Creating Magical Effects
Within the bounds of the Spheres, there's an infinite variety in magical practice. Of course, the mage is limited to her practical knowledge of the Spheres and the constraints of reality around her. Still, any limit can be surpassed with enough time and knowledge. As a result, each Effect is unique. Although a given rote or procedure may be handed down as a tried-and-true technique, the mage's paradigm. Resonance and knowledge of the Spheres all shape how even the simplest Effects take form.
When you craft a magical Effect, you just follow a few simple steps. You can build the Effect to do just what you want, as broadly or as narrowly as you desire. You're not limited by any static list of powers. Instead, your mage uses her learning to make up her own magical feats on the spot. Your imagination and the constraints of what your mage knows how to do are the only limits here.
A mage literally alters reality to her whims when she creates a magical Effect. Doing so could create something new, destroy something, change the environment or perform any number of strange results. However, reality itself doesn't take lightly to being hauled around and slapped into shape. Large-scale, vulgar or long-lasting changes are much harder to do than simple, brief Effects, especially Effects that blend in. A mage can therefore change nearly any fundamental aspect of the world around her, but it may take too much time, effort or magical knowledge. Worse still, the consequences of hubris (of trying to make a change that's too large or too quick) can be deadly. More than one mage has been engulfed in her own spells gone awry.
Here, we'll describe exactly what you go through in each step. Of course, you won't necessarily use every modifier and every foible. The Storyteller chooses which modifiers to apply, or even whether to "wing it" and let the story determine the Effect without recourse to the rules. Once you've built a few Effects, you'll find the system easy to use.
What Do You Want to Do and How?
If you didn't have a plan in mind, you wouldn't be using magic. However, there are usually several ways to accomplish a given feat. Figure out what you want to do in general terms, and then look at the ways to accomplish it with magic.
Desired ResultObviously, you must determine what it is you want to do, exactly. You might be trying to electrocute an opponent or heal a wound. Figure out a way to make events turn according to your whims. Remember, with the right Spheres and paradigm, you can do just about anything. You need only determine how you want to accomplish your aims by using a Pattern, altering an existing phenomenon, toying with Prime energy, whatever.
Effect DescriptionOnce you know what you're trying to accomplish, figure out how you want it to happen. Narrow it down to a particular Effect, or even something like "I want to make events twist to electrocute this guy." The Storyteller can determine whether your Effect is defined well enough for the story. Determine your desired angle, whether it's firing a bolt of lightning or tearing a hole in the Gauntlet. A lot of this decision involves roleplaying, as you decide how your mage approaches problems. The time and resources available to your mage affect this approach as well. Your magical feats will depend on paradigm, too, so this decision is a great way to distinguish your mage's beliefs and way of shaping Effects. Your desired Effect also establishes a base difficulty. Is your Effect readily visible, or is it a subtle shift of events? Is it blatantly vulgar or quietly coincidental? Small, static Effects are a lot easier to cast than large, vulgar ones, but sometimes you just have to bust out the whup -ass and lay out some smackdown. Circumstances, opposition and the use of the right tools can all affect the outcome, too. If the Effect is just too large for you to pull it off in a quick-and-dirty casting, you'll need to add helpers or work out an extended ritual.
Paradigmatic EffectYour paradigm should always influence your magical Effects. Rarely does a mage simply wave a hand to wreak great change. Instead, the mage relies on the tools that she's learned to use. Check out the various Traditions and their beliefs. Each one has an approach to magic that shapes the caster's Effects. Work this individuality into your Effects to generate a more colorful, engrossing story. After all, it's much more potent to describe how your character focuses his chi energy or uploads a iral neural rewrite, than to simply state that you're blasting the enemy with Forces or examining something with Mind magic.
Sometimes, a mage can use techniques from outside her own paradigm, which happens most often when multiple mages work together or cross-trained Orphan mages share techniques. This cooperation is uncommon, though, since most mages are conditioned to think of their way as "the right way" of doing magic. Establish how your character's "right way" of doing magic flavors her Effects. Then, decide whether you call upon the Goddess with a sacrifice of your blood, or use murmured chants to invoke heavenly powers, or... you get the idea.
Casting TimeA spell may take as little or as much time as the mage requires to cast it. Elaborate preparations may modify the difficulty, although some forms of magic (like Hermetic high magic or spirit-channeling) might demand extra time. In this case, there is no modifier unless the mage takes time and effort above and beyond the usual requirements. Remember, your paradigm may demand that you can only perform certain Effects with a great expenditure of time and effort, so you may have no choice. Conversely, even if you can do a quick Effect, you can choose to spend more time in order to make it more formidable.
Do You Know How to Do It?
Although a mage can theoretically rewrite reality, he must have the right knowledge to make it practical. Once you've decided on an Effect, you need to work out whether your mage can actually make it happen!
The SpheresThe mystic Spheres reflect a mage's understanding of reality's elements. The more he knows about a given thing, the higher his Sphere rating will be. Provided he knows what he's doing, a mage can do anything his Sphere rating and paradigm allows him to do. The parameters of what the Spheres can and cannot do are covered later in this chapter.
Mundane KnowledgeSome really complicated feats like creating a functioning computer from scratch may require some mundane knowledge in addition to the magical know-how. If you want your Spheres to duplicate the functions of accepted devices like cars, computers and airplanes, then you need to have an idea of how those things work normally. In other words, just knowing how to manipulate Matter doesn't let you make a plane that can fly or a laptop that runs commercial software.
Generally, your Abilities like Computer and Firearms determine how much you know about such technical subjects. The Storyteller determines how much knowledge your mage needs in order to perform specific feats. This job does not necessarily require hard rules. Rather, take a look at some of the Abilities and use them as guidelines for the sorts of knowledge that a mage may require to make complex objects, creatures or Effects. You can also use your Abilities to improve your character's magical feats. Though some magic won't necessarily require special knowledge, there are times when the right Abilities can make it easier or better. If yourmage is healing someone, a little Medicine Ability may help, after all. When you decide to use an Ability thus, you may manage to lower the difficulty of your mage's Effects. Just ask your Storyteller.
Do You Succeed?
Now that you've figured out what you're doing and how you're doing it, it's time to make the attempt. Whether it succeeds or fails, your magical working will probably do something.
The Arete RollYour mage's Arete, or measure of enlightenment, determines her raw ability to weave the stuff of magic. All you need to do once you've figured out how to perform an Effect is roll your character's Arete. In so doing, your mage tugs at the Tapestry with her magic, will and ritual. You needn't use your mage's entire Arete for the roll, but you're more likely to succeed if you do. Then again, the more dice you roll, the more chances you have to score a nasty botch. There's no sense in dropping a huge Effect when a small one will do, and it's usually not as risky, either. Too many mages get caught up in the power to change, instead of the wisdom to change only what's necessary.
DifficultyMagic is tough, and it gets harder the more a mage tries to push or pull. If your mystic performs a small feat, it'll probably be easy to cast, but large-scale, fantastic Effects become very difficult very quickly. When the weight of disbelief from surrounding un-Awakened people fights against a mage's manipulation of the Tapestry, the resulting Backlash can be downright deadly. That's not to say that your mage can't pull offsome mighty feats, just that you'd better stack the odds in her favor first!
In the modern age, of course, magic is rare and precious. Feats that would have been simple even a decade ago are tricky now, and the legendary magic of ages long gone are locked away in the past. In these days of disbelief, there aren't dragons or crystal caves any more. Mages are often limited to the hard knocks of their Traditional tricks.
Coincidental magic's base difficulty is the highest Sphere used in the Effect +3. If your mage makes a wound look like "just a flesh wound," using Life 2, then the difficulty is 5.
Vulgar magic without a Sleeper witness has a base difficulty of the highest Sphere used in the Effect +4. If your mage uses Life 2 to cause a wound to close with the pass of her hand, the difficulty is 6.
Vulgar magic with a Sleeper witness has a base difficulty of the highest Sphere used in the Effect +5. If your mage heals her own wound instantly while normal people watch, the difficulty is 7.
Inherent magic typically functions according to its own rules. If a vampire mesmerizes a person or a werewolf changes shapes, then it uses its own systems, described in a separate rule section. For simplicity's sake, assume that these powers either function automatically with an appropriate expenditure of Tass, or that they require a simple roll of difficulty 6 using an appropriate Attribute + Ability combination. Use Manipulaion + Subterfuge to mesmerize someone or Dexterity + Athletics to move with incredible speed, for instance. However, be warned that any use of vulgar magic rebounds on the mage. Changing the universe in a blatant fashion causes Paradox; see the quick-reference casting page for details. Most vulgar Effects will generate at least one point of Paradox, and anything generating five or more points at once risks a really nasty Backlash. Generally, a vulgar Effect generates one point of Paradox per level of the highest Sphere used, plus one more if there are unbelieving Sleeper witnesses, and that's if it succeeds.
ModifiersGiven the difficulty of working magical feats, it's sensible to get as many bonuses as you can. Smart mages do magic on their own terms and turf, getting helpers, time and ritual on their side. If your mage uses all the right tools and takes enough time, you can get several modifiers to help make the Effect a little easier.
The casting charts later in this chapter list several possible difficulty modifiers. You should take only three different modifiers in order to keep things from getting too complex. Of course, the Storyteller decides what modifiers you take, so don't expect to stack on too many bonuses without any penalties unless you really take pains to put your mage in an advantageous situation!
No matter how many modifiers you apply, your Effect difficulty can't be shifted more than three points in either direction. You can only stack up so much good or bad karma, after all.
Since magic is, by nature, an effort of will, the Willpower Trait comes in handy when casting it. Using Willpower requires temporary Willpower points, not permanent ones. By spending a point of Willpower, you can get one automatic success on your mage's magic roll. A tremendous effort of will forces the magic to take form. You must do so before you make the Arete roll, however. You can't decide to concentrate on a spell after it's already failed. Once, it was possible to shield against Paradox Backlashes through sheer force of will, but doing so is no longer possible. Once magic gets out of control, it takes its own form, and Paradox carries it off.
As the building block of creation, Quintessence fuels all manner of Patterns and magic. This rare and precious energy forms all things, so it is highly useful in the construction of magic. Channeling Quintessence aids in the creation of new "reality" from the raw stuff of Creation. In some cases, Quintessence must be used to build new Patterns.
Up to your mage's Arete in Quintessence may be used in a given Effect roll, modifying the 'difficulty by one per point. This modifier works like any other, but it lasts as long as the willworker continues to use Quintessence. Again, you must spend Quintessence before you make the Arete roll for the Effect, channeling the power to strengthen the spell as your mage casts it. For example, if your mage casts a normal Effect with no modifiers, you can spend enough Quintessence to lower the difficulty by 3 (assuming an appropriate level of Avatar Background). If you suffer from penalty modifiers, you can spend Quintessence to cancel those modifiers and reduce the difficulty, up to the limit of your mage's Avatar rating or a final difficulty modifier of -3.
Remember, though, that a mage can never use more Quintessence in an Effect roll than the character's Avatar Background rating. A mage with a weak Avatar simply cannot channel Quintessence effectively, or at all if the character has no Avatar Background dots. (See the Avatar Background) A mage can use whatever personal Quintessence he has to aid an Effect, subject to the limits of the Avatar. Using outside Quintessence Tass, Nodes, etc. this way requires an additional use of Prime 3 to channel the power. Once such a channeling Effect is cast, it needs no additional attention for its duration, though it may still be subject to the rules for concentration difficulties with running minor Effects.
The number of successes required for an Effect varies with its scope. Larger and more complex Effects naturally require a greater level of success than simple, brief spells. The quick-reference charts give an idea of the amount of success required to actually pull off an Effect completely.
Simple, personal Effects usually require only a single success, though of course they work better if you score more. A marginal (single) success grants you a partial or weak version of your desired magic, while complete success (three or more successes on the roll) means that the magic works just as you wanted. This scope applies to minor sensory alterations, divinations, self healing and so on, but not to gross mental, physical or spiritual changes like shapeshifting or altering your soul. Powerful magic still generates a threshold, requiring a great number of successes before you pull off anything productive at all.
Effects that go outside the bounds of your mage's Pattern to touch something or someone else require at least two successes. Unwilling targets can usually dodge or resist such Effects as well, and you may need additional successes to get around that resistance, too. Your threshold may be higher if you try to perform a particularly tough trick, as usual.
World-altering Effects, even if they only play with your mage's little comer of reality, can require anywhere from a few successes to 30 or more. Time for the high ritual magic! The Storyteller determines the final difficulty for such a powerful Effect. Some guidelines are listed with various rotes and on the reference tables.
Thresholds and Pushing Difficulty
Some circumstances push your magical difficulty above a 9. As always, such Effects require a threshold for success (see "Thresholds" in the rules chapter). These Effects are so demanding, or cast under such deleterious circumstances, that you need to score multiple successes to accomplish anything at all. The threshold thus counts against your successes. If you have a threshold of one, then you lose the first success from your roll. If the threshold cancels out all of your successes and you have Is left on the dice, then you botch (although it's not a botch if the successes beat the threshold, even if they're cancelled by 1s rolled). The moral? When you decide to perform a particularly potent or large-scale Effect, get as much help as you can!
Success, Effect and Interruptions
Most Effects are pretty straightforward either you succeed or you do not. Examples include hurling a ball of flame, determining the truth willi a mind scan ur dilating time. Such all-or-nothing magical Effects demand that a certain amount of successes be rolled before the spell takes effect. Simple actions are easy; more complicated ones take time and effort (i.e., extended rolls) to complete. The Degree of Success table, on the magical reference chart, handles these cases.
Other spells are cast with an immediate intent in mind to cause or heal damage, to sense some property or element, to influence somebody's mind or change some object's shape. The amount of damage, benefit or influence you exert depends on how well you roll. The better you roll, the more effect the magic has. The same goes for duration; the better you roll, the longer the Effect lasts. See the Damage and Duration table in these situations.
If an all-or-nothing action (i.e., igniting a gas main) also does damage or lasts for a while, use the Damage and Duration table to find out just how much it inflicted or how long it lasts. Split up your successes among damage and duration to determine the potency of your Effect. Many Effects also have a possibility of scoring some success, or of happening partially. In such cases, check the Degree of Success table, and compare it to the required successes for the Effect. The Effect may be completed at once, or it may happen only partially. If your mage is shapeshifting but you don't score enough successes to complete the Effect, then you'll only go part way and you'll need to finish the spell with an additional Effect. If you feel like keeping some bookwork, you can even cause extended Effects to slowly take shape while the mage casts them, and if the Effect ultimately fails or botches, the magic collapses horribly, undoing the Effect and wreaking whatever havoc Paradox brings.
Rituals and Extended Magic Rolls
A mage can accomplish most minor feats with little difficulty (one to five successes). However, many Effects are so complicated or powerful that the caster must take extra time to succeed. In story terms, she has to work some magical ritual; in game terms, you must make an extended roll, gathering enough successes to finish the job.
Effects that require extended rolls include summonings, complex creations, weather-witchery, strong curses, Correspondence searches, Nodedrainings, Horizon Realm creations and other powerful acts of will. The Storyteller may decree that one roll may take game-time hours instead of turns, depending on the magic involved.
A mage's paradigm may also dictate that some magic can be performed only with specific rituals and actions (foci). In such a case, you must take the appropriate game time to complete the Effect, since your mage doesn't know how to do it any other way. This requirement doesn't necessarily make it an extended Effect you could take a few turns to wield a focus in a fashion necessary to cast a spell, but only make one Effect roll. You could certainly use it to justify extending a ritual over several turns.
Extended rolls follow the normal rules found in the rules chapter. Keeping the magic going can be tough, though, so apply the following modifiers as well:
The bigger the Effect, the nastier the potential Backlash. Each roll after the first adds one more Paradox point to a Backlash's total, on top of anything gained for the botch. This Paradox does not apply if the ritual succeeds or fails without botching.
If you fail a roll that is, you get no successes that turn you may still continue rolling, at a difficulty penalty of one per failed cumulative roll, until the ritual is completed or the magic is somehow disrupted. If this modifier generates a threshold, the threshold applies to the final roll. You could wind up in a sticky situation, with the increased difficulty and threshold making it nearly impossible for you to score enough further successes to complete the ritual. Note that the cumulative difficulty modifier from extended rituals won't exceed the usual limit of three, but all of the bonuses for a well-planned ritual could be lost and a total difficulty modifier of three could be applied if several failures come up during the casting.
If the roll botches, you may spend a turn (or whatever unit of time the ritual rolls take) and a Willpower point to avoid screwing up the whole affair. By spending the Willpower, you make your mage keep the magic going barely but you lose one previously rolled success in the process as well as the Willpower point. From there, you must increase the difficulty by one, as if you had failed the roll. A second botch destroys the Effect utterly and brings Paradox crashing down on the caster.
If the ritual is disrupted by an outside force like an attack or a distraction you must make a Willpower roll (difficulty 8) or botch the whole Effect. As always, it's best to get as many good modifiers as possible on the mage's side. Most rituals are performed in a sanctum, with loyal help. Again, modifiers cannot reduce the difficulty by more than three points.
Important note: Your mage can take extra time and care with an Effect without making it extended. If you make multiple rolls to complete an Effect, then your mage stacks up magical energy until it's at the desired level. If you declare that your mage is spending a lot of extra time and precision just to perform a singe Effect or even on each step of an extended t ask then the activity may take more than a turn or even an hour to complete. However, the roll gets a difficulty modifier bonus of one.
The Storyteller may decide that mages cannot perform extended rituals that are too long. After all, allowing a neophyte mage to accumulate 30 or 50 successes on a ritual may cause Effects that get out of hand. A mage who tracks down and kills opponents in such fashion may quickly get caught in return and dealt with, or the Storyteller may simply rule that it's impossible for a mage to concentrate that much magical power at once. A good general guideline is to limit a mage's total ritual successes to the product of the mage's Willpower and Arete. The mages can thus handle only so much power at once. If you do use this limitation, don't include successes gained from acolytes and assistants in this limit; a mage with a big enough following can perform spectacular feats. Note also that, unless the mage relies on special magic to keep going long beyond human endurance, he probably won't be able to keep a ritual going more than a couple of hours without a lot of practice and work. This restriction alone can limit the extended feats possible with magic.
An Adept can do simple things with little trouble. If she wants to perform some Effect that requires only one or two successes, she may do it without a roll, provided her Arete is at least one point above the necessary difficulty. Coincidental first-rank Effects would require an Arete of at least five, second-rank Effects need six, and so forth. Such "instant magic" would not last long a turn or two but it may work long enough to get the job done.
To speed play, a Storyteller may just decide to allow her players to succeed automatically with simple spells that they've perfected and used repeatedly, as long as they're low-key. A mage could consistently "just happen" to have a business card in his pocket, but certainly wouldn't be able to run down the street flaying enemies with magic without a roll.
Remember, even an automatic success follows the dictates of paradigm. An Adept must still perform the appropriate rituals to take advantage of a simplified feat, even if no roll is required.
The Domino Effect
Wise mages who wish to avoid the nasty consequences of Paradox will attempt to disguise their magic in coincidental Effects. As the number of wild "coincidences" rise, however, they become harder to pull off. As an optional rule, a Storyteller can impose an additional difficulty penalty of one to coincidental magic difficulty rolls for every two such Effects over the first in one scene.
The effects of this penalty are cumulative. After five coincidental magic Effects, the difficulty for such magic increases by two. Storytellers should only count those Effects that cause massive change, such as pipes bursting, tires going flat and ammo dumps exploding. Coincidences that no one sees sensory magic, Attribute increases, objects disappearing into pockets should not increase the difficulty at all.Step Four:
The magic's done, the dice are rolled and the Effect is running wild. The time comes now to figure out the results of your power... or your pride.
Range, Area, Damage and Duration
Generally, your Effect's scale was already computed in the number of required successes. Now, you'll need to split those successes up, to make sure that the Effect hit all the targets you wanted and reached as far as necessary. Under normal circumstances, a mage's Arts can affect anything within her normal sensory range be it touch, taste, sight, smell or hearing. For subjects on the edges of that range far away, under cover or obscured by smoke, fog or other obstructions add one to the magic roll's difficulty. Correspondence magic can dramatically expand the mystic's sensory range. A mage with less than three dots in that Sphere, however, must cast long-distance Effects at difficulty penalty of one due to her inexperience with such extended perceptions. The Correspondence Sphere must be used if an Effect is supposed to bypass a solid object in between the mage and her target. When augmenting an Effect's range with Correspondence, the Correspondence range is a threshold the successes required for range are counted off from the Effect successes. Furthermore, a mage cannot exercise any Sphere at a level exceeding her knowledge of Correspondence. Even a Master of various Patterns can perform only limited long-range manipulations with low levels of Correspondence. A long-range, powerful, multi-person, long-lasting Effect is pretty damn difficult these days.
Note that Spirit Effects must often work against the Gauntlet, and the strength of this barrier varies from place to place. Use the Spirit Gauntlet chart when some Effect must pierce it. With Time, a mystic can look across different time spans. Use the Time Lines chart to figure out how far in the future or past a Time Effect can see.
As a quick-and-dirty rule, figure that the spell can affect one subject within easy reach per success, unless it includes some large area by its very nature. (Such Effects include explosions, TV broadcasts and Effects created over a user-linked network.) For individual results on multiple targets with one Effect, each Pattern affected after the first requires an additional success as a threshold. If your mage tries to hit two people with a spell instead of one, remove one extra success from the total roll. Thus, striking multiple people with one Effect means that the magic has less power and is more likely to fail.
You figure the damage or resultant effect of a spell by checking the Damage and Duration table. Though once it was possible to kill with a single strike, doing so is much more difficult with modern magic. Generally, each success left over from the Effect causes two levels of damage, healing, point-transfer or whatever. Therefore, if your mage casts a damaging Effect and scores two successes (after thresholds and other subtractions), the Effect scores up to four levels of damage. This limit works the same way for damage, healing and channeling Quintessence. You can "pull" your Effect to be less powerful, but only if you specify the limit of your Effect before casting! Some Spheres alter damage by their nature. Forces Effects add one level of damage when used to attack, Mind Effect s always score only bashing damage and Entropy itself does no damage until the fourth rank (though indirect attacks, like collapsing walls and crumbling floors, may still cause incidental damage). When performing a direct damage attack, use the Damage and Duration table. You don't need to check with the table unless you are trying to perform a particularly spectacular attack.
Like damage, an Effect's duration is based on the chart results. This requirement usually applies only for Effects that could last a while, such as sensory magic. Mind Effects, shapeshifting and transmutations. Damage is usually immediate, while created, summoned or conjured items are often permanent. The duration is treated as a threshold; making an Effect last more than one scene therefore subtracts from the Effect's total power. Most magic fades or needs to be replenished over time. Truly permanent results are possible, but the Storyteller may require twice the usual successes to make them so. Some Effects are just too wrenching to be made permanent. The Tellurian itself rejects these sudden attempts at altering reality permanently, with historical inertial unraveling the magical weavings (often with resultant Paradox). Combining damage with duration that is, inflicting damage over a period of time can be done at Storyteller's option. If you add a threshold of one success to an Effect, its damage can spread over a full scene. This extension does not cause the damage to multiply over the time period. It only delays or slows the damage, causing it to accumulate over time. Thus, you get a slow-acting poison, a delayed bomb or the like.
Any physical attack that attacks a Pattern with another Pattern a lightning bolt, magic bullet, mutant virus, etc. might be able to be soaked by the target. Vulgar acts of pure magic, which attack a Pattern on a purely mystical level transformations, Rip the Man-Body, Flames of Purification, etc. cannot be soaked, nor can mental attacks. Since mages are mortal, soaking most physical attacks is limited to armor or the use of additional defensive magic. Most magical attacks cause lethal damage; weak or battering attacks may inflict only bashing damage. Attacks that affect the victim's Pattern directly score aggravated damage.
Dodging and Resistance
A target who is aware of an incoming magical attack may choose to dodge it (if the attack is material) or resist it (if it involves the Mind). The first requires a Dexterity + Dodge roll; the second, a Willpower roll. The difficulty of either avoidance is 6, just like a normal dodge or soak roll. Like any other dodge, each success the defender rolls to avoid an attack subtracts one from the aggressor's magic successes. Direct attacks lightning bolts, falling buildings, blasts of energy, bullets, hails of stones and such can be dodged like any other physical assault, so long as the victim knows that the attack is coming. An opponent may not necessarily know what to expect, though, and shooting someone in the back makes the point moot. A victim can detect an incoming magical assault with a reflexive Perception + Awareness roll difficulty 8). If the victim doesn't know what's coming, dodging out of the way may not apply; jumping to one side doesn't help if a building is collapsing on top of you. Ray guns, hurled lightning and the like may require a roll to hit (Perception + Occult, Dexterity + Firearms, whatever the Storyteller feels is appropriate) and can be dodged, but extra successes do add to damage as with any other attack as long as the successes aren't removed by the opponent's dodge. Direct Pattern rips usually can't be dodged and don't require an attack roll, but thus only score the damage from the Effect rating itself.
Mental attacks such as commands, possessions, mind-crushes, telepathic bonds and brainwashing can be countered by a Willpower roll if the defender is aware of what's going on. This facet often makes Mind magic a slow and subtle art. Note, however, that most Sleepers won't know what's going on. Also, a Sleeper must expend a point of Willpower to gain such a roll, so Sleeper minds can be worn down.
Essentially, countermagic is a roll used for undoing magical Effects. Mages refer to countermagic as a means to block incoming Effects with similar Spheres, anti-magic for shielding against magic with Quintessence and unweaving to destroy an existing Effect. The methods of casting such counters are similar, though some are a bit more difficult than others. In brief, countermagic typically requires an Arete roll (difficulty 8). The particulars depend on whether the mage is trying to counter an Effect directly as it's cast, or undo a completed Effect. See the Permutations section for details.
When you roll less successes than needed to execute your mage's Effect, or if the mage is restrained or incapacitated before she can finish it, the magic fails. Failure is simple: The spell has little or no effect. Depending on what your character wanted to do, this failure might create a partial success (see the Degree of Success table) or no result at all. Remember, even if your Effect fails, you still gamer any appropriate Paradox.
If you botch the roll (roll any Is without scoring any successes, even successes that were canceled or used up), your mage blows the spell and gains Paradox.
If the Effect was coincidental, your mage gets one Paradox point for every dot in the highest Sphere she was using. If, for example, she was trying to cast a Life 4, Prime 2 Effect, she would gain four points of Paradox.
If the Effect was vulgar without Sleeper witnesses, she gains one point for every dot in the highest Sphere, plus one. The aforementioned mage would now earn five Paradox points.
If the Effect was vulgar with witnesses, she gets two per dot in the highest Sphere used, plus two points. The unfortunate from the first two examples now gets a total of 10 Paradox.
Remember, a Sleeper (or other being) only counts as a witness if he's watching the Effect in question directly, and if he doesn't believe in the magic or have a supernatural nature. In a way, thinking humans are the universe's method of looking at and understanding itself. Their belief helps to shape what can and can't be done. A normal man on the street counts as a witness against most Tradition magic. An educated, but un-Awakened, scientist might count as a witness against Technocratic procedures (since his training tells him that those feats of science are "impossible").
Vampires, ghosts and similar creatures don't count as witnesses, nor do acolytes or other humans who believe in the truth of the mage's powers. Again, cameras and the like don't count. The observers must actually watch the Effect in action for their belief to impact on it. Of course, an Effect that's taped on film may wind up in any number of places, and getting your cover blown is generally a Bad Thing.
The full rules of Paradox and its effects take up their own section later in this chapter. The step-by-step process of a Paradox Backlash can be summed up like this:
When a mystic gains Paradox points, list them on the Quintessence/ Paradox wheel at the bottom of the character sheet. The Storyteller may roll for a Backlash, or the Paradox might just stack up to haunt you.
When the Storyteller checks for a Backlash, he rolls the offending mage's Paradox total as a dice pool. This total uses all of the mage's Paradox any points that were on the wheel, and any that were just added.
The Storyteller rolls the Paradox pool against difficulty 6; for each success, the Backlash expels one Paradox point. The more points this Backlash expends, the worse the effects will be:
Small Flaws usually manifest when five or fewer points are spent. At greater levels of Paradox, either major Flaws may appear, or other results may occur.
Physical damage dependent on the severity of the Backlash burns its way through the mystic. Really large Backlashes may spread their damage outward from the caster, dividing the damage between everyone within a few yards.
Paradox spirits may show up at any level. The bigger the Backlash, the meaner the spirit.
If more than 10 points go off at once, a Paradox Realm may manifest, punishing the mage and possibly others in the area.
Quiets work best when a Storyteller prepares for them in advance. Aft er the journey's completion, the Storyteller simply tells the player how many points of Paradox were lost through the trials. An episode of Quiet makes an excellent chapter for one or two players, between other game sessions.
Sendings and hobgoblins may show up as a result of Paradox. Such manifestations do not occur as a result of the Paradox per se, but they come in response to the violent counter-twisting of reality.
There are quite a few ways to use magic, and many of them can have some pretty strange results. Check out these rules for some ideas on the limits or side effects of magic. Of course, these permutations might complicate your game, so use only as much as you want in order to tell a good story.
The first rank of any Sphere allows a mage to detect whatever elements that Sphere covers. These Effects expand the mystic's perceptions for the spell's duration. If the phenomenon could be sensed intuitively, it may simply require a Perception + Awareness roll. If it could not have been seen or felt "on a hunch," the mage must seek it actively with magic. Such perceptions are usually coincidental, unless the mage goes out of his way to elaborate on sensing something that no Sleeper could see.
By assigning successes to additional targets, a mage may let someone else share her magical perceptions. Doing so usually shifts a coincidental Effect into the "vulgar with witnesses" arena if the person gifted with this extended perception is a Sleeper, and it suffers the appropriate difficulty modifier. Awakened mages can share a magical sense without revealing their powers to others, though.
Technically, a mage can extend her senses to anyone within sensory range. Each person after the first requires an additional success, as always. Extended perceptions normally last one turn unless additional successes are allocated to duration.
With a successful reflexive Perception + Awareness roll (difficulty 6), a character can feel magic in use within her immediate vicinity. Really powerful Effects (10 or more successes) might lower the difficulty as low as 4, while unusually subtle ones (where the mage spends successes to wipe out magical traces) could raise it as high as 10.
The Prime 1 Effect Sense Quintessence can detect the remaining resonance of magical acts after they occur. A feat is generally detectable for an amount of time equal to the duration table, for every two successes scored on the finished Effect. Thus, a simple one-success Effect leaves a whiff of magic for a turn, but a huge 10-success spell may leave traces of magic for months. The longer it's been since the spell casting, the harder it will be to detect the change.
Acting in Conflict
In some cases, a group of mystics may wish to work together to accomplish a greater end. Large spells may include summonings, searches, elaborate rituals, Realm-creation and spirit -bindings. Such collaborations work best on extended rituals. Smaller Effects are harder to coordinate and rarely worth the effort.
First of all, each mage involved must have at least one dot in each of the Spheres of the Effect. Someone who knows nothing about Matter Arts is no help to a mage who does. The collaborators must also be able to communicate freely during the casting, through telepathic bonds, speech or signals. Setting this communication up may take a turn or longer per caster.
Secondly, all of the mages must have some way of communicating paradigmatically. A Virtual Adept Master of Forces can't help a Hermetic mage's Forces Effect if the two can't agree on a common way to work the magic. This cooperation often requires a little bit of blended techniques, some haggling over magical forms and a whole lot of metaphysical arguing.
Each mage involved with the necessary Sphere ratings to perform the Effect gets to participate in full, with the player rolling the whole dice pool and adding all of the successes scored to the Effect.
If less knowledgeable mages assist a more powerful one (or group), each helper adds one success to the main caster's efforts.
Un-Awakened acolytes may assist their compatriots as well. The main casting group adds one success for every five participants in this ritual. Coordinating such large gatherings may take hours per roll, and such rituals should be played out for maximum effect (which is also a good opportunity to use those Social Traits). Acolytes who believe enough to help in this fashion obviously do not count as "witnesses" in the vulgar sense. If over 100 people were involved, some vulgar Effects might even be considered coincidental, if no other witnesses were around to contradict them.
If the main casting group botches (nobody scores any successes on dice rolls), the Effect generates the normal Paradox for every participating mage. (Don't count the automatic successes from less-skilled mages or acolytes when determining whether the Effect is a botch here.) Sleepers and acolytes participating in the ritual do not gain Paradox, but they may suffer some psychic or mystical trauma from the failed attempt. In particularly nasty cases, the Paradox may all take the form of a tremendous Backlash that affects everyone present indiscriminately.Countermagic Countermagic is the act of using magic to weaken or undo another spell. When a mage realizes that he's about to be hit by someone else's magic, he can try to use his magical knowledge to stop it or bulwark against the Effect. With luck, it may dilute the Effect to a more manageable hazard or negate it entirely.
Using countermagic does count as a mage's magical action; since a mage can only perform one magical action in a turn, countermagic is a defensive tactic. Still, if the enemy is about to get that fireball off and fry you, it may be better to stop it and live to try a different attack. A mage can abort a magical (or mundane) action to perform countermagic. The previously started job is scrapped (considered a failure) and the mage whips out the countermagic instead. If the mage has already done his action for the turn, of course, he's stuck with the results.
Some entities have natural countermagic. The special Devices and Talismans that grant such defense are reflexive, activating automatically to absorb the brunt of magical attacks. Other supernatural creatures can sometimes counter magic as well, though rarely with the efficiency of a learned mage.
Countermagic takes an Arete roll with a difficulty of 8. Each success blocks out one of the enemy's successes, assuming that you have the right Spheres. You must have at least rudimentary (one dot) knowledge of all the Spheres being used in the subject's Effect, and the mage must be aware of it. It's impossible to counter an Effect that you don't know is coming, and it's difficult to affect one that you don't understand. Assuming that you do have the right Spheres and that you succeed in the countering, you manage to nullify the Effect's successes and it fizzles out like a normal failure. Even if you only nullify it partially, you can mitigate some of its results. If you have at least one dot of Prim e and you manage to score more successes than the opponent, you can even turn the spell back if you counter it in the same turn. Each success that you score on the countermagic over the enemy's spell successes counts as one success directed back at the caster!
Should you have enough knowledge of the Spheres used in an attack, you can decide to make a directly opposing Effect. Moderation of this tactic is up to the Storyteller. The advantage is that you might be able to counter a conjunctional Effect with a good knowledge of just one or two Spheres. If your mage is a master of Mind but knows nothing of Correspondence, he may still shield against a long-range mental attack. This technique relies on your description of an Effect that opposes the enemy's Effect, and it is more of a roleplaying mechanic. This tactic is also useful in countering the powers of other supernatural creatures. If you want to break the hypnotic gaze of a vampire, for instance, you'll use Mind magic to defend yourself.
If you don't have the Spheres to understand an enemy's spell, you can try to defend yourself with Prime. You can channel Quintessence to strengthen reality, and thereby make it harder for the enemy to work magic: Make the countermagic roll as usual. Each success allows you t o spend one point of Quintessence (up to your Avatar limit, of course). Each point spent then raises the difficulty of the enemy's Effect by one point, without the usual limit of three. The enemy can, of course, spend Willpower and Quintessence to try to undercut this defense. Such an attack is sometimes called anti-magic, since it nullifies the use of any sort of magic.
Lastly, you can unweave free-standing Effects, ones that have been rendered permanent or given a duration. By scoring up a number of successes on the countermagic roll equal to the original caster's successes, you manage to unravel the Effect completely. You still need the basic understanding of the Spheres involved (so that you know how to unwork it) and at least Prime-sensing capability (so that you can see the Effect). Such unweaving weakens and eventually totally destroys an Effect though, or can shorten its duration to the point where it fails. Unweaving works best against wards, illusions and other static but temporary creations. A spell that has been granted permanency is often best just reversed, while a spell that takes an instant Effect and then lets nature run its course (like the wound left by striking someone with an attack) is already over and done with, and the results can't be unwove.
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