Arcana: Overview

The Arcana are a topic of much debate in learned circles.  Rational minds tell us that a deck of 49 painted, named, and numbered cards, shuffled and drawn, cannot reasonably predict our future or present.  Indeed there is a great degree of verifiable randomness in the process.  Yet extensive studies with known criteria have historically shown a probability defying frequency of literal interpretation alignment between knowable future events, and cards, both in their conventional, and inverted positions.

From this several interesting things derive:

Arcanists.  These are practitioners devoted first to a mystical practice, and secondly to rational exploration of this ideology.  The Arcana are chief amongst these, and lends its name more broadly to a class of functional but poorly understood practices.  Particularly those of an expressly religious nature.  Commonly used to describe a devoted Clarion or Lycian healer who also practices magic.

Arcana Cult.  A broader term for a collection of actions taken, without understanding why or what parts of the process work.  Areas of fraught analytical endeavor.  Druidic and Shamanistic practices are categorized as such by scholars.

Arcane† Magic.  Is sometimes applied to the whole of Mage practices.  As so much convention and tradition weight the practice under almost mystical dogmatic patterns, when there is little evidence that these are entirely beneficial.  Save to avoid mistakes already made.

Card List:

House of Suns TheSun_Single.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png FallenStar_Single NoCard.png Void_Single.png
House of Nobles NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png Lovers NoCard.png
House of Peasants HandSingle.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
House of Works TheSword_Single.png NoCard.png Tower_Single NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
House of Beasts NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
House of Paths NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png TheCrown_Single.png SevenRivers_Single.png
House of Seasons NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png NoCard.png
Try clicking on a card for more information.  Work in progress.

† In the original Palentian sense ‘Arcune’ would literally be a deep inward, or concave shape.  The etymology appears to be convergent with arc, cave, and cove, as well others.  It appears to have distantly referred to a pouch or box, but by the time of the Maji arrival had come also imply a hidden place.  Aen on the other hand in some Pre-Ascension dialects appears to have meant to close, or shut.  As such the modern Arcane has a likely transitional sense of, “a very closed box.”

Functional Investigation:

One of the more studied aspects of the Arcana is that each card in enchanted, not simply for durability, but through a ritual process producing identifiable differences in each card.  Examination of the process, enchantment, and ritual shows sequential patterns, than align well with traditional groupings of cards into sets of seven.  This also means that a seer practiced enough with their cards can easily identify what a card is, before it is revealed.  Many advanced seers hold that one places the cards not as they are drawn, but as they belong.  That in sorting the random, one finds the pattern.  That when the noise is filtered out, the words spoken are clear.

Even as this stands, the literal order shows statistical significance.  Here it is presumed that something poorly understood in the enchantment variations is interacting with an unknown force.  That some form of probable connection can be drawn between this force, and how the cards shuffle.  Some have even tried to imply that the patterns are closely related to the structure of Storm Monk practices.  That perhaps the cards do not shuffle as they are drawn at all, but that until they are seen, exist in an indeterminate state.  The right stack finding the seer’s hand from their interpretation of what they have already subconsciously seen.  Pulling meaning from their own gift.  This is often promoted along side the mnemonic device theory of prophetic verse.  That it is a tool to interpret what the seer has already seen, to draw forth precognitive memory.

One of the stranger theories put forth (with scarce evidence) is that highly skilled seers can some how manipulate what card is atop the stack.  Slight of hand, even has been suggested to explain some seer’s knack for delivering the card they want.  Though statistical aberrations remain prevalent even in controlled circumstances.

Playing Fates:

Older than the Arcana was The Game of Fates, originally a three suit betting game.  Legend would place the game as having come from the City of the Sun, modernly the High City, and capitol of the Clarion Ascension.  In its earliest forms it was played with etched stones, but they were both inconvenient, and too identifiable.

The game had been a popular vice in many impoverished areas of the city, and even spread to some wealthy circles, skipping over most of the middle classes.  It was after the game was brought before the Principality of the city that the game was highly popularized with a commission to produce painted cards for play, and to add four to the original three sets for larger games.

What is most interesting is the singular record of the introduction of the game at court.  Found only in the Osyraen Royal Library, in the original hand of the court herald of the City of the Sun, 563 B.E.  This account implies that the predictive practice extended back to the Three Fates version of twenty one cards, and a beggar who was a seer in disguise had placed himself before the Principality through clever manipulation of the guard.

In gaming this history gives us The Three Fates, and The Seven Rivers groupings of the game.  Depending on the houses used.

Each share a common core of desirable hands, and scoring rules.

The Ace or Pinnacle is the highest value card in each house, unless Dooms are High is set as a condition of play.  Precise hands vary by given numbers of cards in the game.

Pairs, Sets, Runs, and Houses

Most of these are obvious, but there are some quirks  A set in the number it shows, trumps a same sized set of higher value.  This means that a pair of twos trumps a pair of aces, and a trio of threes can beat four fives in a Seven Rivers game.  A House to be specific is a hand comprised only of one House of cards, and any house is then sorted by its content, and runs.  The top run however is not in a four card hand 4 5 6 7, but 5 6 7 1.  A High House, or Royal House.  This is the Ace, Monarch, Consort, and Knight.

The ordering of the houses otherwise determine between otherwise equal houses, and is bellow.  Giving the final quirk that a set in both the number and the house trumps any run.

  1. (1) House of Suns
  2. House of Nobles
  3. House of Peasants
  4. (2) House of Works
  5. House of Beasts
  6. House of Paths
  7. (3) House of Seasons (Elements)

Here we see a traditional ordering associated with the mysticism of The Three Fates.  The houses are arranged by volatility and permanence.  The stability, and long arc of the cosmos, through the energetic forces of the elements.  Though when looks closely enough, the stars do change, and the elements obey laws.

It is notable that iconography varies between many Three Fates and Seven Rivers card sets.  Drawing variable amounts of inspiration from seer decks.  Notably the iconography of  the Paths and Seasons gets blended into the House of Elements.

The playing cards are never enchanted for anything but durability, but the enchantments may decay over time in recognizable ways.  For competitive play un-enchanted cards are used to insure fair play.

It would technically be possible to play the game with a seer deck that had not been enchanted, though some of the terms might be confusing.  Seers do in fact play a version of this game, but given they can identify the cards from the back, the actual gambles are stranger.  Any hand can win, if they can spin the right tale.  This does mean that the game requires three extra judges (who do not have to be gifted.)  This particular game is considered the most crass by many seers.

Common Rule Variants:

Three Fates:

Standard Betting: Ante, then Call or Raise until two players remain, then either may Call.

Peasant: – Start with two cards, discard as you please, with each draw up to two or three.
Royal: – Four Card Hands, standard bets
Imperial: Five Card Hands, standard bets
Three Card River: Three card hands, with each round a card is turned from the deck, until three are revealed.  Then all remaining players must Call or Fold.
Storms Wild: The Monarch of Elements represents any card of the holders choosing.

Seven Rivers:

Royal: Four Card Hands, standard bets
Imperial: Five Card Hands, standard bets
Veil: Four Card Hands, after round of bets each player reveals a card
Four Card River: Four card hands, with each round a card is turned from the deck, until seven are revealed, or all fold.  On the seventh card all must be revealed.
Four Card  Thief: On the final Call the Jack of Peasants may be exchanged for any card revealed.  This means that the Noble House of Peasants is the top hand.
Called Coin: The holder of the Pinnacle of Paths my toss a coin rather than Call, and defer any bet for the round.  If it is tails the coin goes to the pot as a bet, if it’s heads they give the coin to an opponent, and take one of their cards blind.

Ascension Counts:

Little is known of the practice of Ascension counts as so many old documents were burned or destroyed during the Ascension purges.  It is for this exact reason they are known as Ascension Counts, as several other terms can be found in surviving documents, but none are considered clearly authoritative.  They are also sometimes called Clarion Counts.

The Numbers:

  1. I
  2. II
  3. III
  4. IV
  5. V
  6. VI
  7. VII
  8. S
  9. SI
  10. SII
  11. SII
  12. SIII
  13. SIV
  14. SV
  15. SVI

The introduction of the S at 8 is interesting, and there is some surviving evidence in Clarion writings that were not purged that the 8th, that in excess of the 7th, is the boundless, and the origin of the Rune ∞, used by convention for aether uptake, while the Rune S is used signify entropic focus.

The S is almost ignored in all relation to Arcana or Playing Fates, except a modern tradition out of Mordove manufacture that marks the Ace as $ signifying a union of 1 and 8.  Some argue this makes the card 9, which is supported by some clarion writings that indicate:

The SI should be written $.  It is III of III.  Boundless be the numbers beyond VII.

Otherwise uninformative in a modern context this rare line indicates a marking tradition that would conflict with the modern use.  Further Ascension counts do not contain a Zero, as found in the more prevalent Osyraen number system.  The crossed ϴ is magical notation typically represents equilibrium, balance, and cancelation (sometimes instead written ø for distinction.)  In ancient Osyraen notation this was used also for equality, with the parallel line notation being derived some time after the Maji passed through Napir.


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