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Old 01-31-2011, 03:25 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

The system of Path/Book magic is a decent fit for a secret magic campaign emulating various magical traditions which people in the real world believed (or still believe) offered mystical powers.

In GURPS Thaumatology there are various flavourful options under Mandatory and Significant Modifiers (p. 82) that are particularly suitable for emulating the Western Hermetic tradition of the Cabal. The high bonuses that can be accumulated by leveraging Decanic Correspondance, Decanic Nature, Zodiacal Correspondences and Planetary Correspondences can make magic viable in a Low Mana or even Very Low Mana worlds.

The problem is, the decans and the specific correspondances associated with them are a very Hermetic idea. Magical traditions based on Zoroastrian concepts, Jewish (as opposed to Hermetic) Kabbalah or Nordic rune magic would lose a lot of their flavour if the same Decans governed their use.

On the other hand, if the only magical tradition that could accumulate these large bonuses was the Hermetic one, that would clearly be the only viable tradition in the setting. Any magical system that is affected by the penalties for Low Mana and Very Low Mana absolutely requires some way to accumulate bonuses up to +15 or more if it is going to be worth spending points on.

Clearly, I need a list of similar modifiers that is more suited to each individual magical tradition.

I'm going to have to make up such a list for the Zoroastrian tradition and Kabbalah, which will both be Path-based on my setting. I also, probably, need one for voudon. It would not hurt to have one for Catholic mysticism, probably influenced by the Hermetic one, but with individual saints instead of decans.

What do I need from the forumites?

First, does anyone have links to online resources on the Sephiroth and what kind of places, materials, colors, metals, stones, plants, creatures, scents, body parts and tools might be associated with each sephirah? Also, if anyone has actually featured Kabbalah in their campaigns, does anyone have insights of their own about this?

Second, the same question, but about the six Amesha Spenta of Zoroastrianism. What are the associations* with each of them? Also, should I complicate things by having all six Amesha Spentas and additionally, Ahura Mazda himself, Mithra, Apam Napat and enough yazatas to make up 12 or 19 fields? This would entail having subordinate fields, so that there would be, for example, one Amesha Spenta with dominion over wholeness, health and water and under that, perhaps, a specific water dominion.

Third, what bonuses are appropriate for Kabbalah and Zoroastrian magic? Sympathy bonuses would obviously fit Kabbalah, but do they fit Zoroastrian magic? What about Contagion? True Names?

Sacrifices fit Zoroastrian magic, but does anyone know if Kabbalah has a concept of ritual sacrifice? Or would that be contrary to the tradition?

*That is to say, what gives bonuses on castings that are regulated by each of them. I've already figured out which rituals fit under each.

Edit: I'm still trying for the same feel, but am using the Ritual Path Magic system for campaigns set in 2018 and later. I'm looking for suggestions on how best to maintain a similar feel as I'm trying for in this thread with RPM.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

Well, virtually all magical traditions that I've come across include something roughly analogous to the Laws of Magic from Thaumatology, so that can be used to close the gap a little. The idea of huge tables of correspondence are (AFAIK) a fairly uniquely Hermetic concept -- Traditional (Jewish) Kabbalah doesn't include anything quite like Decanic Correspondence. The closest that I can think of (not being a dedicated Kabbalist myself) is their use of gematria to find "numerological" correspondences between words with the same numerical value (each Hebrew letter has a corresponding number, and so each word has a value made up of adding all the letters up). Hermetic magic occasionally uses the same techniques.

Voudon magic is more about calling down the Lwa/Loa to "ride" the magician, in order to gain supernatural powers. Again, Hermetic magic uses many of the same techniques, in this case called "Invocation" (to "call within").

I don't know much of anything about Zoroastrian mysticism, so I won't be much help there.

All of that might not help your problem much, though ... Western Hermetic magic has absorbed basically everything it could find in other traditions, while "orthodox" mystical traditions (those specifically related to non-occult religion) tend to perpetuate only a handful of practices. In that light, it makes sense to me that a syncretic tradition (like Hermeticism) would have more working techniques, and thus more potential bonuses.

EDIT: Also of note is that, by default, Mana Level doesn't affect Path/Book magic. The original Decanic/Hermetic magic system in GURPS Cabal was based on normal spells-as-skills magic. You could easily institute something similar for Path/Book magic (all casting rolls get a -5 or -10, etc), or use the options under Path/Book Magery (Thaum p. 123) to make magic possible but hard for non-mages, etc.

Last edited by CousinX; 01-31-2011 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

Quote:
Originally Posted by CousinX View Post
EDIT: Also of note is that, by default, Mana Level doesn't affect Path/Book magic. The original Decanic/Hermetic magic system in GURPS Cabal was based on normal spells-as-skills magic. You could easily institute something similar for Path/Book magic (all casting rolls get a -5 or -10, etc), or use the options under Path/Book Magery (Thaum p. 123) to make magic possible but hard for non-mages, etc.
Mana levels affecting Path/Book magic is an option given in Thaumatology and applies in my setting. Non-mages can use Path/Book magic at a basic -6.

In addition, using 'mundane' languages to conduct magical rituals is at a hefty penalty. This penalty is -5 for widespread languages used in daily life by millions and gradually lessens down to 0 for such 'standard' magical languages as Coptic, Latin, Koine Greek, Old Norse or Gaelic. Carribean creole is -2, for reference.

More esoteric languages grant bonuses of +1 (Attic Greek, Biblical Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew, Demotic Egyptian, Langage), +2 (Ancient Aramaic, Avestan, Classical Sanskrit, Middle Egyptian) and even +3 (Akkadian, Archaic Egyptian, Gathic, Sumerian, Vedic Sanskrit).

Of course, the language must fit the tradition being learnt and the adept may be limited to the language in which the rituals are inscribed. Using a language you know at less than Native level can be dangerous and requires an IQ or Linguistics check before you can perform the ritual, with a -1 for Accented and -3 for Broken level. Lack of Cultural Familiarity gives a further -3 to this check. Failure causes the spell to fail, with or without catastrophic results.

Of course, the fact that proper pronounciation of the most ancient languages is not often known and Cultural Familiarities with long-lost societies are not easily available means that the higher bonuses are rarely claimed. Few people known the Spoken form of dead languages at more than Broken and almost none at above Accented. On the other hand, the IQ or Linguistic roll can make use of supporting skills such as Anthropology, an appropriate History speciality, an appropriate Literature speciality or an appropriate Theology speciality.

Even more occult languages exist in the setting, theorised to have been the 'original' languages of magic or at least of each tradition. These appear to include a form of proto-Sumerian and probably others. These grant up to +5 to the ritual roll, but knowing them at Native level might require an Unusual Background. Failures using those languages are even more dangerous than regular failures.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:45 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

For Kabbalah you might consider allowing Symbol Drawing and to give a bonus.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:47 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
For Kabbalah you might consider allowing Symbol Drawing and to give a bonus.
Yeah, I do that.

Unfortunately, that only results in +1 or +2, a far cry from the +15 that decanic correspondances and suchlike can amass. I'm also considering a Mathematics (Gematria) skill that would give the same bonus as Symbol Drawing and could be combined with it.

Do you know if sacrifices are inappropriate for Kabbalah?
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:58 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Yeah, I do that.

Unfortunately, that only results in +1 or +2, a far cry from the +15 that decanic correspondances and suchlike can amass. I'm also considering a Mathematics (Gematria) skill that would give the same bonus as Symbol Drawing and could be combined with it.
Mathematics is easier than Ritual Magic; if you make that the base skill for Kabbalah it gets an effective +1 over other traditions. Also Kabbalah is a meditative tradition. You could give Meditation a significant roll, or even make it an energy gathering tradition instead of effect shaping and allow Kabbalists to gather energy by mediation. The Sephiroth are really more like mystical mental states achieved by devotional mediation than anything else. A successful Meditation roll could allow a Kabbalist a huge bonus to specific effects by entering into the correct Sephiroth.

Another thing to consider is that Hermetic magic has as many negative magical influences as positive. You could emphasize the penalties for the Decanic tradition and make sure other traditions suffer less penalties in general.

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Do you know if sacrifices are inappropriate for Kabbalah?
Probably. It's something that's associated with older Jewish mysticism. Technically, Jews believe that without the Temple true sacrifice is impossible.
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Old 01-31-2011, 06:16 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
For Kabbalah you might consider allowing Symbol Drawing and to give a bonus.
Most magical traditions have some form of Symbol Drawing (and other ritual preparations) that could give similar bonuses.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Unfortunately, that only results in +1 or +2, a far cry from the +15 that decanic correspondances and suchlike can amass. I'm also considering a Mathematics (Gematria) skill that would give the same bonus as Symbol Drawing and could be combined with it.

Do you know if sacrifices are inappropriate for Kabbalah?
Math (Gematria) could definitely be a suitable prep skill for Kabbalah, as well as Hermetic magic. As for sacrifices, I know of fairly few traditions that use live sacrifices (Santeria and a few similar traditions do animal sacrifice, and persistent rumors insist that many Left-Hand traditions do that and more), but sacrifices of goods (incense, food, etc) are appropriate to most. I don't know if it's something that orthodox Kabbalists do, but as sir_pudding pointed out, sacrifice is/has been a feature of exoteric Judaism, so it's not a stretch to suspect it might be a feature of esoteric practice as well.


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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
Mathematics is easier than Ritual Magic; if you make that the base skill for Kabbalah it gets an effective +1 over other traditions.
I think he meant using it as a "support skill" to give a bonus to casting spells, rather than basing casting rolls themselves off the Math skill.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
Also Kabbalah is a meditative tradition. You could give Meditation a significant roll, or even make it an energy gathering tradition instead of effect shaping and allow Kabbalists to gather energy by mediation. The Sephiroth are really more like mystical mental states achieved by devotional mediation than anything else. A successful Meditation roll could allow a Kabbalist a huge bonus to specific effects by entering into the correct Sephiroth.
Yes and no. I've heard dedicated Kabbalists heap contempt on the Tree of Life and Sephirot, claiming that they're little more than a logo for Kabbalism. They're fairly important in Hermetic magic (most Hermetic initiatory societies have grade structures based on the Sephirot), but orthodox Kabbalists tend to ignore them IME.

That said, most mystical traditions use Meditation (or some sort of altered state of consciousness), like most traditions have some form of Symbol Drawing. I could totally see a Meditation roll acting as a support skill for ritual magic. Breath Control too ... Hermetic tradition incorporates a lot of yogic breathing techniques, more as a means of entering the afformentioned altered states than to recover FP.

Last edited by CousinX; 01-31-2011 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 01-31-2011, 06:26 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

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Originally Posted by CousinX View Post
Most magical traditions have some form of Symbol Drawing (and other ritual preparations) that could give similar bonuses.
Not if you want (as the OP does) to give an advantage to Kabbalah over those other traditions. In which case you can make Symbol Drawing magically effective for the one and not the others.

Quote:
I don't know if it's something that orthodox Kabbalists do, but as sir_pudding pointed out, sacrifice is/has been a feature of exoteric Judaism, so it's not a stretch to suspect it might be a feature of esoteric practice as well.
That's exactly the opposite of what I said. Most Jewish traditions believe that there cannot be sacrifices since the loss of the Temple. There's a practice (Hasidic, I believe) of killing a chicken as a sort of sin offering, the people that practice this are very clear to draw a distinction that this practice isn't sacrifice, because sacrifices can only be made by priests at the Temple.

Quote:
I think he meant using it as a "support skill" to give a bonus to casting spells, rather than basing casting rolls themselves off the Math skill.
Right, and I'm saying it's even simpler to base it on an easier skill, if you want to differentiate Decanic from Kabbalic practice.

Quote:
That said, most mystical traditions use Meditation (or some sort of altered state of consciousness), like most traditions have some form of Symbol Drawing. I could totally see a Meditation roll acting as a support skill for ritual magic. Breath Control too ... Hermetic tradition incorporates a lot of yogic breathing techniques, more as a means of entering the afformentioned altered states than to recover FP.
Isn't the goal here to make the traditions different?
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Old 01-31-2011, 06:36 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

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Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
Not if you want (as the OP does) to give an advantage to Kabbalah over those other traditions. In which case you can make Symbol Drawing magically effective for the one and not the others.
I thought he wanted to balance the systems, making them competitive with one another, rather than allowing Decanic Hermeticism to dominate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
That's exactly the opposite of what I said. Most Jewish traditions believe that there cannot be sacrifices since the loss of the Temple. There's a practice (Hasidic, I believe) of killing a chicken as a sort of sin offering, the people that practice this are very clear to draw a distinction that this practice isn't sacrifice, because sacrifices can only be made by priests at the Temple.
Oh, then I misunderstood you ... in that case, I disagree. Sacrifice has been an important part of Judaism since its early recorded history. Of note is the fact that orthodox Kabbalists are also Rabbis.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
Right, and I'm saying it's even simpler to base it on an easier skill, if you want to differentiate Decanic from Kabbalic practice.
Ah, I see. I wouldn't do it that way, but I understand your point.


Quote:
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Isn't the goal here to make the traditions different?
Again, I thought Icelander's goal was to balance the traditions (and their magical prowess) against one another.

Anyway, I'm just trying to provide what I know about real-world magical traditions. He (and everyone) can use the information as he'd like, or not.

Last edited by CousinX; 01-31-2011 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 01-31-2011, 06:45 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Thaumatology] Real world magical traditions

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I thought he wanted to balance the systems, making them competitive with one another, rather than allowing Decanic Hermeticism to dominate.
Ok, isn't allowing Decanic practice to get the same bonuses as Kabbalic practice and a bunch of Decanic bonuses too working in the wrong direction? If Symbol Drawing doesn't do anything for Decanic magic mechanically (not that they don't use symbols, just that those symbols aren't mystically potent in the setting), but does help Kaballah then that helps to balance them.

Quote:
Oh, then I misunderstood you ... in that case, I disagree. Sacrifice has been an important part of Judaism since its early recorded history.
Can you cite a source? I've just read an account of the chicken killing practice I mentioned and the author made a huge point of how it wasn't a sacrifice. I've read elsewhere that the reason that modern Jews are able to ignore the commandants of sacrifice is because they no longer have the Temple, and therefore are currently exempt.
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