The Advanced Player’s Guide introduces further Mystical Traditions to lend further depth and variety to the study of the arcane in Symbaroum. The continuation of this article presents the perception and influence of Corruption in each of these new disciplines as well as how the taint may be felt when absorbed through the individual’s use of magical artefacts.
The Weaves of the Azure Temple, in Vojvodar, claim the art of symbolism was actually developed to avoid or, at least, minimalise the taint of Corruption. The truth of the holding is still argued among the learned but as with the other “Eastern” mystical teachings, the relationship between Symbolism and Corruption is distinctive when compared with that of the “Western” practices.
The Symbolist believes that all creation, all reality, is written in a code of symbols. Their discipline therefore seeks to temporarily “rewrite” this code to the match their purpose. In directing a more subtle mystical influence at this level, resistance and thereby “Corruption” is reduced, it’s antagonism less traumatic. They are aware, of course, that a power resists their attempts to sully the very fibres of existence, but that by their nature and that of the art they practice they weave a mystical tapestry in their symbols of which Corruption is a part, and thus, it would seem, far slower to snap back and retaliate.
As the Symbolist’s scriptures are birthed in the mind first, it is there they witness the telltale blurring and fraying of their symbols that speaks of a growing defiance on the part of the metaphorical parchment upon which they scrawl their magic. As the resistance strengthens the symbols run as if written in blood, or they split and peal like raw and blackened flesh. Eventually, if the Symbolist persists, the indignant force behind the distortion strikes out at the author.
Stigmata are rare in the experience of the Symbolist, but still they can occur. Typically they are triggered by other sources of Corruption but in rare occurrences the marks of the mystic’s practice are the very implements of the price they pay for indiscretion. Branded symbols, burned deeply into the skin, most often the face, are frequently seen. Common too are painful welts upon the flesh in familiar lines, or squirming parasites tracing those same lines beneath the parchment of the skin, to the horror of the victim.
The Symbolist’s pupils have been known to hold the shape of an offending sign or their hands to twitch spasmodically. Muscles tightening and convulse reflexively, playing puppeteer to the mystic’s movements, forever tracing the same pattern even in sleep. Suppurating wounds, nigh on impossible to heal, form in shapes the mystic painfully recognises, opened upon their person or worse, torn into the soft tissues beneath. The irony of such afflictions is not lost on the practitioner of this tradition but lends little comfort.
Recovering from the blight of Corruption is not a Symbolist’s strength as they are trained extensively to never face this confrontation. However, certain mental disciplines, including the ascribing of symbols specific to the mitigation of a Symbolist’s offence, are believed effective in mollifying the hostile energies and restoring the practised balance the mystic depends on.
An unconventional tradition, the Staff Mages hold a unique perception of Corruption, even among those sharing an origin East of the Ravens. The foundation of this perception is an unexpected one, that of guilt. The Staff Mages not only blame their order, previously the Emperor’s Guards, for failing to save the last Ruler of Symbaroum but for the fall of the millennia spanning dynasty entirely. This guilt has settled into every aspect of their culture and their perception of Corruption is no exception.
The Staff Mage believes that Corruption is not an outside force pitted against the wielding of their mystical arts but rather the direct result of negligent wielding of that art. Corruption therefore comes from within and the plight of every Staff Mage is to endeavour to confine it.
They do not regard Corruption as an immoral foe but a vestige of weakness and lack of discipline that can plague the Mage and make him susceptible to attack, especially to the nefarious whims of a Sorcerer.
Perhaps most notably, Staff Mages believe that Corruption is not merely an infirmity threatening themselves but a blight against their environment. To unleash such evils upon the world is a transgression the Staff Mage shudders to contemplate, for their history holds that it has happened before and whole realms were laid waste.
Stigmas appearing for the Staff Mage usually correlate to some other source of Corruption, for a core of their study is directed at specifically denying its release and condemning as much of it as possible within the soul-bound heart of their staff. When the mage fails however, and their discipline falters, tragic consequences may ensue.
The primary manifestation is the unsettling of the Staff Mage’s mind wherein concentration becomes difficult, sleep troubling and nightmares laced with doom and failure a constant. Hallucinations can also plague the Staff Mage, guilt ridden visions of their own fallibility, robbing them of confidence and evoking paralysing depression. Such a state can make any attempt at their craft, or functioning in general, difficult if not impossible.
Accompanying this deep emotional disturbance, the Mage will often display outward symptoms as well. Skin lesions, boils, loss of hair, festering wounds, cramps, odorous sweats, intestinal disorders, uncontrollable shaking and other maladies can reflect the turmoil seething within.
In addition to the Staff Mage’s suffering, there are even more appalling consequences, brought on, at least to the Mage’s mind, by their inadequacy. The earth sometimes blackens and sours beneath the Staff Mage’s tread, or their touch leaves behind a wretched ichor. When the mage sleeps his bedding may become inexplicably infested with vermin or when sitting down to eat, his meals become suddenly rancid. Plant life in the mage’s immediate proximity has been known to wilt, animals shrink away, and common, crawling pests seem drawn.
Recovery from the Staff Mage’s Corruption induced plight is more a mental discipline and exercise of will than any mystical endeavour. The Mage view’s their suffering as a penance, a punishment to atone for rather than an affliction to escape. Staff Mages accept the torment, seek to learn from the anguish and emerge a more fit member of their order. Many Staff Mages engage in a process of self-persecution as a path to their atonement – including scarring incisions, the application of coals, self-floggings, piercings and even limited excoriation.
Thanks to Richard Grove for authoring this extended article on the effects of corruption in Symbaroum. The image is Black Magic 12 by liam-stock, made available as stock art.