In many respects Hermeticism represents classical wizardry, with its emphasis on hierarchy, tradition, and the power of tomes of lore. In fact, the [Power] statistic for Hermetic mages is called “Lore.” Hermetic mages treat magic as a science, working out detailed formulas, called rituals, designed to call upon the power of possibility in very controlled and structured ways. The advantage of Hermeticism over other types of magic is its structure: a Hermetic mage knows his ritual will always function in exactly the same way and will pose (relatively) little risk to the mage himself. The drawback is that Hermetic magic tends to be slow to cast and, due to its rigid structure, is less adaptable to a variety of situations.
The Hermetic tradition is organized into Orders, each of which jealously control their tomes of Lore from the incursions of the other Orders. To advance as a Hermetic mage, a character must join an Order and fulfill the Order’s requirements, thereby rising through the ranks from Apprentice to Grandmaster. By increasing in rank, he increases in the Order’s trust, and may therefore study new and more powerful Lore. At character creation, a character may designate Lore as his [Power] statistic and pay 1 Edge to join an order as an Initiate. Initiates are not allowed access to any Lore and are considered to be on a “trial period.” If a character wishes to start as a higher-ranked member of his order, he may pay 1 additional Edge (for a total of 2 Edges) to start as an Apprentice, with access to Apprentice Lore, and 2 additional Edges (for a total of 4 Edges) to start as a Journeyman, with access to Journeyman Lore. During the course of play, characters may increase their rank in their Order by fulfilling the Order’s requirements and by paying the requisite number of Edges:
Initiate: 1 Edge
Apprentice: 1 Edge
Journeyman: 2 Edges
Adept: 3 Edges
Master: 4 Edges
Grandmaster: 5 Edges
But what happens, you ask, if my character manages to “acquire” a tome from another Order, or a tome of a higher rank than he has achieved? In the long and tumultuous history of Hermeticism, such things have been known to happen. If your character acquires a tome of his own rank from another Order, he may indeed learn and use its rituals. Given the differences between the Orders, however, it will take him a number of days to learn each ritual equal to the base difficulty of the ritual. Should he acquire a tome of a higher rank, however, he will not be able to use the rituals within until he pays the required Edges to advance in rank; the Lore is simply too complex for him to understand without serious study.
Three example Orders are given below, along with some sample tomes, but of course players are invited to create their own Orders to add to the mix.
Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn: America’s premier Hermetic Order, the Rosicrucians combine medieval Germanic know-how with relentless Gilded Age ambition. They value knowledge and scholarship even above arcane talent, and tend to cultivate membership among the wealthy, powerful, and well-connected. Their Lore focuses on the powers of material and spiritual alchemy. Apprentices begin by learning the alchemical properties of matter, and progress from thence to exploring the powers of the mind.
Manuscriptum Universal Alchemic (Apprentice Lore), contains the rituals Universal Alchemic, Alchemic Destruction, and Alchemic Barrier
Manuscriptum Mentallis (Journeyman Lore), contains the rituals Mental Command, Dominate Will, Forget, Implant Suggestions, Entrancing and Beguiling, Stunning, Create Blinding Pain, Death Wish, and Mental Barrier
Agrivicca Rexus’ Realm of Illusion (Adept Lore), contains the rituals Illusions of the Mind and Body, and True Vision
Realm of the Unknown Mind (Adept Lore), contains the rituals Cast Out the Other, Conquer the Madness, Hear the Hidden Thoughts, Bring to Peace, and Bring to Rest
Ritual Writing of Psychic Bonds (Master Lore), contains the rituals Simple Geas, Strengthen the Life Bond, Psychic Bond, and Break the Binding
Dark Libram of Necromancy (Grandmaster Lore), contains the rituals Animation of the Dead, Speaker of the Dead, Drawing of Another’s Life Force, and Banish to Eternal Rest
Order of the Knights Templar: An ancient order within the Catholic church, the Templars originated as a brotherhood of mystic knights charged with cleansing the Holy Land. At some point near the end of the 13th century, the strain of the Crusades began to wear on the once-powerful order. Suffering defeat after defeat, their faith in the saints was shattered and they sought desperately for other paths to power. The sage Osman offered them once such path: Goetia, the Hermetic power of summoning and binding spirits and demons. Thus the Templars devoted themselves to Hermeticism. Though decimated by arrests and accusations of witchcraft in the early 14th century, a core faction has remained powerful within the heart of the Catholic church, often seeking to gain temporal power in far-flung places…places such as Eureka…
Osman’s Tome of Physical Movement (Apprentice Lore), contains the rituals Knowledge of Flight, Mastery of Levitation, Hand of Hovering, and Floors of Glass
Ritual Writing of Wards and Circles (Journeyman Lore), contains the rituals Restraint through Magic Wards, Restraint through Magic Circles, Restraint through Magic Talismans, and Break Restraints
Libram of Summonation (Adept Lore), contains the rituals Summonation and Banishment
Scrolls of Dimensional Movement (Adept Lore), contains the rituals Portals to Distant Lands, Peer through the Veil, Portal to the Dreamscape, and Astral Movement
Libram of Temporal Control (Master Lore), contains the rituals Time Cessation, Time Acceleration/Slowing, Temporal Fugue
Wicce Sisterhood: Unusual among Hermetic traditions, the Sisterhood is entirely female-dominated. They eschew many of the traditions of the stuffy sexist male organizations, preferring oral and craft traditions to tomes and libraries. The Sisterhood also embraces devotees of mystic backgrounds and even sorcerers. Consequently, though they do not boast the vast reams of lore that the Rosicrucians and Templars enjoy, their spells are unique and dramatic. In Eureka, the Sisterhood is a home-based tradition with a strong base in the original inhabitants of the Redwood Empire. Many Sisters have sought alliance with the Wiyot, and the Wicce and Wiyot shamans have strategized about how best to drive the steam-powered beast of industry from their once-pristine lands.
Tales of Divination (Apprentice Tradition), imparts the rituals Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Scrying, and Divination Barrier
Rites of Transformation (Journeyman Tradition), imparts the rituals Shape of a Known Form, Invest with Powers of a Known Form, Shape of the Unknown Form, and Transformation Barrier
Songs of Elemental Shaping (Adept Tradition), contains the rituals Investing the Element, Elemental Temperature, Shaping the Element, and Elemental Barrier
Pact with the Forces of Nature (Master Tradition), contains the rituals Raise the Storm, Raise the Maelstrom, Shake the Earth, Raise the Firestorm, and Quell Nature
Maybe even better! Hermeticism is just one approach to wielding the powers of possibility (one paradigm). It has its pros and cons. Specifically:
Slow to Cast (con): Hermetic magic is highly ritualized, and hence takes twice as long to cast as other forms of magic. When channeling, a hermetic magus flips one card for every two rounds of combat (about 12-20 seconds). Casting a hermetic spell similarly takes two rounds of combat. Thus if a hermetic mage wanted to channel twice and then cast a spell, she would spend six total rounds establishing her spellcasting flip.
Research (pro): Because hermetic magic is ritualized, codified, and recorded in tomes, it is easier to learn new hermetic spells than it is to learn spells of other paradigms. If a hermetic magus acquires a tomes of his own order (or even of another order or discipline), he can attempt to use the lore contained within. In game terms, the character can glean a single spell from the forms and techniques contained within the tome after spending a number of hours of study equal to the difficulty of the spell. He can then cast this spell so long as he has the tome available. Permanently acquiring forms and techniques requires the expenditure of Edges, as per usual.
Stability (pro): Because it is so ritualized, hermetic magic is less prone to twists of fate than other forms of magic. When casting a hermetic ritual, a magus need not worry about the effects of resonance.
The paradigm of hermeticism has certain disciplines associated with it, which determines how a magus understands and utilizes her hemetic powers. For example:
Alchemy (Rosicrucians): The Rosicrucians have perfected the art of alchemy, both transmuting and purifying physical, mental, and spiritual substances.
Summoning (Templars): Derived from mysticism, the Templars focus on control over time, space, and Goetic entities.
Druidism (Wicce): The Sisterhood’s connection with the natural world allows them to control elemental forces, animals and plants.