Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > Roleplaying in General

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 09-23-2017, 01:56 PM   #1
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default foci in MtA

Since my first regular session of Mage: The Ascension is eight days from now, I've been doing NPC writeups. And I find that it's a little tricky coming up with plausible sets of foci.

On one hand, you can try to come up with foci that fit the Spheres: hourglasses or pocket watches or electronic oscillators or your own pulse for Time, for example; herbs or beer or animal organs for Life, and so on.

On the other hand, doing it that way can produce awfully incoherent lists. You can end up looking like the White Knight's horse, carrying all sort of miscellaneous clutter that you're going to want when you work magic. And the association with the Sphere may not also give you a plausible association with the idea of magic (or of "advanced science").

It really seems as if there ought to be a coherent style of working magic for a character, and the foci ought to be objects that make sense in that style. And ideally they ought also to be objects that fit into the practical task you're going to want to perform.

So, for example, I was building an Order of Hermes character who belongs to House Fortunae. And some things work pretty straightforwardly for that: numbers and numerology for Entropy, for one, or counting for Time, or gemstones for Prime. But I had trouble with Mind as something that could fit into either the high formal style of the OoH or the numerical style of Fortunae. I thought of using coins as a focusócoins embody value, and offering someone value gives you insight into their motivesóbut this seems more like a Syndicate technique than OoH's elaborate ceremonies; and I'm not seeing "I hold up/throw down/fiddle with a gold coin" as having the right look and feel for mind magic, somehow. Nor as fitting in with the other foci I was coming up with for this character's magical style.

Have you played M:tA, or GURPS M:tA, or any system that used foci in casting spells? How did you deal with these things?
__________________
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2017, 05:27 PM   #2
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: foci in MtA

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Have you played M:tA, or GURPS M:tA, or any system that used foci in casting spells? How did you deal with these things?
I've played a moderate amount of GURPS M:tA, and it doesn't break if you don't worry about foci. When we've used them, they have tended to be symbolic tools for the task at hand, which I agree is difficult for Mind. For an Order of Hermes mage, you could use the full decanic system from GURPS Thaumatology. It's kind of complex, but adds lots of flavour.
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2017, 06:21 PM   #3
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: foci in MtA

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
I've played a moderate amount of GURPS M:tA, and it doesn't break if you don't worry about foci. When we've used them, they have tended to be symbolic tools for the task at hand, which I agree is difficult for Mind. For an Order of Hermes mage, you could use the full decanic system from GURPS Thaumatology. It's kind of complex, but adds lots of flavour.
So are you envisioning saying "elaborately complicated ritual magic, involving astrological signs, classical elements, geometrical designs, arcane scripts, symbolic affinities and so on" for every act of magic? Or do you think that, narratively speaking, there are particular decanic modifiers that make particular sense for Mind effects?

At this point I don't have a PC who uses anything that formalóa Verbena, two Dreamspeakers, a Romany Euthanatos, and an orphan. But I may want to show them what high ritual magic looks like at some point.
__________________
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 03:14 AM   #4
RogerBW
 
RogerBW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: near London, UK
Default Re: foci in MtA

The cabalistic system of correspondences tends to lead to a tackle-box full of exotic substances (a dead giveaway if anyone who knows about this stuff searches your luggage), which may not be what Bill's after.

I think that starting with a coherent vision of how the character views magic should generate ideas for foci.

High formal Mind: a phrenologist's model head, a representation of Maslow's hierarchy, a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Numerical/probabilistic Mind: anything involving electronic neural networks, a set of NPC reaction dice.
RogerBW is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 04:59 AM   #5
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: foci in MtA

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
So are you envisioning saying "elaborately complicated ritual magic, involving astrological signs, classical elements, geometrical designs, arcane scripts, symbolic affinities and so on" for every act of magic?
Well, that could be a Flaw for a Hermetic mage. But I was more thinking of when a Hermetic was getting near the limits of his power and needed all the edges he could get. Sorry for not saying so; I was a little rushed at the time.

Roger's suggestions make sense for Mind.
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 07:27 AM   #6
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: foci in MtA

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
I think that starting with a coherent vision of how the character views magic should generate ideas for foci.

High formal Mind: a phrenologist's model head, a representation of Maslow's hierarchy, a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Numerical/probabilistic Mind: anything involving electronic neural networks, a set of NPC reaction dice.
The general principle seems sound, though most of the examples (other than the model head!) are anachronistic in 1905. I think perhaps I need to look for more information on House Fortunae. Though checking the White Wolf Wiki, I see that they are actually founded in 1910, five years after the current campaign date, so perhaps any proto-Fortunae are still sticking closer to the original Hermetic paradigm at this point.

So what is the OoH model of the human mind? Are they going off of the four humors with their elemental associations? That would seem to put Life and Mind close together, as those associations also govern physical health. I suppose you might look for herbs and stones and other things that have associations with earth, water, air, or fire?

Alternatively, a bridge toward a numerically based view might be Pythagoreanism, and especially its association of mathematics with music, linked to the old concept of harmony as a state of mind. Maybe the adoption of equal temperament was an early Technocratic triumph, one that shifted all harmonies away from the "true" ratios of 3:2, 4:3, 5:3, 5:4, and so on to irrational numbers, and in the process did away with making one tone central to having all twelve tones be equally central. In that case, music with authentic premodern tunings might be a focus for some Hermetics. Early Fortunae might use medieval and Renaissance music as a way to focus the mind.f

Looking at the White Wolf Wiki, I see a mention of the idea that Fortunae and the Syndicate oppose each other in that Fortunae emphasizes the spiritual nature of money. Within the metaphysics I've been working with, the Technocratic paradigm is that society determines reality; so the value of money would come from the subjective consensus of society, whether that consensus was on gold or Bank of England notes. But Hermetics in general might favor the idea that value is an intrinsic, objective property, making them inclined to belief in specie being the only true money.

In GURPS Thaumatology, the colleges that go with mind seem to be Communication and Empathy, Mind Control, and to a degree Illusion and Creation. That's the decans of Methiax, Maoth, and Ruax. But I'm not seeing much help in the lists of places and materials for those; they seem to have a bit too much of a modern or even postmodern feel.
__________________
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 08:31 AM   #7
sir_pudding
Wielder of Smart Pants
 
sir_pudding's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ventura CA
Default Re: foci in MtA

What about items associated with Thoth (idols, ibis feathers, baboon fur), the goetic numerology of Da'at and/or Chokmah, and swords?
sir_pudding is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 09:17 AM   #8
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: foci in MtA

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
What about items associated with Thoth (idols, ibis feathers, baboon fur), the goetic numerology of Da'at and/or Chokmah, and swords?
Swords (or other blades) seem kind of appropriate as Hermetic symbolism, though perhaps a bit overt for coincidental use.

I'm thinking that the Cabal system actually isn't what I want. Yes, it has an aspect of high ritual magic. But it's also based on the laws of Similarity and Contagion, which were formulated by Frazer, I believe, on the basis of a study of ancient and present-day tribal magical beliefs. That is, at worst, they were a description of hedge magic, and at best of the kind of thing Dreamspeakers might go in for. I don't think the Hermetic tradition actually uses those principles, and a system built up from them for gaming purposes may not be a good fit.

I could see adopting the decanic system as a Hermetic formalism, no problem. But if it were used to affect Mind, it seems as if the entire system would be a model of Mind, just as an entire horoscope, alll seven planets and twelve signs, is a model of the person it's cast for.
__________________
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 09:29 AM   #9
sir_pudding
Wielder of Smart Pants
 
sir_pudding's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ventura CA
Default Re: foci in MtA

A Christianized kabbalah sepriothic tree was absolutely a thing that existed in Hermetic occultism in the real world, and definitely predates Frazer and certainly GURPS Cabal.

What about the seal of Dantalion, who according to the Ars Goetia can grant telepathy?
sir_pudding is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2017, 10:18 AM   #10
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: foci in MtA

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
A Christianized kabbalah sepriothic tree was absolutely a thing that existed in Hermetic occultism in the real world, and definitely predates Frazer and certainly GURPS Cabal.

What about the seal of Dantalion, who according to the Ars Goetia can grant telepathy?
The former is parallel to using the decanic system, which as I understand it was part of magic long before the Middle Ages. I don't necessarily see a problem with it, though I'm not sure how it would fit into Mage: There's Kabbalah in Ars Magica, which is sort of the baseline for the Order of Hermes, but it seems to be separate from Hermetic arts, and it might almost make better sense for it to have been adopted by the Celestial Chorus. On the other hand, the later Order of Hermes seems to have gotten eclectic.

As to the latter, can you supply a quotation? And is there a generic class of magical things that can be used for similar effects, say for impulse projection or illusion creation or mind control?
__________________
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
whswhs is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
mage the ascension

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 01:03 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.