The following is the outline of house rules adapting the new World of Darkness (nWoD) Mage rules to the old World of Darkness (oWoD) Mage campaign setting. Officially we will follow nWoD rules in the Mage: the Awakening and World of Darkness books except where outlined here or discussed at the table (which should then be transcribed here).
Throughout, any modifications to the nWoD system follow most likely from one of two lines of reasoning,
- to make spells and magic in general follow the paradigm-independent requirement of any True Magic system in the oWoD, and
- to create new rules or modify similar rules to accommodate anachronisms of the old system (e.g. avatars, the Umbra, Ascension).
In matters of the abilities of the spheres where not outlined below, the basic rule of thumb is to take the more powerful of the two systems. For example, nWoD requires Matter 4 to transmute gold into wood, however oWoD requires only Matter 2, so Matter 2 would be the standard, however oWoD requires Correspondence 4 to create a portal whereas nWoD requires Space 3, so Correspondence 3 would be used.
To accommodate the oWoD setting, several changes have been made to stats, which obviously must be addressed as early as character creation.
Mages start with 1 in every attribute, and can put additional dots as the usual 5/4/3 for whatever the player selects as primary/secondary/tertiary categories among the Physical/Mental/Social Attributes. Since a mage has a naturally stronger will than most people, the player has an additional dot he may place in either Resolve or Composure above and beyond the 5/4/3.
As per the nWoD core rulebook, each skill starts at 0 and the player prioritizes the Physical/Mental/Social categories to place 11/7/4 points. This prioritization does not need to match that chosen for Attributes; people can be trained differently from their natural aptitudes.
Instead of the new Virtue/Vice system, this ruleset uses the old Nature/Demeanor. Willpower will be recovered as the Virtue/Vice system substituting Nature for Virtue and Demeanor for Vice.
Players start with 3 Arete (instead of Gnosis). If the player wants his mage to start with lower Arete, Arete dots above the first may be "dissolved" into additional Merit points at the rate of 1 Arete = 3 Merit points.
Each mage begins with 6 points to put in spheres. The spheres are the 9 from the oWoD (Correspondence, Entropy, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Prime, Spirit, Time), and starting characters cannot have a sphere rating above their Arete rating. If a character has only 1 Arete, the player may choose to have the character start with 1 in every sphere at no extra cost, since starting with 1 Arete is very difficult.
Each mage is naturally attuned to a particular sphere. In the oWoD system, this was set as the mage's Tradition sphere, however this has shown to be more a burden than a boon. Consequently, here a player may choose any sphere to be his character's favored sphere. This sphere takes the place of the two ruling Arcana from the nWoD Mage system, allowing improvised casting without additional quintessence expenditure and reduced experience cost. To balance, there is no "inferior sphere," as mages only have one favored sphere.
Merits and Backgrounds
As per the nWoD rules, players begin with 7 Merit points that may be spent on anything from the nWoD core rulebook or the nWoD Mage rulebook. Since the oWoD system places heavy emphasis on the Avatar background (and lesser emphasis on Mentor, Arcane, etc.), and since there are no "Backgrounds" in nWoD, players also have 5 "Background" points they may spend on oWoD-style backgrounds. Merit points may also be spent on these backgrounds, on a one-for-one basis, but Background points may not be spent on Merits.
Similar to the Avatar background, some merits from the oWoD system, such as circumspect avatar and shattered avatar, do not have parallels in the new system. Therefore, players may choose some merits from the oWoD system, but cost and effect are entirely up to the Storyteller.
Quintessence (a.k.a. Mana)
The maximum amount of quintessence a mage can store is always twice the mage's Avatar rating, even if the mage possesses the first dot of Prime.
Each sphere provides a simple spell that gives a mage "Mage Sight." This sight allows the mage to sense three things:
- Presence and nature of resonance.
- Use of any non-True Magic supernatural ability.
- Effect of any Sphere of True Magic.
Beyond knowing that something is present or has occurred (e.g. whether resonance is strong or weak, a supernatural ability has been used, or a spell's primary Sphere), a turn of scrutiny and a roll of Intelligence + Occult is required.
If some time has passed since a spell has been cast, its effects can still be detected in the area with the proper dot in the sphere, and its resonance can be discerned as usual, however in both cases additional successes will be required. These are treated as if the scrutinizing mage is casting a prolonged spell, and duration must reach back to when the spell was cast.
To simplify matters, any spell the character possesses as a rote can be cast with no intrinsic quintessence cost. Improvised spells require a base expenditure of one quintessence per casting (failed spells still consume quintessence), unless the spell requirements consist solely of the character's favored sphere.
Example: Johnny the Forces mage wants to melt some faces. He does this by transmuting the target's body heat into facial fire (Forces 3). Because this in accomplished entirely with Forces, Johnny's favored sphere, he may cast this non-roted spell without quintessence expenditure. However, to cast this on a distant target (Correspondence 3, Forces 3), Johnny must expend a point of quintessence.
Additionally, any spell that manipulates aggravated damage, such as healing aggravated damage on yourself with Life 3 or dealing aggravated damage to others with Forces or Life 4, requires spending one additional quintessence per spell, no matter the amount of damage manipulated. For example, to heal yourself of 3 lethal with a Life 2 improvised spell requires one point of quintessence, while healing another person's 5 aggravated damage with a Life 4 rote also requires one point of quintessence.
Finally, with respect to counter-spelling, if a spell costs a quintessence to cast, it costs a quintessence to counter. Otherwise, casting a counter-spell on a "free" spell is likewise "free."
For each spell whose default target is the caster, the spell may be cast on others with the requirement of +1 for the primary sphere. For example, to heal bashing damage on oneself is Life 2, while healing others is Life 3. To then cast on others, the caster must be in physical contact with the target. Any casting more distant than this requires a certain amount of Correspondence, either 1 for line of sight, or the new primary sphere requirement for anything farther (e.g. Correspondence 3 Life 3 to cast around a wall or around the world).
Each spell has an innate duration, typically transitory, prolonged, or lasting. For each point in the primary sphere the caster has above the required, the caster may extend the spell's duration up the chain of "Transitory," "Prolonged," and "Advanced Prolonged." A spell may not be made lasting in this way.
Combined and Conjunctional Spells
As stated in nWoD Mage, multiple independent spells can be combined into one, principally for the reason that mages now have a limit on the number of ongoing spells they may have. The sphere requirements for this combined spell are the highest spheres for the component spells +1. Any number of spells may be combined in this manner, however successes must be split between spells (if only one success is gained, the caster chooses one spell from the combined spell that takes effect), and the duration of the spell is the shortest duration among the spells (with Storyteller exceptions). The effects from spells that affect the same quality or stat (such as Intelligence or Armor) do not stack, and the one providing the highest bonus takes precedence. For example, to cast the respective "Mage Sight" spells for Correspondence, Mind, and Time, each separate spell requires 1 in its respective sphere. Thus, the combined spell requires Correspondence 3, Mind 3, Time 3, and at least 3 successes must be gained on this spell. To extend this combined spell's duration to a day, since it consists only of the Mage Sight spells, the usual one optional quintessence may be spent to count for all.
A spell that requires two or more spheres is a Conjunctional Effect. For example, to heal an ally of his bashing damage from around the world requires Correspondence 3 Life 3. Since the effect includes exploiting a sympathetic connection, it is not a combined spell.
First of all, "sacraments" are not required and the lack thereof does not incur a dice penalty, as they are counter to the paradigm-free nature of oWoD magic.
The spheres embody the very facets of Creation, and so their knowledge unlocks not only a list of spells to cast, but a whole range of Effects to be caused with near-infinite variety. The nWoD system codifies much of this variety in what can be called metamagic. Each of the below alterations to a listed or created spell the mage would like to make incurs a cumulative requirement of knowing the spell's primary sphere one dot higher than the base spell requires. For example, healing the caster of bashing damage requires Life 2, so healing another (touched) target of bashing damage requires Life 3
- Cast a self-targeting spell on another target (requires physical contact with the target).
- Increase the spell's duration by one step (Transitory becomes Prolonged, Prolonged becomes Advanced Prolonged).
- (Under consideration) Cast an extended-action spell as an instant spell.
Knowledge of a rote is more than just knowing how to cause a particular Effect. The mage has internalized the particular change of nature embodied by the purpose of the rote, and so, as with improvised spells, he may alter the particular Effect of the rote as he increases in his sphere knowledge. Any metamagic alteration to a rote is covered at the acquisition of the rote and the required XP expenditure.
Finally, if a mage has 6 dots in the spell's primary sphere, he may apply as many metamagic alterations as he likes with no penalty.
Some spells have in their descriptions something that could be viewed as an application of metamagic, e.g. Call Lightning can target anything in sensory range. To cast these spells "without the metamagic" still requires the spell's base cost. Casting a prolonged spell as transitory or an other-targeted spell on the caster does not reduce the spell's primary sphere requirements.
The base pool to cast a spell consists of the mage's Gnosis + Lowest Sphere Used. There are several modifiers to increase or decrease this pool:
- +1 to +5 for casting in the caster's sanctum
- +3 for a rote
- +1 for using a personal focus
- +1 for using an unnecessary focus (does not stack with other foci-based bonuses)
- +1 for using Tass or quintessence strongly resonating with the spell's desired Effect
- -1 for using Tass or quintessence strongly resonating against the spell's desired Effect
- -3 to -5 for feats of outlandish proportions (altering a celestial body's orbit, transmuting the oceans to wine, submerging a landmass beneath the sea, etc.)
- -5 for not using a needed focus (this applies if a personal focus has been made but is not available)
- -successes scored on a Paradox roll for vulgar spells
The final modifier may surpass the usual +/- 5 dice as true magic bends (and breaks) the laws of reality.
The new arcana of Death and Fate split the oWoD Mage sphere of Entropy into its two principle facets. Since the oWoD setting cannot reliably handle such a split, the new rotes and ideas must be recombined into the one Entropy sphere. This necessitates the increase of requirements of the sphere knowledge to perform the same feats, as the sphere now has the most explicit rotes of any sphere.
As far as the Alter Oath and Severe Oath spells are concerned, Changeling Pledges have a Potency equal to the Changeling's Wyrd at the time the Pledge was forged.
Reading the Outmost Eddies (sensory) - Rather than effecting any change, the mage can simply read off the most likely outcome of a particular action. In game terms, for any uncontested roll of minor significance, the mage will know the outcome before it happens. For example, the mage can determine whether a coin will come up heads or tails, whether a lottery ticket is the winning ticket, or whether a specific person (in sensory range) is just about to slip on a banana peel.
Alter Oath - This rote works as described on p 154, excepting that the caster cannot alter an oath sworn by the caster as under the Entropy 3 spell until Entropy 5. (Effectively, replace the last words "Fate 4" with "Entropy 5" from the rote's description.)
Blight - Action: Instant; subtract target's Stamina. Duration: Lasting. Aspect: Covert if bashing, Vulgar if lethal or aggravated. The mage touches his target and causes the natural decay of the touched part of the target's body to accelerate, causing minor or major injury in moments. The caster may choose which type of damage he deals, but the usual expenditure of quintessence is required to cause aggravated wounds.
- Fortune's Protection - Entropic Guard serves the same purpose.
- Lucky Coin - Combines Platonic Mechanism with a variation of Bestow Exceptional Luck centered around owners of the object, rather than a specific person.
- Monkey's Paw - Same reasons as Lucky Coin.
- Unfettered Fate requires Entropy 5, but is otherwise as described on p 158.
The nWoD rules for Forces are almost entirely based around, what would in oWoD be called, a specific paradigm. The forces of nature come in several types that the system codifies by a sort of intrinsic power (e.g. light is intrinsically weaker than electricity, which is weaker than kinetic energy, which is weaker than radiation). This intrinsic power is paradigm-specific; a Son of Ether could easily see light as being a more difficult force to control than electricity.
As a more paradigm-independent model, we take the oWoD Forces model, which is based on relative strength, and add a third type. Specifically, there are three types of Forces and two powers granted by the sphere. The first dot consists of all sensory abilities related to Forces. The others are given in the table below.
Control of a force means that the mage can redirect it, amplify or suppress it, or manipulate it in some way that does not alter its basic type (e.g. visible light can be red-shifted into radio waves that can then be modulated to carry a radio signal, but it's all still EM radiation).
Transmutation of a force allows the mage to alter that force in any way he wishes. He can turn visible light into heat, heat into kinetic energy, or, with the right other spheres, create fire from nothing (i.e. adding Prime 2 and spending quintessence).
A minor force is any force with a potency of 4 or less. This means that, when inflicted as damage on a foe, the foe takes 4 points of damage per turn or less (the type of damage depends on the force manipulated). A medium force has a potency of 5 to 10, and a major force has a potency of 11+.
For effects that cannot be easily gauged using damage, such as changing light intensity or changing one noise to sound like another, a softer guideline of area of effect can be used. A minor force can affect only a single target, so sound manipulation changes either one source of sound or the sound reaching a single person, whereas light intensity is affected on a single source or a single person observing the light. A medium force can affect everything within a small area (approximately 50 square feet). So every light source in a 50 sqft area can be dimmed or intensified, and all sounds in an area matching a certain set of parameters (e.g. "bird chirps") can be altered to match a different set of parameters (e.g. "frog croaks"). Careful manipulation might require a secondary roll, such as Manipulation + Subterfuge or Intelligence + Science. Finally, a major force is anything beyond a medium force, such as the weather, a forest fire, or the collective electricity from a power plant.
Gravity - Whether gravity is a minor, medium, or major force depends on the object gravity is affecting. The gravitational force affecting a river rock or house cat is a minor force. The weight of the average human is a medium force, whereas the weight of an office building is a major force.
Kinetic Energy - Like gravity, kinetic energy's type of force depends on its relative intensity. The energy of a bullet, fist, or arrow is minor, the motion of a person or compact car is medium, and that of a semi-trailer or the Moon is a major force.
Light - Ambient light, radio waves, thermal radiation, and similar EM waves are all minor forces. A laser pointer that can be purchased at Wal-Mart is similarly minor, but a laser that can cause lethal damage is a medium force.
All of the influence, control, and mastery spells assume the caster is manipulating a minor force. For forces of medium potency, add one to the requirements, and for forces of major potency, add another beyond the requirements for medium.
To create a force "from nothing" requires an ambient source from which to transmute and amplify (such as ambient heat, light, or sound), or another sphere (such as Prime 2 to turn quintessence into the force).
Healing Heart - This rote works as described on p 186, except that instead of requiring Life 4, Life 3 Correspondence 1 can be used to cast it in sensory range, and Life 3 Correspondence 3 can be used to cast it in sympathetic range. Additionally, only an additional expenditure of quintessence is needed to heal aggravated damage (instead of the addition dot in Life), though healing such damage is always vulgar.
From 1 to 5, the rotes and abilities listed in nWoD Mage for Matter show no particular rhyme or reason. They seem as arbitrary powers with Arcanum level requirements attached for game balance. Consequently, below is the complete re-working of the Matter sphere.
One point in Matter allows the mage all manner of sensory spells, but no matter manipulation. The abilities conferred to the mage and the type of matter the mage can affect is given in the table below
Create Charm/Gadget - Action: Extended. Duration: Lasting. Aspect: Vulgar. The mage creates a trinket, such as an amulet (for a charm) or a small technical device (for a gadget), that can cast a single spell once. After the spell has been cast, the object reverts to a purely mundane form. To create the wonder, the mage expends a point of quintessence and rolls as if casting the spell as an extended casting, but he uses Prime instead of the spell's normal primary sphere (i.e. he rolls Arete + Prime). The mage must be able to cast the spell he wishes to imbue into the charm. Successes are delegated to spell factors as usual, though one success must be used to place the spell into the charm. Charms may be made in batches, up to the mage's Arete + 3, at the expense of one additional success and point of quintessence per additional charm.
Create Artifact/Invention - Action: Extended. Duration: Lasting. Aspect: Vulgar. Cost: 1+ Quintessence. The mage imbues an object with the ability to cast a particular spell. The wonder itself is an ongoing spell with lasting duration, however the factors of the spell cast by the wonder are determined at the wonder's creation. The target number of successes is equal to the total sphere requirements of the spell plus one (e.g. to create a wonder that casts a Mind 3 Correspondence 3 spell requires 7 successes). The spell factors for the spell the wonder can cast are at base level unless the mage expends additional quintessence, beyond the required one to cast this spell, to increase these factors. Each quintessence spent in this way counts as if the wonder had gained an additional 2 successes.
To cast a spell from the wonder requires the using mage to make an arete roll and achieve a single success. The outcome of the spell is then predetermined by the wonder's creation conditions. Ongoing spells cast from a wonder do not count toward any mage's total.
For a wonder to be able to cast multiple spells, the sum of all of the required sphere levels for all spells forms the required successes for the enchantment, and quintessence spent toward increasing spell factors must be split between the spells. For example, for a wonder to be able to cast a Matter 2 spell with potency 2 and a Matter 3 spell with potency 4, the mage must accrue 5 successes beyond the first and expend 3 points of quintessence.
Create Periapt - Action: Extended. Duration: Prolonged. Aspect: Vulgar. Cost: Special. The mage imbues an inanimate object with the ability to store quintessence. For each quintessence the mage devotes to the periapt, the periapt may store a point of quintessence for the duration of the spell (though the quintessence used to create the spell is lost). Any mage that wishes to store or recover quintessence in the periapt must use the Channel Quintessence spell. When the spell expires, any quintessence still contained within is released to float in the area for one hour before it is absorbed into the tapestry.
- On top of the successes required to cast the above spell, the mage must attain successes equal to the Arete the wonder will have, not to exceed the mage's own Arete.
- A willpower dot must be expended to cast this spell.
- Casting a spell involves rolling the wonder's Arete + spell's primary sphere level, which means Sleepers and other supernatural creatures can activate them.
- The wonder can only have as many spell's active as its Arete + 3.
Siphon Health - The mage consumes the raw existence of a living creature. The mage must be in physical contact with the target (requiring a Strength + Brawl - Defense roll), and each success causes one level of lethal damage and gives the mage one point of quintessence. Each success induces
Touch of the Grave or Gossamer Touch - This rote functions as a combination of the rotes described on pp 138, 247 except that Matter 1 or Forces 1 are required to give the necessary interactions of an Umbral object with the material world.
Spirit Jar - Action: Instant; contested by target's resistance. Duration: Prolonged. Aspect: Covert. The mage can bind spirits into containers similar to the soul jar rote on p 137. The roll is contested by the spirit's resistance. Additional successes extend the spell's duration.
To fit with the metaphysics of Paradox from oWoD, the effects of Paradox are slightly altered. Paradox effects do not accumulate with more successes; that is, a Paradox roll achieving 2 successes invokes an Anomaly, not a Havoc and an Anomaly.
The rules as per the nWoD Mage book on p 268 apply as stated. The mage partially or totally loses control over his spell. The target of the spell changes is a way decided by the Storyteller, and any change to the effect of the spell is determined by the caster's usual Wisdom roll.
As a "cracking" of reality doesn't jibe with the theme of oWoD, a paradox Anomaly is instead like the paradox effects from the oWod system. In short, something random and impossible happens, usually affecting only the caster, though large transgressions may affect the area or even other mages, but never Sleepers.
Upon achieving 3 successes on a Paradox roll, the mage enters Quiet after the spell-casting attempt. While in Quiet, the mage experiences a world similar to but slightly altered from our own, skewed by his own beliefs and Resonance. All of the mage's mundane and mystical perceptions are affected, leaving him no recourse to discern reality from his own dementia.
Additionally, upon entering Quiet the mage makes a Wisdom roll:
Dramatic Failure: The mage summons one hobgoblin per dot of Presence. These hobgoblins act against the mage's intentions and Nature; e.g. if the mage was attempting to heal a cabal-mate, the hobgoblin attacks him, while if the mage was attempting to foil another mage's work, the hobgoblin aids it instead.
Failure: As above, but only one hobgoblin is summoned.
Success: No hobgoblins are summoned.
Exceptional Success: No hobgoblins are summoned.
The hobgoblins vanish when the mage exits Quiet, either through its Duration expiring, or through the mage pulling himself out.
Unlike other Paradox effects, the mage cannot tell when he enters Quiet (however, of course, the player may know in order to play the character accordingly). If the mage begins to suspect that he is in Quiet, usually due to some otherwise impossibility that convince his senses is mundane, he may make a Wits + Composure roll:
Dramatic Failure: The mage scrutinizes his Quiet and concludes he is not in Quiet so confidently that he may not make another attempt for the rest of the scene.
Failure: The mage concludes that he is not in Quiet.
Success: The mage realizes he has slipped into Quiet.
Exceptional Success: The mage realizes that he is in Quiet and gains a +2 dice bonus on attempts to pull himself out of Quiet.
Should a mage learn that he is in Quiet, he may retreat into his own mind in an attempt to dispel the Quiet. In doing this, the mage's body falls comatose, however Mind magic easily reveals what is happening to the mage. One minute after the mage retreats in this way, the player may begin an extended Resolve + Composure roll, with each roll representing an additional minute of concentration.. To successfully come out of Quiet, a total of Gnosis * (10 - Wisdom) successes must be obtained from this extended roll.
If the mage successfully pulls himself out of Quiet prematurely in this way, he gains a derangement as per the Bedlam nWoD Paradox effect described on p 268 for the remainder of the Paradox's duration.
Again, the Abyss version of manifestation does not fit so well with the oWoD Paradox metaphysics. Therefore, what manifests instead of an Abyssal agent is a Paradox spirit. The nature of this spirit's actions depends on the intent and spheres of the spell cast.
For example, a Forces spell may cause a dynamic spirit to manifest in the form of fire that cannot be squelched and works to consume the mage's tools and possessions.
At this high level, the mage is physically removed from consensual reality and thrust into a Paradox realm; either his own or a shared realm. There, he suffers a torment related to any spells he had cast leading to this level of Paradox.
For example, a realm heavily influenced by Correspondence may be an impossible maze of rooms, hallways, doors, and stairways that lead back and around on itself, while an Entropy realm may be a mirror reflection of his home and family that continuously degrades far more rapidly than would normally happen, destroying that which he loves and cares for before his eyes.
For all non-supernatural aspects, such as Attributes and Skills, acquisition and experience point expenditure are as in the nWoD core rulebook.
Any character with enough experience points can manifest the first level of any sphere at any time. To obtain higher levels of a sphere, the character must show some kind of development with that sphere. This may take many forms, depending on the character's personality and paradigm, from intense study for less intuitive spheres, or simply practice in the mage's favored sphere.
- Favored Sphere: 6 x New
- Non-Favored Sphere: 7 x New
Unlike any other stat in the game, a player may optionally spend experience points to raise their character's Arete. Otherwise, the player need simply tell the Storyteller that they would like to raise the character's Arete without experience points.
Either way, when a character's Arete increases, the character undergoes a Seeking. Depending upon the strength of the character's Avatar, his Seeking could take place as he slept, overlaid on top of mundane reality, or, for particularly powerful Avatars, the mage's Mind may be pulled out of his body to wherever the Avatar wishes to have the Seeking.
What happens in a Seeking depends on whether the player is spending experience points. If he does decide to spend experience, the Seeking is largely a passive affair. The Avatar takes the mage through a series of trials, showing him images meant to influence his perception of the world and himself, and when the mage comes out, he has achieved a higher level of understanding of the universe and, thus, a higher Arete rating.
Should the player opt out of paying, the Seeking becomes much more interactive and difficult. The character is presented with a series of tasks that are most likely subtle and definitely difficult. There is a very real possibility of failure, and that failure is not just the lack of a new dot in Arete. A failed Seeking means that the mage has failed a series of tests required by the Avatar, and in its frustration the Avatar may inflict further punishment.
- 8 x New or Free
Rich's Custom Fighting Style
- Spend a point of Willpower and reflexively roll Dexterity + Stealth opposed by opponent's Wits + Composure. You leave behind an object that, on success, your opponent believes to be you for the next round and takes actions as such. You may then choose to attack or flee. If you attack your target and hit, add your Stealth rating in damage of the type dealt.