As a spiritual practice, alchemy can enrich the practitioner's life even if it didn't create working potions. As a practical discipline, alchemy has a variety of benefits: it can extend the practitioner's life or provide a gainful living. Yet neither of these works are truly great. When alchemists gather they acknowledge only one Magnum Opus: The transmutation of the soul from base lead to pure gold. The search for Enlightenment.
There are many reasons alchemists seek Enlightenment. The innate drive for self improvement is an important part of human existence, and some alchemists take it to its furthest reaches. Others begin alchemy for a practical reason and grow into the quest for Enlightenment through their studies. A common reason is mentors, many experienced alchemists believe that seeking Enlightenment is a sacred quest and guide their pupils towards beginning their own Pilgrimage.
Though the young turks of the laboratory are eager to seek Enlightenment, it is a pursuit that requires a lifetime of dedication. Not youthful energy that will burn out after a few months. Mentors normally let their students get it out their system before bringing their students back to basic theory and formulae, often not revisiting the topic until decades later. The typical pilgrim, therefore tends to be older and wiser, with enough real experience to know his strengths and weaknesses, and enough alchemical theory to know why they're important and have some idea of the road he must follow to purge himself of such impurities to complete the Great Work.
Prometheans cannot pursue alchemical Enlightenment; they must first achieve the New Dawn. The path is only for mortal footsteps. Regrettably this does not stop the Created from attempting, and such attempts usually end in bitterness and disappointment.
The first step on the Great Work is to choose the road you will walk on your Pilgrimage to Enlightenment. There are many roads and none is inherently superior to any other. What matters is choosing the path that fits you, that builds on your strength and Virtues, challenges your weaknesses and Vices; you'll need both to complete the Magnum Opus.
Once you have chosen the path you must to dedicate yourself to it by creating an Aludel within your soul. An Aludel distils the experiences and revelations an alchemist receives upon the Pilgrimage into Alkahest. The solvent that can dissolve the soul itself, allowing it to be reforged into something greater free of base impurities.
Aludels have a theme that guides the Milestones an Alchemist must achieve, It also has affinity to two traits and offers a mortal Boon and an Enlightened Boon. If an Alchemist manages to achieve Enlightenment the combination of an Aludel and a Philosopher's Stone can be used to create Regent (using the same rules as an Athanor) to power the Enlightened Boon.
Alkahest is the solvent of the soul, it is distilled by an Aludel and used by the Lapis Philosophorum to dissolve the soul and reforge it into something purer. Alkahest and the Vitriol are closely related in Alchemical theory, some go so far as to say they are two forms of the same substance. Both help the one that carries them towards the completion of a Great Work. The differences between the two rarely come up outside advanced theoretical texts.
Alkahest serves as a unique experience source for mortal alchemists and is awarded in addition to normal experience. The rules for awarding Vitriol can be transferred over to Alkahest, with the obvious exception of those that depend on a unique part of the Created's existence: for example, alchemists do not have a creator and so cannot gain Alkahest by learning more about him.
Alkahest may be spent on: Morality, Alchemy, Principles, Formulae and the Aludel's affinity traits. The Aludel's affinity traits may be raised up to 10 dots using Alkahest.
The Philosopher's Stone And The Final ProcessEdit
At the beginning of her Pilgrimage an alchemist chose a path and walked to where it led. On this path she experienced revelations and epiphanies and emerged greater for them. Now as she approaches the end of the Pilgrimage she must transition from pilgrim to the Enlightened. It is no longer enough to receive wisdom from the world, she must create wisdom.
The first step on the final mile of her Pilgrimage is to form the Lapis Philosophorum. The Philosopher's Stone itself. Through introspection and study she builds on the revelations she has received through the pilgrimage to design the final process in her Great Work. Mechanically She must have 5 dots in Alchemy and have completed most of her Milestones. She then defines, in character, the actions she must take to complete her Great Work and spends a point of Willpower and ten points of Alkahest to make a roll of her Aludel's affinity traits - 13. The Storyteller should give an additional die for every Milestone that the alchemist builds upon to create her final process.
Success creates the Lapis Philosophorum and begins the the final process. Failure means the alchemist requires a few more Milestones to create her Lapis. Should the alchemist succeed she begins the final process in the Great Work, transmuting her soul from base lead into gold. Upon attempting a step in her final Process the alchemist spends a point of Alkahest; should she succeed, she rolls Morality with a modifier based on the difficulty of the task. It takes a total of fifteen successes to become Enlightened.
However should the alchemist run out of Alkahest in the pursuit of the final process she has failed. Without Alkahest her soul congeals before the Lapis has Transmuted it. She must return to the pilgrimage and experience new Milestones, stock up on Alkahest, before she is ready to forge a new Lapis.
Greg is an alchemist seeking Enlightenment, for the sake of a simple example he is using walking the path of Benjamin Franklin (see below) and has achieved many milestones. As Greg approaches the end of the path he realises that he has learned much but he has reached the end of the path, to progress further he must construct his own road to walk.
Meditating on the Milestones he found upon the Pilgrimage Greg's mind is drawn to two Milestones in particular. The first Milestone came when his son lay dying and the only hope was a risky untested elixir. This taught him that it was easy to risk his body, but hard to risk something he loves. The second Milestone came when he lost a friend's respect by sharing his passion for alchemy. At the time Greg learned that he must practice alchemy from his own heart, not for the approval from others but now he feels he took his lesson too far by separating his life as an alchemist from his life as a person. This is the flaw Greg believes he must correct as the final process to his great work, by rejoining the two halves of his life he can perfect his soul and become Enlightened.
Greg's Stamina is six and he has seven dots in Science. With the two Milestones he's building on that gives a basic 2 dice pool. This is risky, only building on two milestones is low, but because this is an example he achieves a success. His Lapis is now formed. Greg's player and the Storyteller hash out the mechanics for Greg's final process. They decide that every time Greg enters a conversation with the intent to explain about alchemy to a loved one he'll be deducted a point of Alkahest, if he manages to steer the conversation to alchemy he may make a Moraity roll but at a minus 3 penalty because it's a pretty easy task. Separate from his Great Work Greg will also have to use the standard rules for social rolls to avoid losing the respect of friends and family, no one on Benjamin Franklin's path achieves Enlightenment without Risk.
Shepherds on the RoadEdit
An Aludel is such a personal creation that every one is unique. So to illustrate here are the Aludel's used by some of alchemy's legendary practitioners.
Baal Shem - CommunityEdit
[Picture: A portrait of Baal Shem with his hands at his shoulders, palms facing the sky. An abstract depiction of crowds stands on each hand and an old fashioned bridge connects his hands]
Benjamin Franklin - RiskEdit
To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish
[Picture: Benjamin Franklin stands with a devilish grin twirling a key around one finger. A lightning bolt crosses the picture behind him.]
Benjamin Franklin's legendary kite experiment was conducted with proper safety precautions. Yet though Benjamin was not actually struck by lightning the story can be seen as a parable: In a strike of lightning Benjamin was faced with destruction or enlightenment, and he came away with enlightenment.
Any man who would seek Enlightnemnt will face risk. No matter how much preparation and tests you do sooner or later you'll have to drink that elixir. Second hand accounts might be safer but true knowledge comes from talking to a qashmal, even if it might strike you down. You can fear the risks, or you can accept them and prepare themselves to meet every challenge and survive any you lose. For overcoming adversity builds the mind, body and soul; while defeat, well, what dosn't kill you can only make you stronger.
Trait Affinities: Stamina and Science
Mortal Boon: The mortal boon hardens the alchemist's body and soul against the risks he faces. Apply half your dots (round up) in Science as Armour or bonus dice as appropriate when the alchemist is faced with harm from an alchemical or scientific experiment that they are personally performing.
Enlightened Boon: Having survived the lightning bolt and achieving Enlightenment, the alchemist understands her own limits and capabilities to their fullest extent and always knows if the risk is worth trying. If the charachter ever rolls a Dramatic Failure he can spend a point of Reagent to undo the roll. The charachter realised it was a bad idea and chose not to attempt it. He cannot attempt the action again without a significant change in circumstances - it should increase her dice pool beyond a chance die - or the original result stands. If the charachter has no choice but to attempt the action this Boon provides no benefit.
Jābir ibn Hayyān (جابر بن حیان) - FaithEdit
My wealth let sons and brethren part. Some things they cannot share: my work well done, my noble heart — these are mine own to wear.
[picture] Jābir looks upwards with a completive expression. Behind him is the Islamic crescent moon.
Jābir ibn Hayyān is inarguably the most famous name in all of western alchemy. His work opened the path for other scholars in the golden age of Islamic scholarship and remains a predominate influence on European alchemy. Some say he was the first to achieve Enlightenment, others say he was simply the first to teach the path widely. Some doubt he even existed but all have heard his name.
A cornerstone of Jābir's philosophy was faith and submission to Allah. Only for Allah is the manipulation of reality possible, only by completely subjugating oneself to the will of Allah and becoming his instrument can one do real alchemy.
Trait Affinities: Composure and Occult
Mortal Boon: The alchemist may spend Alkahest to purchase Merit Elpis to guide them along their Pilgrimage. Upon completing the Pilgrimage remove any dots of Elpis; its role is complete.
Enlightened Boon: Having completed his own Pilgrimage the Enlightened alchemist knows that the greatest use of the gift he has been given is to share it. He gains the Shepherd Merit and may use it to help alchemists or Promethians in their Pilgrimage.
Isaac Newton – ReasonEdit
Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.
[Picture: Issac Newton holds up a apple and is examining it. Rays of light shoot outwards from the apple.]
Trait Affinities: Intelligence and Science.
Mortal Boon: The alchemist can apply reason and rational thought to solve any problem. By spending about a minute to think through an action, the alchemist may spend a point of Willpower to add their Intelligence dots to any roll, instead of the usual +3 bonus.
Enlightened Boon: The alchemist retains the mortal boon. In addition, he can spend a point of Reagent to gain 8-again on a single roll using Science skill.
Zhang Sanfeng (張三丰) – BodyEdit
No part should be defective, no part should be deficient or excessive, no part should be disconnected.
[Picture: Zhang Senfeng is in the middle of a martial arts form, a soft flowing motion not a hard striking motion. The Ying Yang symbol serves as a background]
Zhang Sanfeng was a legendary martial artist and Taoist priest from the late Song Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty or Ming Dynasty, or who lived through all three, depending on whom you ask. He is credited with the creation of neijia (內家) or internal martial arts which focus on the spiritual and the mental applications of martial arts.
Zhang Senfeng's Aludel is conceptually entered around the unity of body and spirit. By honing one's body through you can also hone the soul. Martial arts are almost a perquisite for this path, preferably studied with a spiritualistic approach rather than simply “learning to fight”.
Trait Affinities: Dexterity and Brawl
Mortal Boon: Zhang Senfeng is credited with the development of T'ai chi ch'uan. T'ai chi teaches that a partitioner must exhaust or redirect a blow, not withstand it. When making a Dodge action, add Brawl to Defense, after doubling Defense. If the alchemist has the Brawling Dodge Merit, add twice Brawl to Defense.
Enlightened Boon: The alchemist retains the Mortal Boon. In addition, he can spend a point of Reagent to apply his Defence against any hostile action. He is so in tune with the universe that he can dodge bullets or even curses.