entrench a supernatural powers privilege for any Guild or Dark Kingdom. Moreover, such a cultural privilege for the Eastern dead feels rather unpleasant by its very nature, so I'm not going to accept it in the first place. At my table, Jade arts are just as commonly known across any Dark Kingdom as Stygian arts, at least the ones that have a good reason to (i.e. their usefulness doesn't depend on the presence of kuei or Chinese-style funerary customs).



                        The solution for this is actually fairly simple, if one just gives up this silly and bigot notion certain cultures are especially privileged or utterly unable to manifest and develop certain powers by their very nature that the 1990s gameline inserted in the setting out of a misguided drive to make Oriental wraiths 'special'. There are some Jade wraiths that manifest Soulforging and Flux, and those arts are actually known in the Yellow Springs, if less widespread than Way of the Artisan. Fact is that local conditions in the Yellow Springs (i.e. prevalence of kuei as a potential source of White Jade, no easy source of soul steel ore) create an incentive for White Jade to be the most used manufacturing material, and consequently Way of the Artisan outshines Soulforging. Since Eastern funerary and ancestor-veneration customs favor generation of Pathos instead of lasting relics, Way of the Merchant outshines Usury and Way of the Artisan outplaces Flux. In Stygia there are no kuei and there is easy access to soul steel ore through the Venomous Stair, as well as different Skinland attitudes towards the dead that favor manifestation of relics, so Soulforging, Flux, and Usury become more useful than Way of the Merchant and Way of the Artisan, and displace them.

                        Rare arts in either civilization are so because local supernatural conditions greatly limit their usefulness, not because of any bigot and irrational innate aptitude for any art of any Underworld culture, and this lessens the frequency and likelihood local wraiths tend to manifest these powers. The status of Way of the Farmer is ambiguous because it is uncertain how useful the art is vs. spectres and wraiths in Catharsis, or just kuei. As it concerns all the other Stygian arts, Way of the Scholar, Way of the Soul, as well as Way of the Farmer if usable on spectres, there is no good reason why they shouldn't be equally useful and hence equally widespread among all the civilizations of the dead, and at my table, they always will, no matter how much writers may feel bound by backwards-compatibility to perpetuate an orientalist legacy blunder of their 1990s predecessors.

                        Likewise, at my table it is more difficult (although far from impossible) for characters to manifest or develop by practice initiate arts than common (Stygian and Jade) ones, and hence Guilds become more important as a source of instruction for them, because of their more specialized character, not any difference in their nature. Inspiration and need are rather important to develop the arts of the dead, and this makes some easier or harder to develop them w/o instruction than others, just b/c it is easier or harder to think of and visualize them on one's own, but it is a difference of degree, not an unsustainable one of quality.
                        I understand your point, but I don't buy it at all. The Lady of Fate is dead Eve, the first woman. Nhudri may actually be a Fallen. Many high-profile wraiths are secretly Shadow-Eaten, and so have access to a Hive-Mind full of secret knowledge. The World of Darkness has never been a meritocracy--it's downright unfair. And as long as there are gods and Oracles and Antediluvians, there are ways Arcanoi could have been created that don't require anyone, anywhere, to generate powers without training. It also doesn't have to be an either/or situation.

                        What if some Arcanoi started due to pacts with the Shadow (picked up from the Malfeans via the Hive-Mind)? What if deceased mages developed and codified Arcanoi based on skills learned in life? What if the Ferrymen or the Fishers brought them back from eldritch beings from the Far Shores? What if a secret Fallen, pretending to be a wraith, shared some of his powers with others or told them how to exploit the loopholes he and his peers had built into the Underworld?

                        While a single person might theoretically come up with the Theory of Relativity in isolation, it's highly unlikely they'd do so without training or education. Arcanoi are, and have always been, fiercely guarded systems of knowledge (for initiate arts) with some more general applications (common arts) that are easier to learn. That's the whole premise of the Guilds and the source of their power.

                        In my opinion, having Arcanoi of any kind spontaneously manifest left, right and centre makes the Guilds largely redundant. Wraiths are beings of passion, which increases the number of dramatically opportune moments to generate new Arcanoi to a point that Guilds wouldn't be able to exert much control over their arts.

                        VTM also has the rules for Golconda in the main book, but that's also exceedingly rare. Just because it's in the book that a player doesn't always need a teacher, it doesn't mean it should happen often. And I know the book doesn't explicitly say this is rare, but it appeals to a sense of dramatic timing, and I think that should limit these spontaneous incidents to the equivalent of Seekings or Dharma progressions in other games. I'd maybe allow one character to do this once in an entire chronicle. For clarity, it probably should be stated that this is rare, otherwise it undermines several parts of the setting (DKoJ not having soulforging; Guilds controlling initiate arts meaningfully). I'd go so far as to say it should be raised in the errata thread, because it's either a mistake or misguided.

                        The last thing to bear in mind is that even though the Yellow Springs appears to have the same soul duality as Stygia superficially, the two parts of the soul are treated slightly differently in a paradigmatic or metaphysical sense. Likewise, different metaphysics appear to be at work in the Middle Kingdom. That's why the African Arcanoi can't usually be learned. Arguably, this might be what prevents the cross-fertilisation of Arcanoi.

                        Of course, everyone can choose what's right for their gaming table, but it does seem to me that learning arts is much easier in this edition and that seems poorly thought through.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post
                          I understand your point, but I don't buy it at all. The Lady of Fate is dead Eve, the first woman. Nhudri may actually be a Fallen. Many high-profile wraiths are secretly Shadow-Eaten, and so have access to a Hive-Mind full of secret knowledge. The World of Darkness has never been a meritocracy--it's downright unfair. And as long as there are gods and Oracles and Antediluvians, there are ways Arcanoi could have been created that don't require anyone, anywhere, to generate powers without training. It also doesn't have to be an either/or situation.
                          So what? Eve is very ancient, no doubt, but before dying and coming to the Underworld due to her bond with her vampire son, she was just an ordinary mortal, just like all the other Underworld luminaries that rose to prominence. And she's only the first woman according to a literalist interpretation of Judeo-Christian mythology, which is demonstrably false or at best a very incomplete, flawed, naive story in this setting (and not something I'd wish in the same building as my gaming). In my knowledge of WoD lore, I never noticed anything making a significant implication Nhudri was a Fallen, quite the contrary. According to everything we know, the Fallen are usually trapped in their own prison-realm, which is otherwise empty and entirely separate from the Underworld where restless human spirits go, or alternatively they get summoned to the physical realm by the divine spark of human souls (i.e. their potential to Awaken as mages and rewrite reality). They have zero ability to roam any part of the Umbra. The Hive-Mind includes the sum knowledge of all the wraiths that ever fell to Oblivion, and is certainly vast enough to include all Arcanoi arts as per Pact of Doom and Manifest Arcanoi, but it doesn't include anything that at least some wraith fallen to spectredom, sometime, somewhere, did not know, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't include any special divine insight; the Neverborn at the very most influence its broad trends with their dreams, but they don't give any instruction. For everything we know, gods, Oracles, and Antediluvians truck with their own powers that are entirely separate and distinct from wraithly ones and live in entirely different places of the Tellurian being busy with their own concerns and not being in the business of teaching new, special powers to Low Umbra residents.

                          What if some Arcanoi started due to pacts with the Shadow (picked up from the Malfeans via the Hive-Mind)? What if deceased mages developed and codified Arcanoi based on skills learned in life? What if the Ferrymen or the Fishers brought them back from eldritch beings from the Far Shores? What if a secret Fallen, pretending to be a wraith, shared some of his powers with others or told them how to exploit the loopholes he and his peers had built into the Underworld?
                          For all we know, the Neverborn never give Spectres anything as precise and detailed as Arcanoi instruction, only vague urges and drives born from their dreams that become the broad trends of the Hive-Mind and Labyrinth society, as well as idle anointing of a few Generals of Oblivion once in a blue moon. The active Malfean movers and shakers of the Labyrinth are all of the Onceborn (and quite possibly Pasiphae) variety, hence they cannot know anything an exceedingly talented, dedicated, and resourceful wraith or spectre would not know. The Hive-Mind includes the total sum of everything all spectres that ever existed knew, hence it is exceedingly vast and complete but with nothing impossible for ordinary wraiths. The Ferrymen are exalted beings that ascended from being ordinary wraiths; the Ritual of Severance is a known quantity, it gives them a lot of useful abilities but no special Arcanos insight. Their considerable Arcanoi proficiency comes from being very experienced, talented, dedicated beings that do a lot of research, study, and field practice while being freed of the heavy distraction and corrupting influence of the Shadow. For all we know, the Far Shores residents are either of the same ilk as the Ferrymen or Shadow-Eaten imposters and petty tyrants. Even if former vampires, mages, etc. may get inspiration from their former supernatural abilities, they become just ordinary wraiths, with no access to special powers, when they cross the Shroud. This is just grasping at straws with superfluous, arbitrary assumptions often disproved by known evidence.

                          Arcanoi are, and have always been, fiercely guarded systems of knowledge (for initiate arts) with some more general applications (common arts) that are easier to learn. That's the whole premise of the Guilds and the source of their power.

                          In my opinion, having Arcanoi of any kind spontaneously manifest left, right and centre makes the Guilds largely redundant. Wraiths are beings of passion, which increases the number of dramatically opportune moments to generate new Arcanoi to a point that Guilds wouldn't be able to exert much control over their arts.
                          Guilds are far from being the end-all and be-all of Western Underworld society, which predates them and crushed them when they attempted to grasp absolute power. So their power advantage can't be that big. If you ask my opinion, their current status as an important but far from necessary facilitor of knowledge correctly reflects their precarious, semi-tolerated status. They are too useful to be destroyed or repressed too harshly because many of the best Arcanoi scholars and savants naturally cluster in them, but they have no natural monopoly of any knowledge, so they are not all-powerful, neither mystically nor politically. What you argue for would give them an exaggerated amount of power that does not reflect their status. In my opinion, current situations that makes them useful (by being able to provide easier learning at discounted xp or outside spontaneous manifestation) but not necessary for Arcanoi learning fits their proper place in the setting. Frankly, I find the kind of NPC-dominated chronicle you argue for, with many of the most appealing and character-defining parts of character development to be strictly controlled by the whims of the ST and its inscrutable NPC mouthpieces entirely distasteful, insufferable, and no fun for players like me that care a lot for keeping control and direction of character development.

                          VTM also has the rules for Golconda in the main book, but that's also exceedingly rare. Just because it's in the book that a player doesn't always need a teacher, it doesn't mean it should happen often. And I know the book doesn't explicitly say this is rare, but it appeals to a sense of dramatic timing, and I think that should limit these spontaneous incidents to the equivalent of Seekings or Dharma progressions in other games. I'd maybe allow one character to do this once in an entire chronicle. For clarity, it probably should be stated that this is rare, otherwise it undermines several parts of the setting (DKoJ not having soulforging; Guilds controlling initiate arts meaningfully). I'd go so far as to say it should be raised in the errata thread, because it's either a mistake or misguided.
                          Well, I vocally argue against the kind of rules change and authoritative interpretation you advocate. I wouldn't want to play at a table where they are enforced. I find no fun or interest at all in a chronicle or game where pretty much all the most interesting and defining parts of a supernatural character's creation and development are strictly controlled, sequestered, and arbitrarily doled out by inscrutable NPCs. I already explained how IMO setting circumstances and natural social trends may easily and meaningfully justify the rarity (not absence) of certain Arcanoi in the Stygia or the Yellow Springs (local conditions make them less useful), or the guilds being the best (not the only) source of initiate arts knowledge (many of the best experts naturally gravitate in them), without having to invoke unreasonable absolute limits to self-development, or arbitrary assumptions that "divine intervention (nobody ever heard anything about) did it" (Occam's Razor, anyone?).

                          The last thing to bear in mind is that even though the Yellow Springs appears to have the same soul duality as Stygia superficially, the two parts of the soul are treated slightly differently in a paradigmatic or metaphysical sense. Likewise, different metaphysics appear to be at work in the Middle Kingdom. That's why the African Arcanoi can't usually be learned. Arguably, this might be what prevents the cross-fertilisation of Arcanoi.
                          If one looks any closely to the Psyche/Shadow and Hun/P'o dualities, it seems plain they are essentially the same thing, only filtered through different cultural lenses. The P'o is just your old Shadow, only heavily imprinted by an overwhelming cultural complex to care a lot about funerary and ancestor worship issues besides the usual Oblivion stuff and their own Dark Passions. Pretty much the same way, cultural conditioning and extensive ancestor worship practices drive most Yellow Springs wraiths to care a lot about their extended living and Underworld families, but the Hun is otherwise indistinguishable from the Psyche. Cultural conditioning slightly altering the way the Shadow typically manifests is nothing unique to the Yellow Springs, though. Something of that ilk also occurs in the Mirrorlands, with Caribbean Shadows often getting conditioned to shape their behavior according to certain Loa archetypes (which doesn't stop Connoissance from being available to non-Loa wraiths).

                          Admittedly, more radical cultural variations such as the African one with its belief in a quadripartite nature of the soul considerably diverge a lot from the typical soul duality of Eurasian civilizations, and such a widely different imprinting may help explain why Behest is so troublesome to learn for non-African wraiths. On the other hand, no such radical divergence of that kind seems to involve Western and East Asian wraiths. Their supposed metaphysical and paradigmatic differences look very much like different coats of paint covering the same thing, so there seems to be no good reason to impose arbitrary cultural limits to knowledge of Stygian and Jade Arcanoi for characters of either background. This would if anything raise a hornet's nest about why African wraiths should be supposed to be able to learn Stygian Arcanoi at all if their souls are bent that differently. But I'm going to leave that argument for another day, since I know the root of the problem is the misguided and disagreeable WoD effort to make non-Western characters 'special' and better than Western ones with their own proprietary abilities in addition to default 'Western' ones.

                          Of course, everyone can choose what's right for their gaming table, but it does seem to me that learning arts is much easier in this edition and that seems poorly thought through.
                          What seems poorly thought to me is a series of arguments that boil down to "an unknown god did it" grasping at straws for the sake of sequestering a lot of character development out of player's control and direction, and making knowledge secret for the sake of secrecy, or subject to distasteful cultural exclusivity limits. YMMV, of course, but I really would not want anything like that at my own gaming table.
                          Last edited by Irioth; 02-19-2018, 09:37 PM.

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                          • #14
                            How is learning Arcanoi different to learning Disciplines? Both are inherent to the power conferred by a specific state of being (vampire, wraith). Mostly, vampires get taught Disciplines (usually in downtime), although clan Disciplines and sometimes others can also be learned independently. In fact, most WoD games (except maybe Hunter) require characters to learn their powers from teachers for the most part. Raw talent and spontaneous power only gets you so far. Why should Arcanoi be so much easier?

                            Eve technically ate the Fruit of Knowledge before her banishment from Eden. That's what helped turned Lilith into a god. Eve's prophetic abilities could be a direct result of that.

                            As for Nhudri: see Demon.

                            Also, you completely ignored my Theory of Relativity argument. Yes, it should be theoretically possible for any solo wraith plugging away for millennia to develop a wide range of Arcanoi without outside help, but it's not likely. Monkeys bashing at keyboards for eternity might eventually write Hamlet too. But the point is, it's always easier to do those things with tuition.

                            The model of spontaneous and perfect generation of arts also seems to me to involve a greater deus ex machina than the model of Arcanoi slowly being developed by specialists over aeons--because it assumes a kind of divine inspiration from nowhere. Poof! Arcanoi just spontaneously appear fully formed in any person whose emotions run high enough.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post
                              How is learning Arcanoi different to learning Disciplines? Both are inherent to the power conferred by a specific state of being (vampire, wraith). Mostly, vampires get taught Disciplines (usually in downtime), although clan Disciplines and sometimes others can also be learned independently. In fact, most WoD games (except maybe Hunter) require characters to learn their powers from teachers for the most part. Raw talent and spontaneous power only gets you so far. Why should Arcanoi be so much easier?
                              Except vampires are actually entirely capable of developing Disciplines on their own, at most they may need a single taste of Vitae from another vampire with innate potential or individual proficiency in that Discipline to unlock its potential for themselves. So it also goes for pretty much all the other supernatural splats about their own powers. An explicit, strict need for instruction to unlock any power is basically unknown. Usually teaching acts as implicit story facilitator that lessens the needed effort, and sometimes this gets an explicit rules acknowledgement, typically in the form of mentor or group instruction providing an Xp discount, or the appropriate mystical experience providing an additional source of specialized Xp to learn certain lore. Teaching making learning easier, and it being strictly necessary to the exclusion of all self-education are two very different things. I have nothing against teaching making learning easier for characters. I just strongly object to making it a strict necessity since it creates a lot problems: it deprives players of too much agency about character development and puts it in the hands of ST fiat about availability of NPC sources; it excessively emphasizes the power and importance of NPC groups to the detriment of PC agenda and initiative; it creates disagreeable exclusivity issues when availability is tied to cultural features (and then we end up with inborn "African powers", "Rom abilities", and stuff); it creates insufferable logic bombs about just how such abilities were invented in the first place, if ordinary guys are utterly unable to, no matter their talents and efforts; the "a god did it" explanation is just caveman thinking and it puts far too much religion and passivity in my gaming than I'm any comfortable with.

                              Eve technically ate the Fruit of Knowledge before her banishment from Eden. That's what helped turned Lilith into a god. Eve's prophetic abilities could be a direct result of that.
                              Whatever, and who cares. Words fail me to explain how much I dislike making Judeo-Christian mythology essentially true as the factual basis or cosmic law of the setting in any game I care to play, so please don't tempt me into going in a extended rant about this. Suffice me to say the whole Cain stuff can happily get lost in a black hole in a faraway galaxy for all I care, and I very much prefer to pick an adaptation of the Requiem approach to frame the hypothetical origin of vampires.

                              As for Nhudri: see Demon.
                              See above, and for what I cared to read the Demon books to some decent length for the sake of completist WoD knowledge, I do not remember anything remotely suggesting a demon somehow got trapped in the Lower Umbra millennia ago (contrary to all known evidence about Fallen and Underworld nature and behavior) and became a wraithlike soulforging savant. The only known example of godlike foreign entities supposedly getting trapped in the Lower Umbra I can think of is the theory a 'fallen/dead' piece of the Wyld somehow got trapped in the Lower Umbra and inspired the proto-Haunters in developing Pandemonium. Even so, we don't know if the story is factual or an allegory; Nhudri was around and a known if aloof entity for a long time, nobody met this supposed Wyld fragment for a very long time; even if the story is true, it tells the Wyld just provided the first spark of inspiration to the Haunters, they developed all the actual structure of the Arcanos on their own, the usual practice, experimentation, and insight way.

                              Also, you completely ignored my Theory of Relativity argument. Yes, it should be theoretically possible for any solo wraith plugging away for millennia to develop a wide range of Arcanoi without outside help, but it's not likely. Monkeys bashing at keyboards for eternity might eventually write Hamlet too. But the point is, it's always easier to do those things with tuition.
                              Your argument is basically the equivalent of those pseudohistory folks that argue science, culture, and technology were originally developed by Ancient Astronauts, Atlantean Refugees, or Hidden Masters and taught to lowly humans who are incapable of actual substantial insight and progress on their own, they can just slavishly hand down the lore of their betters. Your Theory of Relativity example is actually not conductive to your argument, since it is a good historical example of how a very talented, creative, and dedicated individual single-handedly created a whole new sub-field in a scientific discipline beyond all the established knowledge and insight of his predecessors and peers, and a decent analogy for a capable wraith (re)inventing an Arcanos art on their own.

                              The model of spontaneous and perfect generation of arts also seems to me to involve a greater deus ex machina than the model of Arcanoi slowly being developed by specialists over aeons--because it assumes a kind of divine inspiration from nowhere. Poof! Arcanoi just spontaneously appear fully formed in any person whose emotions run high enough.
                              Far better spontaneous insight, personal creativity, and individual self-education, practice, and effort ensuring PC get a real chance to develop their abilities on their own terms on a regular basis, than all chance for improvement being under the strict lock and key of unapproachable, unmatchable NPC 'gods' and arbitrary, exclusive inborn niches that dole it out according to their whims, and hoard all the character development agenda. Anything a NPC can do, a PC should be able to in the appropriate circumstances. If no actual PC individual can make any actual progress on a personal basis, only assimilate and hand down the lore someone else taught, actual accumulation of knowledge becomes impossible. Assuming faceless NPC specialists and experts that are supposed to create all of it offstage or in the past is just a way to kick the can of the flawed causal chain all the way back to "a god did it". And of course, in this model the 'gods' never happen to have quantifiable, replicable abilities.

                              Moreover, I already went through the mundane academic way of developing a knowledge basis for my profession all the way to PhD once in my life, and I am no under any wish to slavishly replay the same experience to develop my character concepts in games about powerful supernatural creatures. My gaming is supposed to be more conductive to my vicarious self-empowerment and self-actualization urges than going through the fictional equivalent of school everytime I wish to add a dot on the character sheet. If I wanted to play Hogwarts, I'd play Hogwarts. Last but not least, an important portion of my RL knowledge base was the result of self-education and sheer intellectual curiosity, with teachers or schools hardly being necessary or useful. This personal experience makes all this dogged "you always need teachers" insistence especially annoying, tiresome, and wrong from my perspective. If I can do it for mundane knowlege, I'm entirely confident my gaming avatar, or any other character I care to make with the appropriate features, can do it for mundane and supernatural abilities alike.
                              Last edited by Irioth; 02-19-2018, 11:12 PM.

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