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A set of house rules for learning and starting adepts.
These house rules come out of some stuff that came up during a few games I was running:
1. Adepts start much more powerful than other characters, but the most meaningful compensation (that they're weirder and less able to relate to the world) didn't seem to manifest much.
2. Becoming an adept during play has very little benefit. I've seen several games where non-adept players, seeing how much fun adepts were having, tried to become adepts, and found it was basically impossible.
3. The setting seems to imply that teacher/student relationships are common in the Occult Underground, but the rules don't support this. Starting PC adepts had no motivation to have learned from a teacher. I like characters having ties to adept NPCs, and it gives a better sense of a dysfunctional subculture.
So, I wanted to throw these house rules together to make it easier and more interesting to become an adept during play, make starting adepts a little more crazy, and give a reason for adepts to learn from teachers.
Before it's even possible to begin learning a school (spontaneously or from a teacher), you must have an appropriate Obsession. You can have another Obsession skill when you start learning, but by the time you're done it won't be as important to you.
Learning a School from a Teacher
When someone starts learning magick, they're a candidate. (Teachers may have a different word for it, but the most common term is candidate.) Someone is considered a candidate until they are able to perform their first magical action.
Before teaching any magic, the teacher must break down the candidate's sense of reality. Typically, this requires guiding the candidate into appropriate stressful situations. In terms of system, the candidate must:
1. Gain one notch of Unnatural - Hardened and Unnatural - Failed.
2. Go down to 5 failed notches in any one Madness Meter (becoming insane). The last Stress check that causes the fifth notch must be related to the school of magic.
The moment the last Stress check is failed, the candidate has graduated and gains power. The most popular term for a someone who has powers but is still learning is apprentice. The new apprentice immediately gains the appropriate magic skill at 25% as an Obsession skill. (The old Obsession skill is now just an ordinary skill.) The apprentice also gains the school's usual number of starting charges.
At this point, kinder teachers do their best to try to get the new apprentice back toward sanity. Nastier ones just abandon them or start teaching them formulas.
At this point, the apprentice can generate charges (even major charges) and use random magic. The apprentice can buy skill points and learn formulas, as per the standard rules.
Once the apprentice leaves their master or learns all the common formulas, they're usually called an adept.
Note: The term "teacher" is a little inaccurate. You can get the same benefits if you are learning from a whole cabal, or even from a string of teachers in succession.
Learning a School Spontaneously
The requirements to learn a school spontaneously are similar but much, much harder, which is why it's less common.
Naturally, there isn't standard terminology for this process. If there was someone to tell you the terms, you would pretty much have a teacher.
The would-be adept must meet the normal prerequisites: a relevent Obsession skill and, later, notches on the Madness meter. The experience is less carefully guided, though, and most people start getting counseling or taking fewer risks long before they go completely insane andstart getting powers.
Furthermore, the moment of graduation is a lot less useful. The new spontaneous adept doesn't gain any charges or points in the skill. They can, however, start buying skill points, developing charges, using random magic, and developing formulas.
Starting characters are a little different. First, every adept has recovered at least somewhat recently from complete madness. In addition to normal Madness Meters, every adept automatically has 3 failed notches in a single Meter, with no compensating Hardened notches.
Also! Decide if your adept is self-taught or has an instructor.
If you have an instructor, you know all the standard formulas. You also have some immediate ties to the Occult Underground, for better or worse - you have a teacher and maybe even a secret society behind you, but your teacher will boss you around, your teacher's allies will try to mooch off you, and your teacher's enemies will probably hunt you too.
If you are self-taught, you don't know all the formulas, because you never got the standardized education every new adept deserves. Instead, you know only one formula (minor or significant) per 10 points of skill. You'll need to experiment to get more, as usual. As a little bit of side compensation, though, you get one bonus formula that you made up yourself. Work with the GM to make one up.
If you're in a school that doesn't use formulas (like Mechanomancy or Anagram Gematria), then there isn't really much difference between starting characters with or without teachers. You still get 3 extra failed notches, though.
I'm thinking about using these rules for an upcoming game, where all PCs start as candidates to the same entropomancer.
The rules say that self-taught mechanomancers are exceptionally rare, but your rules suggest they're better off. While that's not inherently contradictory, it does seem off. I'd suggest some extra penalty for self-taught mechanomancers, or at least increase the starting skill of former apprentices.
Anon | profile | Sep 29, 07 | 10:35 am
Good point, Anon! Maybe say that untrained Mechanomancers only know how to make one device per 10 points of skill, and get normal Random Magic penalties for others? It's kinda harsh, but it makes them very rare.
I'd say 90% of self taught adepts are all minor school sorcerers.
Let's not forget just like adepts that have been taught have contacts and enemies new, self-taught adepts are off the radar. At least no one knows that they are an adept. Possibly they even created their own school which no one even understands how their mojo works, or what their taboo is.