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  • Soul Questions

    Are souls really as interchangeable as the rules make it seem? If you use Death to swap Alice's and Bob's souls around, will there be any side effects? Do we know if there are side effects that crop up after you die?

    Do animals have souls? If not, what happens if I turn a cat into a human with Life 4? Does the transformed cat suffer soul loss? What if I used Mind 3 to boost the cat's intelligence to human levels? What if I also used the Life 3 Mutation spell repeatedly to turn the cat into something that looked fairly human? Would it need a soul then?

    Do other supernatural beings have souls? Vampires? Mummies? Demons? What does a Werewolf, Changeling, or Beast soul look like? What would happen if a Mage gave a soul to a Promethian?

    Is a soul necessary for moral action? If you use magic to create a sentient construct, does it get a virtue and morality track without a soul? Can you give a soul to a spirit? If so, what happens?

    If a soul isn't necessary for moral action and it's not what makes you yourself, what exactly is it? What is the point of the soul? Are humans spiritually crippled because we need this extra booster for us to stay sane? Is it a symbol of our connection to the Supernal Realms?

    And I get that canon is unlikely to specify answers to all of these questions and that many of them are probably good Mysteries to explore in play, but I currently kinda feel like I don't really "get" souls so any thoughts you might have will be appreciated.
    Last edited by BrilliantRain; 09-11-2017, 12:38 PM.


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  • #2
    Yes souls are swappable.

    A cat turned into a human needs a soul is how I'd rule it. A cat that has had Transformation cast repeatedly on it does not, it's a cat with human qualities grafted on.

    Other supernaturals appear to have something that approximates as a soul. It's unclear if it's the same or can be removed.

    A soul isn't necessary for moral action, also there isn't a morality track for any splat. A sentient construct doesn't receive an Integrity track or its equivalent. Depending on the kind of construct, a ghost for instance, it might get a virtue.

    Your second to last paragraph can only be answered by the ST of your game.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
      Are souls really as interchangeable as the rules make it seem? If you use Death to swap Alice's and Bob's souls around, will there be any side effects? Do we know if there are side effects that crop up after you die?
      They are, but important to know that the soul isn't the mind or essence of the person the way we usually think of it. The soul is more like the engine that keeps the person the running, without it they can keep going, but eventually they'll run down into a husk. You can swap Bob and Alice's souls, and they're fine. It's like swapping the engines between cars. After you die your soul isn't what remains hanging around, the soul goes away when you die, what hangs around as a ghost or goes to the Underworld is different.

      Do animals have souls? If not, what happens if I turn a cat into a human with Life 4? Does the transformed cat suffer soul loss? What if I used Mind 3 to boost the cat's intelligence to human levels? What if I also used the Life 3 Mutation spell repeatedly to turn the cat into something that looked fairly human? Would it need a soul then?
      They don't have souls as far as I know. It sounds like you still have an animal without a soul, it's just smarter and looks more like a person than a house cat. Inside, it's still an animal though. It could be an interesting, and wildly unethical, experiment a Mage (or Archmaster) could be running. Trying to find the line that defines humanity.

      Do other supernatural beings have souls? Vampires? Mummies? Demons? What does a Werewolf, Changeling, or Beast soul look like? What would happen if a Mage gave a soul to a Promethian?
      I'm less sure about this one different game lines look at this different ways, other people probably know more.
      • Vampires: I don't think they have souls, the Beast taking it's place.
      • Mummies: I haven't read Mummy.
      • Demons: No, they aren't human, and never were human. When they make a deal with a mortal to take their soul, they don't actually take the soul.
      • Werewolf: I haven't really read Werewolf, but I suspect they don't have a soul the way humans have them. They're part spirit and part flesh, and children of ancient gods, so I suspect they're more integrated and there isn't some definable soul you could remove. The flesh and spirit is mixed together, not two distinct and separate halves.
      • Changeling: There is a new edition coming out for this line, so things might change. 1E was kinda cagey as to if Changelings still had souls or not, but the general impression was that they had a soul, but it was tattered and broken and the hollows filled with things from Arcadia and the Hedge.
      • Beast: I think the Horror devours a Beast's soul when they become a Beast, and afterwards the Horror fulfills the same functions as the soul.
      • Promethean: I suspect giving a Promethean a soul would be like tying a balloon to something that is on fire. The string is going to burn up and the balloon is going to float away no matter how many times you do it. The Promethean isn't ready for a soul yet, and there is a fire where the soul would go.
      Is a soul necessary for moral action? If you use magic to create a sentient construct, does it get a virtue and morality track without a soul? Can you give a soul to a spirit? If so, what happens?
      2nd Edition moves away from away from tracking moral action for most splats, or humans. Lacking a soul doesn't prevent you from taking moral action, and doesn't really have anything to do with Virtue or Vice (unless you had a soul and lost it). Plenty of things that don't have souls have a Virtue and Vice (angels, Demons, spirits, soulless humans, etc...). Most spirits can't do anything with a soul, you could try and attach it to the spirit with magic, but they wouldn't interact with each other. Some spirits can do things with souls, but more as a commodity, they don't integrate teh soul with themselves or anything.

      If a soul isn't necessary for moral action and it's not what makes you yourself, what exactly is it? What is the point of the soul? Are humans spiritually crippled because we need this extra booster for us to stay sane? Is it a symbol of our connection to the Supernal Realms?
      A symbol of our connection to the Supernal Realms is a excellent description.

      And I get that canon is unlikely to specify answers to all of these questions and that many of them are probably good Mysteries to explore in play, but I currently kinda feel like I don't really "get" souls so any thoughts you might have will be appreciated.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
        Are souls really as interchangeable as the rules make it seem? If you use Death to swap Alice's and Bob's souls around, will there be any side effects? Do we know if there are side effects that crop up after you die?
        For all intents and purposes, yes, they seem to be that interchangeable. Noticeable side effects may occur, but they may not. It's hard to tell which is freakier. As for what happens when you die... No-one really knows either way. There might not actually be an afterlife in Mage.

        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
        Do animals have souls? If not, what happens if I turn a cat into a human with Life 4? Does the transformed cat suffer soul loss? What if I used Mind 3 to boost the cat's intelligence to human levels? What if I also used the Life 3 Mutation spell repeatedly to turn the cat into something that looked fairly human? Would it need a soul then?
        Animals lack individual souls in the same manner humans have them. Turn a cat into a human with Life 4, it remains mentally and spiritually a cat. If you gave it greater intellect, it would still be, spiritually, a cat. Probably. Who knows? But that spiritual element that makes humans human would not be present, nor would it likely be missed. What's there would be obviously not human.

        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
        Do other supernatural beings have souls? Vampires? Mummies? Demons? What does a Werewolf, Changeling, or Beast soul look like? What would happen if a Mage gave a soul to a Promethian?
        They have something soul-like in most cases. Demons do not, because they're not even remotely close to human; they do a good job of pretending to be, but a Demon isn't human. A Demon is essentially a player in an RPG; they pretend to be someone they aren't, even get emotionally invested in it, but they're going to drop the act the moment it stops being worthwhile.

        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
        Is a soul necessary for moral action? If you use magic to create a sentient construct, does it get a virtue and morality track without a soul? Can you give a soul to a spirit? If so, what happens?
        No, a soul isn't a prerequisite to be moral or feel compassion, nor does having a soul guarantee you'll be or feel either. If you create a sentient construct, it having virtues or morality entirely depend on whether you choose to give it them. If you give a spirit a soul, it will eat it. Spirits lack a metaphysical "slot" for a soul to sit in, and forcibly creating one and jamming a soul in would have highly unpredictable results.

        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
        If a soul isn't necessary for moral action and it's not what makes you yourself, what exactly is it? What is the point of the soul? Are humans spiritually crippled because we need this extra booster for us to stay sane? Is it a symbol of our connection to the Supernal Realms?
        The soul, to the best of my understanding, is sort of like a foundation to a person's being. It's not their mind, their connection to the Supernal, their body, their connection to the ephemeral... But it's the things without which none of those exist. It's sort of like a psychic support structure; the scaffold used to build everything else. Without it, everything kind of starts drifting on autopilot, before finally starting to crumble away until nothing remains. A person, one might say, is the metaphysical reality the soul extrudes and exudes around itself. You need a soul like you need a heart; you can get a transplant and survive just fine, but, without one, you can't really live.

        Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
        And I get that canon is unlikely to specify answers to all of these questions and that many of them are probably good Mysteries to explore in play, but I currently kinda feel like I don't really "get" souls so any thoughts you might have will be appreciated.
        The easiest way to think about it is to stop thinking of it as a soul. That's a really loaded word that's taken on baggage with time; baggage not reflected in Mage's setting. The soul here is more of an... Elan vital. It isn't what keeps you alive or lets you feel emotions or defines your spiritual aspect, but it's the thing which makes all those possible; as if your ability to feel emotions or drive or higher virtue and lower vice are cups that need to constantly be filled by an outpouring from some higher source. Make of the implications there what you will.

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        • #5
          As we see from legacies, a soul is really just a blob of energy. All it's "features" are a product of the vessel.

          Everyone has a sort of "soul container" that's a particular shape. Legacies can change it, and supernaturals might have something else filling it, but ultimately who you are is a function of your mind, not your soul.

          I think ephemeral beings were once described as being characterised by having a mind, body and soul that was all the same thing.

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          • #6
            Its counter to 2E canon but from 1E there were signs that your soul was kind unique in Creation. Merits like Ancient Echoes or Destiny pointed that your own soul is designed to be 'your-your' soul - only that you can eschew this is shining new immortality or powers of souls being more important to you. I still sustain this ruling in my games.


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            • #7
              I recommend reading this thread, as it tries to explain the metaphysics of souls from a systems perspective.

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              • #8
                From this perspective, I kinda feel like they should have used a different word than "soul" as it has a lot of baggage that comes with it. It creates confusion if you just ignore said baggage.


                ....

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BrilliantRain View Post
                  From this perspective, I kinda feel like they should have used a different word than "soul" as it has a lot of baggage that comes with it. It creates confusion if you just ignore said baggage.
                  On the other hand, the culture I grew up and am living in doesn't associate the word for 'soul' with morality or sentience, and is much closer to the elan vital as Axelgear described. Nor does it describe the soul as an indivisible thing. (By the way, I'm referring to the Taoist / Northeast Asian shamanistic concept of the soul.)

                  So it seems players' and the writers' cultural backgrounds and research materials have to do with whether we consider something baggage or not.


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                  • #10
                    Yeah, the idea of a soul as some detachable ephemeral notion of "You" is not universal. It's definitely the most common notion in the West but, again, not universal by any means. Even the Genesis narrative's most common English translations use soul as a term for what happens when you combine clay with the breath of life; a soul being a living person, which ceases to exist when the breath leaves the clay.

                    Once you move past the baggage, it gets easier.

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                    • #11
                      I kind of like using the soul as an ephemeral notion of 'You'. But not, like, the You that other people can see or interact with. Your I.
                      Thing is, from an in setting perspective that makes it kind of difficult to prove that it actually serves that purpose. If you lose your soul and replace it with someone else's, it's not like you can tell the difference really. It doesn't have your memory, or your personality, though it is possible for bits and pieces of both to come through in the transplant. Most things have a soul-equivalent, but those who lack one entirely are basically P-Zombies.
                      I've been considering using a Houserule which connects a player to their character's soul, such that if it's lost they lose control and if it ends up in someone else they start playing that character instead. Naturally, this means that I wouldn't bring up soul loss too often in my Chronicles, but it might be a fun way to add weight to the soul and provoke existential crises.


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                      • #12
                        It's been my assumption that souls are molded by the people they're in and only preserve a shape upon undergoing the transformative process of death.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
                          It's been my assumption that souls are molded by the people they're in and only preserve a shape upon undergoing the transformative process of death.
                          I wonder if another comparison might be to a hard-drive. The actual disk isn't important, the data on it is. You can swap out drives and put the same data on them (and the disks can store the data from the system they were once connected to). You still need a hard-drive to persist the data (once out of memory), but which one isn't so important.


                          Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                          Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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                          • #14
                            Ghosts aren't souls. 2E makes this very clear.

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                            • #15
                              Do animals possess souls in the setting?

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