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The Mysterium and their Contribution to Mage Society

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Errol216 View Post
    Really quick, but it's not about numbers. If you're tracking numbers, you've already failed to understand guanxi.

    A gifter gifts according to their ability; if the receiver is unimpressed, then sucks to be you. That's how a favor economy works (and why a money economy is better in some ways). An apprentice might not have anything worth donating to the Athenaeum, but if he tries, then that counts for something. How he tries also matters. Sure, pulling some tass out of the air is pretty much meaningless (has some objective value; has no real subjective value). But if he visits several other Mystagogues, asks them thought-provoking, constructive questions about their research without getting in their way, and then creates a summary based on that, maybe with a few of his own insights added, to donate to the Athenaeum? That'd be worth a lot, even from an apprentice.

    Why? Because he showed that he's willing to do legwork. Because he showed he got along amiably and professionally with other established and respected members. Because he showed he was capable of understanding what he was told. Because he showed he was able to repackage knowledge in a way digestible by others. Because he showed he was able to think originally. Because he showed that he knows what knowledge is, the how and why it is valuable. For a master Mystagogue looking at the results of that work? This apprentice is fucking useful to our community and I'm happy to teach him whatever rote he wants. It is worth my time. And if his offering is weak the next time he comes knocking? He's banked up some credit and I'll give him some leeway before my regard of him drops down a notch.

    ...that was not quick. /facepalm

    Thats pretty helpful, nice


    Originally posted by Michael Kenner View Post
    Just a quick note that although I've read every 2e spoiler as religiously as a mage following an obsession, I still don't really grok the 2e worldview yet since I haven't been able to read the book in its entirety. So this is mostly going to be a 1e point of view.



    I also had a lot of trouble understanding the guanxi system just from reading the book. I had to figure out my own way of handling it. I'll try to explain my own personal interpretation but I can't guarantee that this matches what it was meant to be in the canon lore of the books.

    At its simplest guanxi is simply stating that the Mysterium believe that merit should establish whether a person is given access to a particular resource. It doesn't end up ever being quite that simple though. It ends up being an unholy hybrid of post-graduate academic research grants, job application, popularity contest and running for political office. The whole system is often so subjective and nebulous seeming that outsiders to the order just resolve it on a case by case basis by 'doing favours in exchange for resources'. This isn't really how it's meant to work, but you can have unscrupulous Mystagogues trading in on outsiders' ignorance for their own advantage or well-meaning Mystagogues simplifying it for the benefit of an outsider.

    So how does it actually work? The Mysterium ranks your worthiness for resources on five main factors:

    Your ability to use it: Do you know what you're doing? How solid is your grasp on magical theory and what is your gnostic insight like? For someone inside the Mysterium this is easy, they often know you personally or may have read some of your research. For someone outside it depends on what you've established in your public usage of power. Because of their academic tilt the Mysterium often admires someone who has 'published' or at least shared some theoretical knowledge with other mages.

    Your wisdom and caution: Are you going to take the resources the Mysterium's given you and cause problems with it. Do you have a habit of splashy Paradox backlashes? Have you revealed the mysteries to sleepers before? Are you likely to lose the artifact or damage it?

    Your job history: Have you ever been a herald? Sentinel? Councillor? Etc. Any positions in Mage society help to show worthiness in a lot of different ways. (More selfishly though it can be judged as a way of getting in good with the high ranking members of the Consillium).

    Your contributions to magical society: Doesn't matter how good you are if it doesn't help the rest of society. This tends to be from a Mysterium point of view so they judge it often on what knowledge you've given, artifacts you've procured, etc. However they're not so blind (most of the time) as to ignore the steadfast loyalty of an Adamantine Arrow or the political achievements of a Silver Ladder.

    Do we like you: The sad fact is that this often covers up bigotry, people's personal biases and just regular old interpersonal problems. Some Mages get more by volunteering to mow the lawn of an elderly Mystagogue and being seen as that "kind, helpful young apprentice" than a scarred and bitter Adamantine Arrow might have earned through a lifetime of devoted martyrdom for others if he's grumpy and doesn't get invited to parties. At the end of the day Mages are people and they're rarely unbiased by their emotions.

    In some cases it's so obvious that a person deserves access to a resource that they're given it straight away. In other cases it's so obviously a bad idea that they are refused out of hand. In the middle though is an entire spectrum of uncertainty. The 'favour-trading' aspect of Guanxi comes in three forms.

    1) You're told you're not ready so you do something to demonstrate that you are: The curator says you haven't established your magical knowledge yet, so you write a massive research article on that exact topic and get it published. You ask again and this time you're told that you're ready. It wasn't that you did this as a favour or in trade, but in doing so you established that you were worthy.
    2) It's seen as a bad investment BUT the addition of the favour makes it worthwhile anyway: The curator judges that you shouldn't be given the resource, but it's still a pretty close call. He says "How about you do X favour for the order and we'll say yes this time?"
    3) Beating the rivals: If there are two people wanting the same resource and it can't be given to both, then anything either side can do to rapidly increase their worthiness or to sweeten the deal for the curator might be all it takes for your application to be approved.

    I don't have a formal mechanical system but I thoroughly recommend using the Chronicles of Darkness/GMC update social combat system for resolving Guanxi. It interfaces almost perfectly.

    Edit: Wow, that was longer than I thought it was going to be. Sorry for getting carried away a bit.
    No worries for the lenght, it is an interesting take on it.

    Personally my take on it doesnt factor consilium position and personal liking as the guanxi was conceived to avoid consilium politics on its obligations.

    For knowledge something i did was the atheneum asking new mages their accounts of their awakenings in exchange for favors. Its a pretty useless knowledge mechanics wise but its bargain chip for new mages to start on the atheneum. Or asking for them to debriefing on the use of the knowledge they are asking (Ex: New mages want all the info on vampires the atheneum has, the mysterium ask for a debriefing afterwards about how their knowledge applied to the situation at hand)


    ​​
    Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
    LRS: They had examples of guang xi in action in the book. You could have taken cues from that.
    Yeah that example on the sidebar of "guanxi in action" raises way more questions than answers.

    In the example konshu, make a index on Greek orthodox icons for the Boston (i think) provost as to ensure guanxi for a meeting for the hierarch.

    So then a petiotioner (in the example konshu) can impose his gift on the recipient? He does a favor without being asked and then ask for compensation, so what happens if the gift is declined? Can it be declined?

    And how that applies to magical knowledge and the mysterium philosophy of arcane knowledge for arcane knowledge instead of mundane wealth/power for arcane knowledge.

    Yes, i make up my own stuff but that doesnt make the fact that is a big flaw on the book go away.

    Originally posted by Ephsy View Post
    Surveying the thread... Nope, I don't think I am.
    Some people like to live up to their reputation.
    Last edited by LokiRavenSpeak; 12-17-2015, 07:25 AM.

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    • #17
      I dunno if I'd call Mystagogues "better" mages but I can haggard that they probably have the most Archmasters from the pentacle, if only beacause they temper their obsessions with religious zeal.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
        ​​Yeah that example on the sidebar of "guanxi in action" raises way more questions than answers.

        In the example konshu, make a index on Greek orthodox icons for the Boston (i think) provost as to ensure guanxi for a meeting for the hierarch.

        So then a petiotioner (in the example konshu) can impose his gift on the recipient? He does a favor without being asked and then ask for compensation, so what happens if the gift is declined? Can it be declined?

        And how that applies to magical knowledge and the mysterium philosophy of arcane knowledge for arcane knowledge instead of mundane wealth/power for arcane knowledge.
        Khonsu didn't make it a gift to (Can't remember the name) he made it a donation to the aetheneum, as such it couldn't be turned down for personal reasons. Also, Khonsu did his homework and made sure that whatever he put together was something that would be appreciated, that's part of guang xi. It's actually closer to a gift economy than a favor economy I think. Also, Khonsu didn't ask for a meeting with the Heirarch directly if I recall correctly he mentioned that he was having difficulty getting in to see the Heirarch. If his gift hadn't been enough, or there were other reasons why his target wouldn't help him out then his target can just show sympathy, "Sorry, that sucks." In the example though it was enough so he basically says, "Hey, I can help you with that." Guang xi isn't direct bargain making.

        As to how it applies to magical knowledge, just explore your guang xi network, use magical secrets you know to ease the magical secrets others know out of them. You're deliberately building a relationship for the purpose of mutual satisfaction.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Michael View Post
          Here's an interesting question: are the Mysterium therefore better magi on average?
          I would say they appear better mages, i like the example that the mysterium teaches variants of the same spell just to give the impression of the mystrium knowing weird spells.

          Ex: A mysterium knows a rote for a fireball and a green fireball. The green fireball is the same as the normal fireball but it gives the impression that it is a completely different spell and ups the reputation of the order.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
            Khonsu didn't make it a gift to (Can't remember the name) he made it a donation to the aetheneum, as such it couldn't be turned down for personal reasons. Also, Khonsu did his homework and made sure that whatever he put together was something that would be appreciated, that's part of guang xi. It's actually closer to a gift economy than a favor economy I think.
            Good point there.

            Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
            Also, Khonsu didn't ask for a meeting with the Heirarch directly if I recall correctly he mentioned that he was having difficulty getting in to see the Heirarch.
            He did ask directly to ask to a meeting with the hierarch "Khonsu says he needs to speak to the Hierarch privately", the difficulty to getting in was done with another mage (protestas) for an invitation to the caucus and there konshu meet the provost (Parri`s Chain) where he mentions he was investigating greek symbology. Then he made the gift to Parris Chain and when he ask if he can do him a favor then he ask for a meeting with the hierarch.

            Originally posted by Mrmdubois View Post
            As to how it applies to magical knowledge, just explore your guang xi network, use magical secrets you know to ease the magical secrets others know out of them. You're deliberately building a relationship for the purpose of mutual satisfaction.
            It really needs a example for mages. Exchanging magical secrets is all well and good but it raises the question of how new mages can get the magical secrets in the first place. My take was that they help in exchange for future help/a piece of whatever the new mages get. It goes against the whole "equivalent exchange" and "Arcane knowledge for arcane knowledge" because what the mages could get from the experience could be nothing but hell, otherwise the athenenum becomes kinda unacessible to new mages.

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            • #21
              The only stuff the Mysterium doesn't willingly share is the really bad stuff that even most Mysterium don't get to see.
              I don't think that's true. Their book presents them as extremely begrudging of giving people access. The graded levels of access is explicitly only for Mysterium members, everyone is not trusted. The SL section brings up how much trouble it is to gain any access.

              Mind you, giving it a bit more thought I can see how that'd work. It ensures that any access to the athenaeums has to be done through a Mysterium member, which I guess gives the individual members more social standing and ensures that the order is tied much deeper into Pentacle society. That does make quite a lot of sense.

              I would say they appear better mages, i like the example that the mysterium teaches variants of the same spell just to give the impression of the mystrium knowing weird spells.
              That's an interesting possibility.


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              • #22
                LRS: A new Mage in the Mysterium has access to his mentor's guang xi network. His mentor can facilitate by telling his pupil what the people in his network are interested in and the kinds of things a young member can do to impress them.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                  its amazing you are 100% wrong, i mean nothing you wrote has being right.
                  ​If you could refrain from the snide comments directed at other forum users that would be appreciated, thank you. Keep it polite folks, even if you disagree with someone.


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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Ephsy View Post
                    Your problem is that you apparently need everything spelled out.
                    Since I addressed Loki it's only fair that I address this also, it's not acceptable, Knock off the verbal jabs or I will stop posting polite reminders​ to keep things civil and start issuing suspensions. This applies to everyone.


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                    Posts in this color mean a Great Old One has driven me mad.
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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                      No worries for the lenght, it is an interesting take on it.

                      Personally my take on it doesnt factor consilium position and personal liking as the guanxi was conceived to avoid consilium politics on its obligations.

                      For knowledge something i did was the atheneum asking new mages their accounts of their awakenings in exchange for favors. Its a pretty useless knowledge mechanics wise but its bargain chip for new mages to start on the atheneum. Or asking for them to debriefing on the use of the knowledge they are asking (Ex: New mages want all the info on vampires the atheneum has, the mysterium ask for a debriefing afterwards about how their knowledge applied to the situation at hand)
                      Nice point. That makes a lot of sense. I certainly think many Mysterium groups would probably use it in exactly that way, to do an end run around Consilium politics and be able to cite order policy and tradition as a defense.

                      Your example there seems like a good way to get people in the door and start them off on the process. Especially for new mages who are still not quite integrated into local politics. I actually might steal that idea if I have that sort of situation come up again in one of my chronicles.

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                      • #26
                        Me personal take in several of the issues mentioned...

                        Knowledge access - I've always figured that part of the Mysterium's role pretty much necessitates them sharing the first two dots of Arcana knowledge without many strings attached. The difference in access between order members and outsiders is several things. First the Mysterium wouldn't have the best access to order specific rotes that were keyed to each orders skill specialties - they would have acquired some over the years, but if that is what you are looking for its more likely to be found with your order. They want young inexperienced mages to grow, so they would be more free with resources as a community investment. Because their time is valuable too, as young mages gain more experience free access becomes more restricted unless they begin to contribute to the Mysterium's knowledge base. As spreaders of basic knowledge they are also the most likely to act as Apostate ambassadors, working to bring them into the Pentacle by demonstrating one of the key features of the Pentacles (i.e. thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and the infrastructures to spread it),

                        Are Mysterium mages better - No, but they have access to Mysteries that others don't. I would find it perfectly reasonable for some Mysterium members to take an Obsession to study and document the differences between the 13 known fireball rotes - gaining Arcane beats from the experience that other mages wouldn't have access to. Something like this would effectively allow a discount on Rote purchases for Mysterium mages who invested the study and time. Something similar seems reasonable for other areas as well.

                        Storing artifacts (small "a" meaning various physical items) with the Mysterium - I hadn't though much about that because most Orders have been presented as wanting to control access to their treasures, but it would add a new spin to the Mysterium. They would effectively become bankers of the supernatural world. I would have to think on what all the implications would be, but I kind of like some of the ideas that are popping into my head regarding how this could alter the baseline Mysterium. It could imply a real supernatural economy, which I find very human and something likely to have occurred. Athenaeum as a cross between a library/bank vault also seems interesting. Mysterium members who are kick ass guardians in their role of protecting the Athenaeums (maybe where some retiring Arrows go). Supernatural heists during asset transfers. Tenuous connections with the other supernatural communities due to both accumulated knowledge (i.e. the Mysterium knows they exist and how to open communication) and offers to securely store some of the their items where their enemies wouldn't know to look (of course they would be studied while in the Mysteriums secure vaults). I tend to play with a slightly more connected assumption regarding the supernatural communities than is implied in the core game lines, so this idea rather appeals to me. I'll have to think on it for a while.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                          Personally my take on it doesnt factor consilium position and personal liking as the guanxi was conceived to avoid consilium politics on its obligations.
                          Guanxi is not an attempt to avoid politics; it's a doubling-down on politics, except only with people you trust. Make no mistake: this is exactly how serious politics works.

                          Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                          In the example konshu, make a index on Greek orthodox icons for the Boston (i think) provost as to ensure guanxi for a meeting for the hierarch.
                          Not quite. Khonsu is cultivating guanxi with the Provost. Full stop. He's becoming a professional colleague: that's why it takes several days, not just of research, but of just getting to know each other. That part isn't fluff; it's critical. Khonsu and the Provost become friends, albeit with a professional detachment, by the time he makes the gift.

                          Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                          So then a petiotioner (in the example konshu) can impose his gift on the recipient? He does a favor without being asked and then ask for compensation, so what happens if the gift is declined? Can it be declined?
                          This is complicated. Someone who understands guanxi knows that he shouldn't refuse a gift without strong reason. Is the gift an attack? Is it transparently an unwelcome bribe? Do you just massively dislike the gifter? These are all reasons that a gift might be declined. But as a general rule, in the absence of such reasons, a guanxi practitioner does not decline gifts. It is an insult, and it either shuts someone out of the favor economy or it makes you yourself seem suspicious if that person is well-liked.

                          Think about hospitality rights. The informal legal protocol around hospitality is built around the idea that good people traveling abroad need safe harbors at night. So it's established, again informally because there's no formal channel to go through, that a host will grant a guest food, lodgings, and comfort, whereas a guest having partaken of these, will do his host no harm and should try to do his host a good turn. Someone who violates these protocols is considered repulsive and untrustworthy. A host who provides poor fare and shoddy lodgings when he has perfectly good food and shelter available is a miser. A guest who brings harm upon his host is a blight. You do not respect such people, except as you respect a wild, rabid dog: dangerous, not friendly.

                          Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                          He did ask directly to ask to a meeting with the hierarch "Khonsu says he needs to speak to the Hierarch privately", the difficulty to getting in was done with another mage (protestas) for an invitation to the caucus and there konshu meet the provost (Parri`s Chain) where he mentions he was investigating greek symbology. Then he made the gift to Parris Chain and when he ask if he can do him a favor then he ask for a meeting with the hierarch.
                          You're skimming over details that aren't filler. Let's spell out all the pieces.

                          Khonsu and Potestas already have guanxi. They're buddies.
                          As a favor, Potestas tells Khonsu that Provost Parris can help obtain access to the Hierarch.
                          As a favor, Potestas tells Khonsu that Provost Parris likes lobster.
                          As a favor, Potestas introduces Khonsu to the local caucus, girding Khonsu's reputation with his own.
                          Khonsu, you will note, has done absolutely nothing in return. They already had guanxi, so Potestas gives him all this information for "free". In the future, Potestas will expect that Khonsu will be amiable to a request in return. Guanxi never starts from zero. Never.
                          Khonsu banks guanxi by providing some lobster. Parris is happy about this.
                          Khonsu banks guanxi by asking Parris about what Parris cares about. Parris is happy about this because it lets him talk about his own interests: the icon research.
                          Khonsu banks guanxi by doing this again the next night. Parris complains about his soup kitchen being over budget.
                          Khonsu banks guanxi by giving his soup kitchen money.
                          Khonsu banks guanxi by continuing to meet with Parris and getting to know him.
                          Khonsu finally banks guanxi by donating his research about icons to the Athenaeum. He is asking, "How valuable am I, in your eyes, now that I have done all of this?"
                          Parris perceives that Khonsu wants something, so he asks.

                          Is a meeting with the Hierarch worth some lobster, some research, some money? No. That's not what it's about. Khonsu may empty his entire account if the meeting with the Hierarch goes poorly, or if he says something disparaging about Parris in public. The ultimate question is, "Do you like me enough, do you consider me valuable enough to our community, to do me a favor?"


                          I call the Integrity-analogue the "subjective stat".
                          An explanation how to use Social Manuevering.
                          Guanxi Explanations: 1, 2, 3.

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                          • #28
                            Errol216 I am stealing this great breakdown of the guanxi mechanic.

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                            • #29
                              I think the description in the book is purposefully simplifed for ease of explanation. There's usually a level of polite deception to gift economies beyond what's described. The two sides basically make every attempt to give the apperance of being as amicable as possible even though both know that there's really a trade going on.

                              I think Khonsu giving Paris the book as a gift is perhaps a little too forceful, because he's forcing him to accept it. If you see examples of gift exchanging behaviour I think it'd be more that Khonsu shows Paris the book, then Paris if he's willing to accept the gift signals that by praising it and saying how good it is. Then Khonsu can give it as gift.


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                              • #30
                                Some real cultures have rules against accepting gifts on initial offers, in fact, as a result of this. IIRC, Japanese custom is to refuse twice, regardless, for example. This makes you seem more sincere about wanting to give or receive. (whichever side you're on)


                                Grump, grouse, and/or gripe.

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