A comparison of Magical Traditions

Magical Traditions
So recently there have been a set of posts slowly going up on the forums about building a coven of X Realm, and one of the questions is which Magical Tradition is best for each realm. While I have thoughts on Magical Traditions, I don’t think there is a best tradition for any realms. Heraldic Magic is probably bad for Autumn mages, but most are really good for all realms.

But I wanted to talk about it so I’m going to talk about a few things from the perspective of someone who has spent a fair amount of time thinking about ritual practices. Firstly I will talk about the Big Three, by that I mean Runes, Astromancy and Dramaturgy these are the most common forms on the field and most fleshed out by PD.

The main things I am looking at is how easy they are to use, this is me generally talking about how easy it is to pick the right symbol for a given ritual in the field. This comes down to how easy they are to remember, and to apply that knowledge.
This said many rituals will suggest magical symbolism for the big three traditions and often have a scattering of suggestions for some totem magic. You can just learn which ones are for your rituals, but there is a point where learning the set is helpful.

The second thing is how much they have to do in rituals, some practices have more possible things to draw on to fill time. Most of them you have invoke the symbol explain how you have invoked the symbols but some of them have more you can play with. I’m also thinking

Clear Symbol Set, grouped by realm, Easy to apply, Easy to incorporate into kit, but somewhat bland.

Sat down with a list of Runes and their meanings, I think this is the easiest symbol set to apply, they are grouped by realm, you have runes to represent the lineages and virtues. I think Astromancy is easier to learn the whole set, but being grouped by realm means that you can just learn your realms runes as a starting point.

However compared to the other traditions it feels like there is less to use in a ritual, you can say the rune, and talk about the Rune, but you can do that for every symbol set. They are one of the easiest to draw or paint in the field, but aside from that they don’t offer some of the cool options other rituals do. They are probably one of the easier options for craft projects, but I think they offer less to a confident crafter.

As an aside the 6 realms symbols aren’t actually Runes, and come from the Dawnish Weaving traditions rather than the trolls.

Smaller Symbol Set, harder to apply, Tulpas, Simple to represent in field
Of the 4 main magical traditions Astromancy has the smallest symbol set, with 18 constellations, and in many cases quite obvious symbolism from the name, it’s probably the easiest set to learn. (Although I suspect there are cases where the right constellation isn’t as obvious as it is for runes.)

The Tulpas give you more to play with in a ritual than the runes, and if you lean into this provides another source of roleplay for rituals.

Also being constructed from points, it’s easy to make physical representations as part of a ritual whether that is from just placing light beads on dark cloth to positioning ritualists. The fact you can go from simple dot patterns to the more symbolic images also means it has a lot going for it in terms of art.

Easy to fill time with, Lots of complexity to remember, Very embedded in League Culture,
Compared to Runes or Astromancy, make up a story incorporating the symbolism is probably far simpler to fill time with. You don’t need many of the LARP ritual structuring tools because you have a narrative.
That said it’s one of the most complex symbol sets, it might only have 18 symbols but there is specific detail about combinations of the persona’s and instruments. Making Dramaturgy by far the most complex tradition.

The other major issue is despite being the most common magical tradition in national archetypes: Troupes, Mountebanks, Guisers and Mummers, the symbol set it really embedded in League principles. To the point that it would take some work even to adapt it to fit the other Dramturgic archetypes.

I think there is a lot of obvious space in terms of costumes and props, there is little that is as simple craft project wise as the Runes or Stars, but there are alot more directions you can go and room for interpretation.

Music of the Spheres
Requires OC Musical skill, fills time well, Might be more challenging to make feel magic.
Honestly I suspect you either look at the page and get excited, or this isn’t the magical tradition for you. I suspect this is going to require either searching out, and adapting pieces or some compositional ability to use this style.
(It’s probably easier for instruments than singing since there are no words to have to adapt for the setting.) I think if you can do this it might be the simplest one to learn, provided you have the music skills going in.

That said if you can achieve that I doubt you will struggle with filling the 2 minutes of a ritual.
The other difficulty might be how magical it feels as a ritual, and it might be a further challenge to add that level of immersion, but that’s probably a minor issue.

Blood Magic
Visceral, evocative, spreads game, limited detail

So you have a cool LARP ritual knife and fake blood. More seriously I think Blood Magic has a lot going for it. With some simple props you probably have a ritual that looks interesting, and dramatic.
It also gives you an excuse to turn up to healer friends of yours soaked in blood, giving them more game, or dramatically collapse in the middle of a ritual.

The chief issue with Blood Magic is it has a structure for the symbolism, but not necessarily fills it out, and there are going to be gaps where you need to be inventive. This could actually suit some players, since there is less to remember. Remember 3 principals and you are sorted.

Totemic Magic
Will require some invention to apply, more to work with, has gaps
So Totemic Magic is really a set of 4 magical traditions, but they all have similarities, fundamentally Totemic magic is taking something else that exists in the setting and using it’s symbolism for magic. The potential symbol sets are generally larger, and there is far more detail on the symbols than any of the big three. This means there is a lot more for you to use in your rituals. Most of the Totem magic page is talking about ways to use the symbols rather than the symbols and I’ve done some very different rituals with my favourite Totemic tradition.

But generally less information about how you apply them to rituals. Linked to that the great issue is probably with the exception of Goetia all of these are incomplete; they weren’t designed for magic primarily so there will be gaps that symbolism isn’t as good for.

In terms of Art all of these have a lot of directions you could go with more complex art projects, some of them might have simpler options but there is a lot more directions you can take them than Runes and Astromancy.

Heraldic Magic
Very Incomplete, smallest symbol set,
Heraldic Magic as written is alot easier for certain types of magic than others, it tends to be good at military, combat and healing magic while trading and similar it lacks any obvious symbols. That said for what it does well it’s a nice simple style, much of the symbolism flows from the creature description and the list of 13 on the Totemic magic page is the shortest list (although there are other creatures you could use in this category.

It also shares a feature with Animal Magic of it being possible to zoom in on features of the creature to shift the symbolism, talking about the claws of the Gryphon and how they rend flesh

Interestingly this is the lazy choice for a battlemage with nearly every offensive spell being covered by the Chimera as one of the beasts suggested to cast it.

Animal Magic
Make your own magical tradition, Hopefully you know some animals
Firstly this is a really interesting one in that it suggests multiple flavours, that might be completely different sets if fully developed. A Kallevessi who performs all rituals through avian symbolism would be drastically different to the Marcher Vermin/Domestic animal divide. It’s one you can tailor more to your nation, by choice of creatures, and probably a good choice if you wanted a very down to earth style of magic.

Normally having a large symbol set is a two edged sword, but you probably already have a large selection of animals that you know about. There is some information about the symbolism on the wiki, but rituals use other ones than are mentioned, and it’s probably the easiest one to invent on the fly.

Goetia (The Eternals)
You are going to want to learn this anyway, realm grouped, large symbol set, easy to apply
The main advantage of Goetia is that understanding the Eternals is alot of mage game, it might be one of the hardest sets of symbols to learn because there is a lot of information out there (and 39 symbols), but that will benefit you in understanding the magical game
They are also really strongly grouped by realm, which does reduce the size of the set, although that still could be 8 Eternals compared to 4 runes.
Without going through them in detail I suspect that it’s probably the most complete of the Totemic sets, most rituals have an Eternal with similar themes.

Theurgy (Paragons and Exemplars)
Emphasises how religious you are, Not easy to learn, Probably the most challenging to apply
Not quite as large as Goetia at 28 (not including the modern additions with less information.) But they are a far worse natural fit for rituals, there are likely to be large gaps and there is no easy way of narrowing down a set for a realm.

That said if you want to play heavily in the religious game and be a ritualist, being really read up on Exemplars and Paragons will help. Both because people talk about them, and the stories of how you apply virtue. So it’s only one set of work, but it’s potentially a huge amount of work to get familiar enough with these figures to use them in this way. It probably works best for a priest who is dabbling in magic.

Hearth Magic
Not technically a magical Tradition, be proud of your nation,
The Hearth Magic pages for you nation are a great place to mine for ritual ideas, it’s a bit more like blood magic in these types of actions are used for these things, and it likely won’t be complete (unless your hearth magic includes a Magical Tradition.)

You are likely going to have to combine it with another tradition in part but it’s really worth thinking about how you can use these elements in rituals. Particularly if you are looking for a way to make your rituals more Iconic of your nation.

Because the symbolism tends to work differently, there are some pieces of hearth magic that you can incorporate into any ritual in the same way. Such as Girding or donning a mask to adopt your ritual persona. Which is really useful if you are struggling to fill time.


Great stuff McGonigle!

I’ll admit I use Heraldic animals for my Swift Casts as Battlemage (eg Swift Restore Limb: “Like the Hydra, regrow to seek vengeance!”).

My longer heal spell might be Dramaturgy… invoking the story of the fallen character and weaving in their injuries as part of it, not an end. Or to put it another way: “you can’t die yet, you’re only halfway through the book!”

1 Like

All yer high-falutin’ traditions are just ponce.
I find that a lot of my Marcher Landskeeper’s “go-to” for ritual tradition is deliberately low numinosity, building a link between the moment and the effect and tapping into and steering the natural cycles. By which I mean it’s mostly “JFDI, puns and smut”. Sure, I’ve told a prosperity tale using a tower, a prince and a cow (a literal filk of Turra Coo for Gathering the Harvest), but I’m not sure that makes it Theurgy, Dramaturgy or Animal magic.


Then ofc you can mix the traditions too, just to complicate things :smiley:

So my Navarr trained blood ritualist using some runes but increasingly Theurgy instead of blood as the Highguard egregore bond makes him want to be clean plus the ambient religion of half your peers being priests ::stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like