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Mystics

Mystics are otherwise normal people who are able to bend extradimensional forces to their wills to work what some would call "magic". A very diverse origin, there are many different traditions and disciplines of mystics in the modern era, each with its own history, cultural heritage, approaches, and esoterism.

By default, the Here There Be Monsters setting assumes that mystics are relatively rare. However, many mystical traditions have various ways of expanding one's own lifespan by decades or even centuries. Therefore while each generation may only produce a small number of new mystics, the most successful or luckiest will live on for quite some time and thus pad out the total numbers a bit.

Some people are born able to naturally and intuitively work magic; this natural ability runs in families, and a few dozen old bloodlines continue to exist with a heritage of producing many mystics over successive generations. However, most people who lack such an intuitive capability can still learn to work magic through extremely rigorous and difficult study...though success is not guaranteed and many years of thankless diligence may pass before even being able to manage the simplest of spells.

Except for those lucky enough to be born with the knack, learning is best done under the tutelage of a master, mentor, or group willing to undertake the lengthy and fraught exercise of attempting to elevate an initiate. This usually comes at some toll to the would-be learner, ranging from years of servitude, to pledges of loyalty, to darker costs.

Mystic Ability Set

Most mystics have a Mystic Ability Set, in which various Ability traits and a Limit that is common to Mystics are contained. The most common basic Mystic Ability Set is provided below.

Mystic

Senses: d6
Stamina: d6
Willpower: d6
Warding: d6

Limit: Supernatural Aura: You have a supernatural aura that is detectable by those with special senses. Gain one (1) Plot Point when this becomes a Complication for you.

Senses taken in a Mystic Ability Set are understood to grant the character an ability to detect supernatural emanations, auras, and so forth. Stamina and Willpower represent the impressive vitality many mystics exhibit. Warding represents a mystic's ability to resist supernatural attacks. The non-optional Supernatural Aura Limit represents the fact that mystics are marked in ways that are detectable by others who are sensitive to supernatural forces.

Some mystics take a few or even none of these Ability traits, and some might take the Ability traits at higher or lower steps. It is less common but not unheard of for individual Mystics to take other Ability traits such as Fortitude or Durability, and possibly one or more SFX or other Limits that have something to do with their mystical origin.

Mystical Traditions

Beyond the basic Mystic Ability Set, each distinct mystical tradition is defined by a specific Vocation and one or more additional Ability Sets, with some mechanical guidelines around how that particular tradition's form of magic is represented. The most common traditions of mystics in the Here There Be Monsters setting are summarized below and each receives detailed mechanical coverage in their own linked to sections.

  • Eldritch: some humans are simply born with one or more mystical Gifts, which allow them to intuitively work magic in specific ways. Tending towards individualism or familial alliances, these innately gifted individuals typically stand apart from more learned forms of mysticism.
  • Artificers: mystics able to channel and trap magic in material form; in the modern era the most common type of artificers by far are Alchemists who typically produce powders, potions, poultices and the like, by precisely following very particular recipes.
  • Mysterians: mystics who practice Ars Mysteria, an early Hermetic art that focuses exclusively on mastering very specific rote effects, prefering safety and reliablity over flexibility.
  • Spellbinders: mystics who practice Ars Mercuria, a more flexible but less reliable and more dangerous form of Hermetic magic bordering on sorcery.
  • Wizards: mystic pragmatists emerging from the Middle Ages, adapting elements of older Hermetic traditions as well as those of artificers and various other disciplines, into a "whatever works" hybrid that somewhat arrogantly came to be called Ars Magicka. In the modern era it is the most dominant and common form of organized mystical practice in the western world, with various Houses, Lodges, Orders, and Societies practicing subtly different but compatible flavors. Such groups are somewhat factionalized, territorial, political, and competitive, but generally willing to ally together when it serves their purposes.
  • Demonologists: mystics able to interact with dangerous extradimensional entities, many of which are inimical to corporeal life. Demonology is forbidden by the Accords of Secrecy and Abeyance; those who practice this black art in the modern era must do so either in secret or in ungoverned places. An extremely dangerous discipline, many would-be demonologists suffer a sordid end due to mishap or terminal mistake...but those who survive tend to be quite formidable.
  • Necromancers: mystics able to manipulate the forces of life and death, as well as create and manipulate undead entities. Necromancy is also forbidden by the Accords, but is much more commonly practiced than Demonology. Notably, some seemingly respectable Hermetics have been discovered to have secretly dabbled in this art, typically in pursuit of eternal life or perhaps to bring back a loved one.
  • Elementalists: mystics able to interact with the primal forces of earth, air, fire, and water. Elementalists come to understand reality in a highly metaphorical manner, whereby beyond their obvious and superficial properties the elements are also essential constituents of every physical, sensory, mental, and spiritual phenomenon.
  • Spiritualists: mystics able to interact with ethereal entities, the Astral Plane, and possibly even the so-called "souls" of the living.

In the modern age and in the western world the dominant Hermetic disciplines of Wizardry, Spellbinding, Mysteria, and Alchemy generally co-align...particularly when it comes to Accords related maneuvering. In the rest of the world, practitioners of various elementalist, spiritualist, and darker arts tend to follow their own paths...with a few notable exceptions.

In addition to these larger groups of mystics, there are many smaller and even secret esoteric arts, crafts, and lores to be found in the world...as well as some long lived practitioners who practice older mystical traditions that have since faded into obscurity, otherwise lost to the mists of time. Players and GM's are encouraged to define alternate traditions of magic, using the provided traditions as examples.

There are also mystics who are pragmatists, with a esoteric practice that is a combination of elements borrowed from established traditions or independently re-discovered. Though generally an individualistic pursuit, various groups have practiced a formalized or recognized hodgepodge of concepts, such as Chinese sorcerers (Elementalism & Alchemy), some so-called witches (Daemonology, Mysteria, Alchemy), and black wizards (Wizardry and Daemonology).

Vocations, Ability Traits, SFX, and Limits

Some mystic traditions are built, wholly or partially, around the Spells Ability trait which can be stepped down to emulate other Ability traits, while other traditions take various Ability traits directly instead of (or in some cases in addition to) the Spells trait. Additionally, some traditions require certain SFX and / or Limits be taken by practitioners. The combination of these mechanical considerations and the special exploits granted by a tradition's associated Vocation allow for a fair amount of differentiation. Thus for example a Wizard and a Spellbinder, though similar in many ways, will still play differently from one another.

It is also permissible for a character to take more than one mystical Vocation and some capabilities relevant to each of them. As long as such capabilities are kept distinct from one another and a coherent character concept is adhered to this is fine; the cost in Advances is sufficient curb against abuse.

Extradimensional Interaction

By default, in the Here There Be Monsters setting all overt magic is the result of channeling or manipulating extradimensional energies, and thus all mystical traditions are ultimately just different ways for a mystic to interact with extradimensional forces...whether knowingly or not.

It is dangerous for mortal minds to fully comprehend the true nature of reality and thus many individual practitioners and even entire traditions instead understand their magic in some esoteric or metaphorical way. But the most enlightened mystics, through either talent or rigorous discipline, are able to see beyond the veil of mystery and perceive the cosmos as it actually is...at least on occasion. Such mystics have the potential to surpass human artifice, rituals, and trappings to work sublime and terrible magics untethered by the limitations of their traditions.

Individual GM's can decide whether to incorporate this conceptualization or not in their campaigns, and if so to what degree or in what direction they wish to take it.