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[2E] Homebrew Path and Merit

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  • [2E] Homebrew Path and Merit

    I’ve developed the following Path and Merit to give rules support to certain much-cherished character-concept ideas of mine. They are supposed to be used with the Circle of Degrees official hack (Mage Chronicler’s Guide p. 101) that allows every mage to have a personal Path with any two Ruling Arcana and one Inferior Arcanum in any possible combination. The Path is broadly based on the Ravas one (found here, used without permission) with a few important tweaks. The Merit works best in combination with the Circle of Degrees hack since it assumes a freeform and de-emphasized approach to Paths, but I suppose it might be used w/o it (a version of the Merit that works with the canon five-Path system can be found here).

    Bassarids, Celebrants on the Path of Vitality, Scions of the Watchtower of the Stormswept Thorn in the Realm of the Wildlands, Kingdom of Nature and Abode of Titans.

    Ruling Arcana: Forces and Life
    Inferior Arcanum: Time or Death

    The land of the Stormswept Thorn is a forest that gives way to jungle that gives way to desert, which ends in an ocean, then freezes over, gives way to tundra, and then starts all over again. It is eternally swept by storms, floods, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, lightning, earthquakes, and all other manifestations of unbridled natural forces. There is nothing but pure, vibrant wilderness in the land of the Watchtower of Vitality. Only the primal, unspoiled world as it used to be, as it should be. The Bassarid mage understands the power of nature in its most intimate form. She feels empowered in a way that leaves her brimming with energy and ecstatic with abandon. She is finally free, for the first time in her life. Power courses through her, her shape is hers to do with it as she wills. Nothing limits her, nobody dares to try and control her. Naked, crackling with lightning and turning her hands into claws, she is truly one with eternal nature.

    The Ruling Arcana of the Path explain the way the land of Nature shapes the magic of the Bassarid mage and informs her perspective. Forces is the Arcanum of energy, the wildfire, the storms, and the movements of the earth. The Bassarid mage instinctively knows how to become a living channel for nature’s fury. Life is the Arcanum of all living things, from the lowliest microbe to the largest whale. The Bassarid mage believes in the here and the now, in trusting her instincts, in following her passions, in giving in to life, no matter what form it takes.

    The Inferior Arcanum of the Path explains that which Bassarid mages cannot accept. They instinctively rebel against the notion that everything (including themselves) must end and fade away, death and decay cannot or should not be fought against, and there are things in the universe that will, effort, and change cannot conquer. The Supernal opposite of the Path is the theme of entropy that lies at the intersection of Death and Time. Depending on how the mage comes to synchronize with these Arcana during her Awakening, either can become her Inferior Arcanum. Time is a somewhat more frequent option than Death, because the Path has partially internalized the strategy of mastering Death to control entropy.

    Much like the Norse warriors of old, few mages fear and loath decay, degeneration, and the feebleness, wasting, and death of old age or disease more than the Bassarids. However they are much more willing to accept violent death and destruction as a necessary part of nature, a possible consequence of the clash of the elements or the struggle for existence. The Bassarids are also aware that time is necessary to give pattern and significance to events, and nature needs it to avoid being trapped in a meaningless stasis. Individual personalities may of course vary a lot, but to be in touch with the cosmic principles of energy and life force tends to leave a recognizable imprint. These characters may be introverted or extroverted, rational or emotional, but often their vitality projects outward, shaping them into tough, strong, and focused alpha types or fun-loving, flighty, and experience-seeking dynamos. Sometimes it turns inward, turning them into deep, intense, and serious perfectionists with a rich inner life.

    They are rarely peaceful, submissive, humble, passive, depressed, or apathetic, and their calm has a deceptive quality; perceptive observers can still notice the strength hidden in their depths. They may be expected to pour their inner energy in eager pursuit of whatever they care about with frightening intensity, be it an obsessive lifelong goal, a few cherished interests, or the fleeting passion of the moment. It might be companionship, happiness, sensual pleasure, service, knowledge, power, personal excellence, novelty, or an ideal. Being Awakened, they usually focus a large portion of their vitality on pursuit of Obsessions, Mysteries, mystical knowledge, and magical power. They may or may not be spiritual individuals, but usually not of the kind that praises self-denial, a focus on the afterlife, or submission to an higher power. They tend to be among the mages most interested in the quest for immortality. Even those that do not seek it usually live their lives to the fullest, pursue self-realization, and strive to create some kind of lasting achievement or legacy.

    The Nimbus of a Bassarid mage often includes such elements as a scent of blood, brimstone, or ozone, sparks of fire or electricity, a strong rutting instinct or fighting urge, the hallucination of predatory animals, or a feeling of intoxication or being threatened. It may involve such odd phenomena as spontaneous combustion or electricity discharge, blackouts, animals being attracted to the area or going into a frenzy, plants blossoming or showing rapid growth, extreme shifts in ambient temperature and weather patterns, strange pathogens infecting people, or chronic/terminal diseases going into remission.

    Path tools for Bassarid mages require items or materials that have strong resonance with the themes of natural forces, vitality, primal wilderness, or the struggle for existence. Suitable options may include steel, copper, obsidian, volcanic rock, horn, or ivory. Alternatively, any material from the remains of natural disasters, sex, childbirth, long-lived or hardy creatures, predatory animals, or fertile, healthy, and youthful individuals. High-quality blade weapons may also be suitable.

    To the Bassarid, the world looks pulsing with life and bursting with power. By paying attention with their Mage Sight, they can perceive it as an impossibly vast, detailed, and ever-changing configuration of countless animate energy patterns and life-forms being continuously and endlessly born, growing, clashing and struggling, merging or mating, transforming into each other, being killed or destroyed, and re-created. By focusing their Mage Sight, they can sense how every single thing plays its part in the greater whole.

    Bassarid mages can summon the Titans from the Wildlands, which include the Elementals and the Primordials. The Elementals are animate constructs of elemental forces and the energies of the universe, equivalents of the Seraphim with little or no angelic imagery and mannerisms. They typically show up as elemental phenomena or constantly-moving bundles of energy. They have a primal and forthright attitude and scarce interest in issues of virtue and morality. They can give advice or assistance about elemental magic, making war, or matters of energy and movement.

    The Primordials are archetypal versions of the Atavisms that express the evolutionary potential of life in a vast array of optimized forms. They generally resemble various kinds of creatures, including existing, extinct, fantastic, or utterly alien plants or animals. As a rule their forms fulfill the potential of some biological pattern to its highest degree. They are definitely animalistic, but usually able to emulate cognition through intuition and refined instinct enough to be conversed with. They can even express human-like reason if the potential for it somehow belongs in their pattern – intelligence is a very useful trait from an evolutionary standpoint. The Primordials can advise a mage on how to use the Life Arcanum to heal, harm, or enhance the body. They can also provide information and assistance about shapeshifting magic, animals and plants, or uses of biological materials.

    Bassarid mages most commonly join the Adamantine Arrow, the Mysterium, the Free Council, or the Silver Ladder, in roughly similar numbers. These Orders’ ideals and interests harmonize fairly well with the Path’s drives and insights, or at least do not register as especially uncomfortable, so a Celebrant mage may easily feel a calling to join them. Relatively few Bassarids tend to show prevalent affinity for the Guardians of the Veil or the Seers of the Throne, although many exceptions exist. These Orders’ attitudes and practices often are at odds with the mindset the Path tends to foster. However, as with all things concerning human instincts, a sufficient amount of individual circumstances, conviction, or sheer convenience can overwhelm nature without excessive difficulty. As usual for mages, a few Celebrants may end up apostate or Nameless, or join Nameless Orders for various reasons, enhanced by the Path’s self-driven nature.

    Celebrants seem to embrace certain Left-Handed practices with a frequency the Orders find worrisome. Liches are rather common in the Path, almost as much as its members can successfully acquire the means of magical immortality. Typical Bassarid insights and attitudes create the widespread conviction that aging and death (especially by so-called natural causes) are part of the Lie, and mages should defy them by all means available and necessary. To a lesser degree, the Mad are also far from rare; Celebrant mages are often not very suited to practice subtlety or restraint, and may end up neglecting Wisdom to the point of losing it entirely. Scelesti are not so prevalent in comparison, but they do exist, most frequently out of a misguided drive to use the Abyss’ power to break down limitations or control Paradox. Reapers and more so Banishers are fairly rare: the Bassarids tend to love what they are, and do not usually seek to master Death in order to abuse its power on souls. The Reapers that are also Liches are the not so rare exception.

    Thrice-Great (••• or •••••)
    Prerequisite: Gnosis ••• (••• version) or Gnosis ••••• (••••• version)
    Effect: The mage with this Merit managed to adjust and broaden his Supernal resonance to include a significantly greater span of affinities. This may happen during the Awakening, or with subsequent exploration of a Mystery or portion of the Realms Invisible with appropriate Supernal resonance, such as a Verge, Artifact, Supernal being, or an Astral travel to the citadels of the Aeons. With the three-dot version of the Merit, the character gains a third Ruling Arcanum for his Path, and all the Supernal affinities of the mage adjust to include it. This includes Mage Sight, the Nimbus, Path Yantras and Oblations, the Supernal beings the mage can summon, and any Demesne that includes a soulstone forged from a shard of his soul or a Supernal being he binds with Supernal Anchor. With the five-dot version, the mage expands his Supernal affinities so much that he effectively doubles his Path in mystical breadth. He gets four Ruling Arcana, with all the corresponding Supernal affinities.
    Drawback: Expanded Supernal resonance makes it much more difficult for a mage to reshape his Gnosis and align it with a Legacy, or develop his magic in areas that have a limited connection with his established affinities. With the three-dot version, the mage can only join, develop, or keep a Legacy that is based on one of his Ruling Arcana. With the five-dot version, he gets two Inferior Arcana, and becomes unable to join, develop, or keep any Legacy. He also has to pay double experience cost to learn a Praxis or Rote that does not have a Ruling Arcanum as its highest one.
    Note: The player chooses the new Ruling and Inferior Arcana with ST approval. To some degree, characters that have this Merit tend to develop a fairly flexible and holistic approach to magic and the Supernal.

    The Thrice-Great Merit is common among Celebrant mages, although by no means exclusive to them. Perhaps it happens because the variable nature of their Inferior Arcanum makes the borders of their Path’s Supernal resonance somewhat more flexible than most. Alternatively it might be related to their preferred approach to magic often being fairly freeform and holistic. However in such a case it is hard to tell if it is an effect or the cause of the Merit’s prevalence. It might even be an effect of opposition to limitations being one of the Path’s themes. Bassarid characters with this Merit often get Mind, Fate, Prime, or Death as additional Ruling Arcana.

    Affinity with Mind comes easily for them since it deals with emotions, thoughts, and dreams, and the Supernal theme of vitality aligns well with these aspects of reality. As a rule, the Path’s affinity with Mind tends to be strongest with the primal aspects of the Arcanum rather than the intellectual ones, but plenty of exceptions exist depending on the mage’s personality. They may often show instinctive proficiency with Fate since it is the Arcanum that changes causality and probability for the mage’s own ends, expressing the Path’s theme of breaking down limitations. Prime is another frequent option to broaden the Path, since it deals with truth, empowerment, and perfection, and so stands in opposition to the theme of entropy.

    Bassarid mages have a paradoxical relationship with Death since it is one of their typical Inferior Arcana, but also a relatively frequent option to get an additional Ruling Arcanum. The former is a consequence of the Path’s opposition to the Supernal theme of entropy, the latter may happen if the mage gets in tune with the Arcanum in a way that subverts, prevents, or exploits the same theme. Celebrants that show affinity with Death usually come to see it as an expression of the destructive aspects of nature or a tool to prevent decay and degeneration. They rarely express serious interest in necromancy, unless they come to regard the afterlife as a distinct but not so different aspect of existence with its own ecology. It is exceedingly rare for Bassarid mages to show a remarkable acceptance of endings or a morbid attitude as a result of their proficiency or affinity with Death.

    Nonetheless, Bassarids that develop the Thrice-Great Merit to its fullest extent may often get both Time and Death as their Inferior Arcana. In the case Time does not get so disfavored as to become Inferior, most often it happens because the Celebrant character comes to regard it as a way of controlling or exploiting the progression of events to the mage’s own benefit. It is very rare for a Bassarid to develop a fatalist attitude as a result of her study of Time or Fate. Matter is another Arcanum that may often become an Inferior one for a Bassarid mage, since it deals with static, inert things that have no life of their own and limit nature’s untamed forces. This can be avoided, or even inverted up to the point of making the Arcanum a Ruling one, if the mage is able to focus on Matter as a tool of transformation and perfection. Just as frequently, Space may get so out of synch with a Bassarid as to turn Inferior, because of the Path’s instinctual focus on the here and now.

    I welcome ideas and suggestions to define the Path's Tools and Oblations, how Mage Sight looks like for a Bassarid, and the features of the Abyssal twisting of the Path for Celebrant Nasnasi. I am tentatively thinking of a post-Apocalyptic wasteland for their Dur-Abzu. Demesnes that include a Bassarid soulstone obviously provide Yantra bonuses for Forces and Life (and any other Ruling Arcanum they may get with Thrice-Great). The name of the Path is a synonym for the Maenads, which I think fits them reasonably well and is sufficiently exotic. Celebrants is the common nickname of the Path.

    The Path is meant to be the lovechild of the elemental aspects of the Obrimos, without the quasi-religious ones, and the vitalist features of the Thyrsus, without the animist ones. It also has the peculiar feature of being in direct opposition to a theme that lies at the intersection between two different Arcana. Wholly embracing either option as the default seemed inadequate and unsatisfactory. So after much reflection I decided to make its Inferior Arcanum a kind of quantum-like, oscillating duality that according to the circumstances of Awakening may collapse and fall in either field. This unique feature also created the premises for a Merit that makes the borders of the Path broader and more flexible than most, at the price of a reduced aptitude for Legacies and magic that are not in synch with the Path’s focus.
    Last edited by Irioth; 01-24-2017, 11:07 AM.

  • #2
    About Bassarid Path tools, I was tentatively thinking of: steel, copper, obsidian and volcanic rock, any material from the remains of natural disasters, sex or childbirth, long-lived or hardy creatures, predatory animals, or fertile, healthy, and youthful individuals. Any other suggestions ? I welcome ideas about Oblations.
    Last edited by Irioth; 06-04-2016, 11:18 AM.

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    • #3
      I've added a section to the Path's writeup to describe Bassarid Path tools. They require items or materials that have strong resonance with the themes of natural forces, vitality, primal wilderness, or the struggle for existence. Suitable options may include: steel, copper, obsidian or volcanic rock, horn or ivory, or any material from the remains of natural disasters, sex or childbirth, long-lived or hardy creatures, predatory animals, or fertile, healthy, and youthful individuals. Any kind of high-quality blade weapons may also be suitable to replace the traditional knife. The latter might mean high-quality industrial blades, but it most definitely includes pattern-welded or bladesmithed swords, daggers, and knives of good quality, such as traditional Japanese swords, Damascus or Toledo steel weapons, or modern replicas done with similar techniques. Hunting weapons too might have been a valid option, but I'd prefer to ignore it to avoid excessive similarities with the Thyrsus.
      Last edited by Irioth; 06-05-2016, 11:52 AM.

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      • #4
        This is excellent! I especially liked the Supernal entities they summon, and the Thrice-Great Merit is incredibly useful with an interesting drawback. I liked it so much that it's motivating me to try and rewrite this Path I came up with a long time ago.


        "I hope you will have a long and happy life, if only so you can realize how stupid and wrong you are."

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        • #5
          Originally posted by GibberingEloquence View Post
          This is excellent! I especially liked the Supernal entities they summon, and the Thrice-Great Merit is incredibly useful with an interesting drawback. I liked it so much that it's motivating me to try and rewrite this Path I came up with a long time ago.
          I'm glad you appreciate it and find it useful. The Supernal entities the Celebrants may summon are meant to embody the symbolic affinities of Forces and Life, and the overall Path theme of Vitality, while being devoid of the religious/animistic features the Seraphim/Atavisms inherited from the Obrimos/Thyrsus. Thrice-Great is indeed quite useful if you want to inject a little more character-concept flexibility in the Path system; it assumes the Circle of Degrees freeform Path hack as a prerequisitem but I posted the link for a version that works with the canon five-Path system. Besides my own love of a freeform Arcana-affinities system that would allow to create novel Path concepts like this one, my inspiration to create the Merit came from the fact the Path's themes somehow project on the Arcana to fit a little too tight in the canon "two Ruling, one Inferior" system. So I made the Merit to compensate.

          It was fairly easy and rewarding for me to write this concept b/c in several ways, I am in touch and self-identify with this Path's themes, features, and ideals a great deal (especially when using Thrice-Great to get Mind as an extra Ruling Arcanum). Moreover, it was certainly fun and satisfying for me to write a Path concept that really gives the finger to the "immortality is bad wrong fun" meme and is entirely justified by its own Supernal insights to do so. The Moros shouldn't be the only ones to have a noteworthy and influential opinion on the issue.
          Last edited by Irioth; 06-14-2016, 07:26 AM.

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          • #6
            You know, for some reason, by reading this I got an idea of how the Path Arcanum as a Legacy Arcanum problem, as well as a situation when both your Legacy Arcana belong to your Path, could be solved more effectively than with a few additional XP. Without an overkill like an additional free Reach.

            It's simple: If your Ruling Legacy Arcanum belongs to your Path as well as the optional Legacy Arcanum does, the superior understanding of the Path as a whole means that spells cast with these Arcana as main components are automatically subject to achieving an exceptional success with three successes instead of five. More impact than a few XP, but not as good as an additional Reach. It also incentivises mages to have optional effects belong to their other Path Arcanum, which in the setting apparently happens most of the time anyway.

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            • #7
              I've given the writeup a slight revision, mostly to further clarify the relationship between the Path and the Merit, and to check if anything needed changes under 2E. I've tentatively thought of the following, to describe how Mage Sight works for these mages: "To the Bassarid, the world looks pulsing with life and bursting with power. By paying attention with their Mage Sight, they can perceive it as an impossibly vast, detailed, and ever-changing configuration of countless animate energy patterns and life-forms being continuously and endlessly born, growing, clashing and struggling, merging or mating, transforming into each other, being killed or destroyed, and re-created. By focusing their Mage Sight, they can sense how every single thing plays its part in the greater whole." Does it look right for how Mage Sight usually works, and fitting to include in the Path's description ?

              I've also given some thought to how the Path would fit in the Awakened Tarot. It seems perhaps they would best align with the Empress (to represent their affinity with the cosmic principle of vitality and their affinity with Life), Strength (signifying their affinity with Forces, and the fortitude they need to progress in their mystical development), and the Sun (to represent their forthright inspiration and purpose). To some, however, the Devil might be a better fit to represent the temptation of their unbridled passions turned to selfish and harmful ends. I welcome suggestions about the Path's Mysteries.
              Last edited by Irioth; 01-22-2017, 06:48 AM.

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