Thaumaturgy

Thaumaturgy


Thaumaturgy is a holistic, ritualized magic that refers to efficacious rituals and useful tricks that can be deployed by those who have a special communion with the occult world. Those who can perform thaumaturgy are properly known as thaumaturgists. Thaumaturgy is unique. As a form of magic, it is nowhere near as versatile as the Charms of the Exalted, nor as powerful as sorcery.

Thaumaturgy is a bit of a cipher in that regard—most thaumaturgists are mortals who, for unknown reasons, form an instinct for a single mystic ritual, a communion with an occult secret of Creation that remains invisible to anyone else. As thaumaturgists are unique individuals, so too are their rituals. This means that the instinctive secret or trick developed by one thaumaturgist might be completely unique to him, unseen in the world before his birth, and lost to the world after his death—unless he passes it on.

Thus thaumaturgy bears another distinction: books of thaumaturgy are useless for teaching thaumaturgy. A thaumaturgic ritual known to one thaumaturge may only be passed to another through direct teaching and practice. Simply observing the ritual in practice, or reading about it in a book isn’t sufficient. Such rituals are directly communicated and transmitted from thaumaturgist to thaumaturgist in a fashion that is one part spiritual communion, one part demonstration, and one part teaching lesson.

A thaumaturgist who is so inclined may keep his unique power a secret, never revealing the procedure behind his art. Such a specimen may rely on his unique talent for his daily bread, or even to curry the favor of sorcerers or the Exalted, who need the use of his power. While this is sometimes the case, there is nevertheless a certain traffic in occult mysteries, particularly in places like Sijan, where the order of funerists depends on the induction of thaumaturgists into their ranks, so that they might pass on the secrets of the funerary arts to future generations. Sijan puts a high premium on persons of such talent, offering them excellent housing, education, and official placement in the ministry of morticians. Fortune tellers, soothsayers, exorcists and shamans may all be examples of thaumaturgists who have used their unique power to take on a role in their environs, though such titles are not exclusive to those with power, any more than a mortician need also be a sorcerer.
On Sorcerers and Thaumaturges Mortal thaumaturges are exceedingly rare. In system terms, a mortal with thaumaturgy has the Thaumaturgist Merit (p. 166). When one of the Chosen unlocks the power of sorcery, she gains this Merit automatically. Mortal sorcerers do not gain this Merit automatically, and it cannot be taught, either to mortals or the uninitiated Chosen. One is either born with the power of thaumaturgy or one is not.

A character with the Thaumaturgist Merit may learn thaumaturgic rituals. One-dot rituals cost three experience points to learn. These rituals represent the simplest and purest ritual magic available. Two-dot rituals are slightly more complex or difficult, and cost five experience points to learn.


RITUALS

Reading the Tea Leaves (• or ••)

The one-dot ritual involves the taking of tea in order to divine a character’s destiny. The character whose destiny is to be read must empty tea leaves into a hot teacup, then dwell over the steam and reflections in the cup, and drink it down while emptying his mind of clutter. When the tea is gone, only the leaves remain, and the mystic may divine her target’s greater destiny with a difficulty 2 (Perception + Occult) roll. A greater destiny informs the character’s next defining accomplishment. It is not a prediction of where the character’s life will end, but rather the next major course it will take. The mystic may also read a character’s immediate destiny to get an idea of the most important life-event the character will engage in that day, though it is difficulty 4. Failing this roll still gives the thaumaturgist an accurate result, but the details are extremely hazy. Even when successful, the tea-reader often cannot explain or doesn’t understand what she sees. She might see her client bumping into a woman on a nearby dock at sunset, but this doesn’t mean she knows who the woman is or why the event is significant.

The two-dot version of this ritual has almost the exact same procedure, but a different use. The mystic can use different flavors of tea with different seasonal associations to divine the best opportunities for success and failure a character has during a certain month. The mystic cannot dictate exactly what the tea will show her—she can’t tell whether a merchant taking a trip down the Diamond Road to Gem will be beset by Yena’s daughters—but she can generally see either the largest failure or success in the merchant’s life during the time in which he plans to take the trip. This is a difficulty 3 roll, and failing it still gives accurate but hazy information, with the potential for misinformation. A botch for either ritual always misinforms.

Reading tea leaves is generally common. In a populace of ten thousand, there will be at least one tea reader if tea consumption is an important part of regional culture.

Unquenchable Flame (•)

The mystic gathers kindling into a circle of rocks arranged so that the largest stones point to the four corners of Creation, and speaks a guttural, instinctual word. The kindling leaps to flame, even if it is soaking wet. If it is raining, the rain refuses to fall within a five foot radius of the fire’s edge.

Unquenchable Flame is fairly uncommon. It was last seen practiced over ten years ago, by a huntsman of the Tenjosi Wetlands.

Second Bread (•)

One who has this gift holds a piece of bread in his hands and tears it perfectly in half, then turns and tears the resulting ends, and continues turning and tearing according to his instinct. The resulting pieces equal twice the bread he started with. It costs one Willpower to use this ritual on a single large loaf of bread or several smaller hanks.

Almost every century since the rise of the Scarlet Empress has seen a prophet with the gift of Second Bread. The most recent was a madman in Nexus, who used old crusts to feed starving children until a Guildsman beat him into a coma for slowing down foot traffic.

Exorcism (• or ••)

With the one dot ritual the exorcist may attempt to banish a ghost with chanting, ritual gestures, and a variety of mystical appurtenances. She may pay one Willpower to begin an extended action with a difficulty of the ghost’s Essence and a goal number of its Willpower, rolling (Intelligence + Occult) dice at each interval. Each roll is a combat action that cannot be placed in a flurry. She must remain within short range of the ghost she’s exorcising, which takes a -3 penalty on all actions while the exorcism is underway. Success dispatches it back to the Underworld. The exorcist must maintain concentration, and automatically fails if she is damaged by a decisive attack or crashed.

The two dot ritual allows an exorcist with a specialty in demonology, and with a specialty in knowledge of a specific demon, to drive that demon out of a host, causing spirit to flee into a clay vessel, statue, tree, cattle or other proxy for a month and a day. This ritual’s procedure is the same as that of one to drive out a ghost, save that it uses the demon’s Resolve as a difficulty. A sorcerer who has bound a sealed demon may free it by commanding it out of the containing vessel—if she can find it.

There is another two dot version of a demonic exorcism that involves forcing a spirit back into its sanctum, but this works for no more than a single night, has a goal number of (the spirit’s Willpower x2), and a terminus of three, after which the same exorcist may not attempt to banish it for a year and a day. Exorcists are uncommon, but not extremely so, and tend to be born near shadowlands.

Speak With Ozashun (••)

There is a stream running through the mountains ten miles west of Medo’s capital. The Frozen Spring pass overlooks a section of this stream, where it runs into an open-mouth cave in the side of the mountain. This is the place where Ozashun may be called, during the night of the new moon, by thrusting a burning branch into the muddy shore opposite the cave and speaking the name of a child who trusts you. The darkness intensifies and drinks what little starlight makes it down through the towering pines, giving the impression of a wrinkled, ancient face, gape-mouthed, toothless. From its mouth comes a shadow on the water, four-legged, a predator like a fox or a wolf. Ozashun knows all the secrets of the mountain and the stream running through it, but only back through the last new moon. For every question it answers, it gains the power to enter a child’s dream, to speak with and influence them. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the mountains and especially the area around the Frozen Pass are thick with child ghosts.

Speak with Ozashun is extremely rare, though it has been recorded more than once as a gift among the hill tribes of Medo.

Thaumaturgy

Champions of the Sun GMJJ