A couple of times now, characters in the high fantasy game have chosen to embrace particular mystical powers during the course of the game. Between the role of theurgist (like the priest and paladin classes in D&D) and the pure-roleplaying of religion in the other professions, I decided to riff on the notion of initiation into old-style mystery religions.
When Mogumi chose to become an initiate of the trickster-god Sar, god of stories (mentioned earlier on this blog), I went with something fairly free-form: a gathering in the temple with much drinking and storytelling until she fell asleep and entered a dreamscape in which people of her tribe finished up work for the day and gathered around an elder, who read a story to them from an ancient tome before bedtime. (Said story was another bit of exposition I had wanted to get to; never waste a chance for a good vision!) The elder clutched the book to his chest and fell asleep... but then rolled over, allowing the book to fall open to a page with a title and illustration about a future part of Mogumi’s own story. This was the big decision-point: would she allow respect for an elder or curiosity to win out? She chose to turn the page and find out what happened next, and suddenly awoke in the temple in the morning, completely free of a hangover, with the priestess of Sar informing her she had passed the test. Afterward, she began getting a sense of significance about some NPCs being particularly significant— just hints, but ones that would lead to more interesting stories happening.
When Kazuma sought to become more aligned with the power of Order, a bit more formality was in order. When he showed up for his initiation, the first test was patience: the acolyte who greeted him showed him to a meditation room hung with sangaku and left there for several hours, effectively ignored. (He passed the time by meditating, a success.)
Next, an acolyte took him to the temple library, informing him that the shutters had broken open during the last typhoon and scattered the books; the whole room was a mess (though a carefully arranged one: loose pieces of paper just happened to be between any fallen-open book and adjacent patch of dirt). The books were all clearly categorizable into Grammar, Thaumatology, Architecture, Logic, Strategy, Natural History, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Theology, History, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy (yes, I threw the Trivium and Quadrivium in there). Kazuma showed organization and humility by cleaning everything up and arranging the books according to a sensible pattern; if he had asked acolytes to assist, he would have been showing organization and leadership. The important test there was getting tidy, well-organized results in an orderly way; the only expectation was that he would produce a useful system for accessing the knowledge, not that he would come up with a particular scheme.
After explaining his organizational scheme to the temple librarian, he was told to go to the kitchen, where he found a group of eight children, six or seven years old, seated around a table, all of them equipped with an assortment of rulers, calipers, two-pan balances, and magnifying glasses... and a single frosted berrycake. His challenge was to divide the cake fairly among the children (a classic game theory puzzle). Kazuma rolled very well when cutting the cake, but the children were still sticklers about the 1/32 of an inch differences they were able to discern, so Kazuma called up his comrade, Sliphas the priest of Chaos, to provide a guaranteed-random means of apportioning the cake slices by lot. (The divide and choose method would also have been a valid solution.)
The children then exited to the playground, where they all lined up on the swings, clamoring “Push us! Push us!” The problem with administering fair pushes was that the period of the swing interacted poorly with the amount of time required to push at the end of the arc (where one has to apply a more gradual shove). Kazuma solved it by using his mystic-martial-arts flight; another valid solution would have been running down the middle of the swings pushing at the middle of the arc, when you can administer the same amount of shove quicker, since the swing is already in motion. (I wasn’t as pleased with this idea as with the rest.)
After he solved that problem, one child threw him a pair of tweezers and pointed to the sandbox, saying “Now it’s time for you to play in the sandbox! Try one grain at a time!” The sandbox had a big mound of sand in it, a couple of feet tall, at about a 38° angle. (Yes, the angle of repose for sand is normally 30–35°.) Disturbing even a grain triggered an avalanche, which took the cone from an orderly state to a disorderly one, and revealing a scroll tube. When Kazuma opened the scroll tube, he found a scroll with the following writing: at the top, “Great Secret of the Masters of Order”; at the bottom, upside-down, “Great Secret of the Masters of Chaos”; in the middle, written around the perimeter of a circle, “A myriad small, wise kindnesses are the most heroic deed.”
Once he read the scroll, he was invited in for tea and conversation with the local top-ranked Order troubleshooter.