The Secret Garden
Coincidental Effects are set to DC 6. Vulgar Effects are DC 7, or DC 8 if there are Sleeper witnesses.
Effect rolls are Arete + highest Sphere used in the Effect. Success requirements and results are unchanged, except for damage. Each success equates to a single level of damage, not two levels of damage.
Permanent Effects require the expenditure of a point of Quintessence.
A mage 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 twice the highest Sphere level in the Effect. First-rank Effects would require an Arete of at least two, second-rank Effects need four, 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. A mage must still perform the appropriate rituals to take advantage of a simplified feat, even if no roll is required.
Although a mage can cast only one Effect at a time, he can keep various Effects running. Mages can maintain a number of simultaneous Effects equal to their Arete without difficulty. Beyond this limit, impose a +1 difficulty penalty for every two full Effects in use, whenever your mage tries to cast a new Effect.
Instant Effects that rewrite Patterns or alter reality are done once cast; they require no further maintenance. If you change a material into a different sort permanently, or you create something from nothing and give it Prime energy to make it fully real and permanent, then it’s part of the Tapestry. Such Effects do not count against the total of simultaneous Effects.
Relinquishing Control of Effects
A mage can choose to relinquish an Effect from his control, allowing it to continue on its own (until dispelled). To do so, one permanent Willpower dot is sacrificed (it can be restored by spending experience points as per normal).
Once he relinquishes such an Effect, it no longer counts against the mage’s total of allowed simultaneous Effects. However, the mage can no longer dismiss it at will, or alter it in any normal way. It acts as if it were an Effect cast by another mage. Mages usually reserve relinquishment for permanent Effects; the cost is judged to be too high for Effects that will eventually dissipate of their own accord.
A spell may take as little or as much time as the mage requires to cast it. Quick-and-dirty Effects can usually be accomplished quickly. More elaborate forms of magic, however, take more effort. These two ways of casting Effects are known as Simple Casting or Extended Casting.
Simple Casting is used for all-or-nothing Effects (including healing, damaging, shape-changing and the like.) You either succeed at the action, or you don’t. If an all-or-nothing Effect roll using Simple Casting does not generate enough successes to complete the Effect, the caster can accept the partial successes (resulting in a weaker Effect than intended) or he can make additional Effect rolls, as per Extended Casting below, at an increased difficulty of +1. A Simple Cast Effect roll usually takes at least 5 minutes.
Extended Casting is used for more involved Effects requiring a large number of successes – summonings, complex creations, weather-witchery, Correspondence searches, Node draining etc.) The caster makes several consecutive rolls to create the Effect, building successes until the requisite amount is reached. If he fails to get any successes on a given turn, he can continue at an increased difficulty (+1 for each turn where the caster does not gain any successes.)
Some forms of magic (like Hermetic high magic or lengthy spirit channelling) might demand extra time. In such cases, the Storyteller may decree that one roll may take hours instead of turns or minutes, depending on the magic involved. 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.
In addition, the mage can choose to rush the casting of the Effect, or take more time than normal to build it. Rushed Effects (whether Simple or Extended) are harder to pull off, while elaborate preparations make the Effect easier. Of course, if your Effect takes a long time anyway (like the above-mentioned lengthy spirit channelling), there is no modifier unless the mage takes even more time and effort above and beyond the usual requirements. Conversely, even if you can do a quick Simple Effect, you can choose to spend more time in order to make it more formidable. These two methods are known as Fast-Casting or Slow-Casting the Effect
Fast-Cast: The roll is made in less time than normal, usually in a single turn. This includes Effects used in combat. The Effect suffers a +1 difficulty penalty.
Slow-Cast: The roll is made in more time than normal, usually over the course of 20 minutes or thereabouts. The Effect receives a -1 difficulty bonus.
Each mage has two specialty Spheres. One specialty Sphere is chosen by the mage according to his training or magical tradition, and the other is determined by his Essence. Raising these Spheres costs less experience points than for non-specialty Spheres. It now costs 6XP x New Rating to raise a specialty Sphere, and 7XP x New Rating to raise any other Sphere.
An Improvised Effect is one that a mage builds on the fly without using a rote. He simply gathers together his Sphere knowledge and devises an Effect on the spur of the moment to suit his needs. Mages can even improvise the same Effect many times over without bothering to take the effort (and xp expenditure) to codify it as a rote.
Rotes have less chance of causing Paradox and a lighter resonance “signature,” making it difficult for others to identify the caster by examining the spell. When rolling Paradox Backlash, reduce the number of dice by 2 (minimum of 1) if the Effect was a rote. When detecting the Resonance of a rote, increase the difficulty by +2.
A character starts with one rote per dot in each Sphere that he knows. So a character with Prime •• and Life • starts with two Prime rotes and one Life rote. A character also starts with one bonus rote per dot in Occult. These bonus rotes may be from any Sphere.
For rotes that use more than one Sphere, the rote falls under the highest-ranked Sphere needed for the rote. In case of a tie, the character may decide under which Sphere the rote falls. For example, a Life ••, Mind • rote would fall under Life, but a Life •••, Prime ••• rote could fall under Life or Prime, as the character desires.
To develop additional rotes, a character must cast an Effect three times (successfully or not) and then pay 1 xp per highest Sphere rank in the Effect. From then on, the character can cast that Effect as a rote The Life ••, Mind • rote above would cost 2 xp and the Life •••, Prime ••• rote would cost 3 xp.
Rotes can also be learned from other mages. Once a character has learnt the Effect, he can develop it as a rote as described above.
True Names can have a great impact on many types of magic, particularly sympathetic magic and counterspells. The use of True Names is governed by the True Name Merit.
True Name (3 or 5-pt. Supernatural Merit)
You have discovered, learned or created your True Name. Unless someone knows your True Name, sympathetic magic is less effective against you. The 3-pt. version of this Merit subtracts three successes from an opponent’s attempt to Ban you or penetrate your Ward spells. The 5-pt. version of the Merit has the same effect as the 3-pt. version and additionally you are considered “no connection” on the Correspondence Range chart when it applies to sympathetic magic. Only by discovering your True Name can a rival bypass your protection. If another mage learns your True Name, he reduces future magic difficulties for Effects that target you by -2, and adds two dice to his countermagic against your Effects. You are considered to be “very familiar” for the purposes of his sympathetic magic.
The Cult of Celebrity…
In addition to the penalties suffered for a weak sympathetic connection, the “metaphysical weight” of a target adversely affects a caster’s ability to achieve a direct sympathetic connection. The more well known a person is by other people (especially strangers, who don’t know him personally but might project their hopes and fears upon him), the harder he is to grasp sympathetically.
The target’s Fame Background dots act as a threshold with sympathetic Effects.. For example, when trying to affect the Queen of England with a sympathetic spell, impose a threshold of three for her Fame 3.
Places and things can also benefit from such celebrity, making them hard to target sympathetically. The Storyteller decides the proper penalty, although it should be no higher than a threshold of three. The notorious house where a famous serial killer buried his 23 victims might have a threshold of one, while the Hope Diamond would be three.
This penalty applies to only spells that directly affect a target, not to indirect spells such as scrying or sending out a telepathic message (one that doesn’t compel the target in any way). Nor does this penalty apply to spells cast at sensory range.
…and the Arcane
Mages who possess the Arcane background gain a degree of protection against sympathetic magic directed at them. The rules are as for celebrities above, except that their Arcane dots are used instead of Fame.
Magical languages (such as Enochian or Kaja) can be incorporated into magical Effects. The use of such languages is governed by the High Speech Knowledge. Use the Abilities Affecting Magic rules. Roll Intelligence + High Speech against DC 6. Each success gives a -1 difficulty bonus on the related Effect.
High Speech is related to paradigm. A Hermetic’s High Speech might be Enochian, a Euthanatos might use Kaja etc. Note this on the character sheet as you would any language – High Speech (Kaja), for example. Because High Speech is a function of Awakened understanding, it can never have more dots than the mage’s Arete.
High Speech is the preferred method for interacting with many types of Umbrood. When dealing with such creatures, a mage may never use more dots of the Expression, Intimidation, Leadership or Subterfuge Talents than his dots in High Speech.
Runes of Power
High Speech can also be written. Its magical alphabets reverberate with power. Mages can use Enochian runes, Kaja calligraphy, Taoist script etc. in their Effects.
Such Runes can be inscribed onto the target of a spell to automatically add one success to the spell’s Duration. Runes, however, do not affect instantaneous spells or those that require concentration. If the spell is area-affecting, the periphery of each cardinal direction must be marked with a rune.
The mage must personally inscribe the rune himself by drawing, painting or carving it no more than a day before spellcasting. This effort requires a successful Dexterity + Crafts roll, requiring a number of successes equal to the total Sphere ranks in the Effect.
Mages cannot use pre-made runes, printing them out in bulk and slapping them onto targets as needed. Each rune must be handmade in the moment.
Runes are most appropriate for use with ritual (extended) castings, such as the creation of a magical circle of protection, and are not very practical for use with combat magic, unless the mage can mark the rune on the target before casting. Mages who know the language the rune was written in can recognize runes and avoid being marked with them.
The drawback to using runes is that a spell becomes inert if the rune (or one of the directional runes marking an area or radius) is removed or erased, even if the spell’s duration is still active. The caster can redraw the rune upon the target (or replace a removed area marker) to reactivate the spell; no casting roll is required. Any time that has passed still counts against the spell’s Duration, even though the spell’s effect wasn’t active. Mages usually carve runes onto an item they intend to enchant.
A mage’s Resonance colours the aura of his magic. Every time he casts magic, his Resonance blooms forth, creating subtle effects unique to him. This Resonance and its effects are visible to only those beings endowed with some means of perceiving magic, such as Awareness or the first Sphere ranks.
Whenever your character casts magic, describe how his Resonance appears, so that his uniqueness can be seen in his magic. If the Storyteller feels you are not providing the right sort of dramatic feel for the moment, he can suggest a Resonance effect for your character.
When a mage creates an Effect that is in harmony with his Resonance, he gets a -1 difficulty bonus for that Effect. If a mage creates an Effect that runs counter to his own Resonance, he gets a +1 difficulty penalty on that Effect. The same applies if the mage incorporates Quintessence or Tass into an Effect – its Resonance can complement or interfere with the Effect accordingly.
Resonance does not merely affect the magical works of a mage, for its echoes appear in nearly everything he does. As such, Resonance can impact social interaction as well as mystical results. While Sleepers do not perceive Resonance in magical terms, in nonetheless affects one’s appearance and mannerisms in ways that normal people are not accustomed. A Sleeper may not know precisely what it is he feels, but he may still sense that something is “wrong” with the mage. To represent this, take the mage’s highest Resonance and apply a +1 difficulty penalty per dot to all social dice pool rolls involving those who are discomfited by the mage’s supernatural presence.
This penalty can be overcome with appropriate Mind magic, or if the mage’s Resonance wouldn’t necessarily discomfit the human in question (at the Storyteller’s discretion). Acolytes and free-thinkers often deal with “weird” people as a matter of course.
A mage can sometimes intentionally draw on his Resonance, and turn its effects to his advantage. If a Charisma + Occult roll (DC 6) succeeds, his Resonance becomes visible in a subtle way for that turn, even to those without Awareness or Spheres. This roll can accompany another social action, such as an Intimidation or Expression roll. At the Storyteller’s discretion, successes on the Charisma + Occult roll might reduce the difficulty of the accompanying social action, or even an action that takes place in the following turn. The mage can draw on his Resonance this way only once per scene. Successive attempts can be made, but they cost one Quintessence each, whether or not the roll succeeds, and they suffer a cumulative +1 difficulty penalty for each successive attempt.
Resonance drawn on in this way is not as strong as the Resonance that accompanies spellcasting. It is subtle, less obviously magical. It might be a matter of shadows appearing for one moment where there should be none (but they lasted long enough to boost an Intimidation roll made for the mage). The sun might seem to come out from behind the clouds for a moment and bathe the mage in a radiant glow (boosting his player’s Expression roll). Faint, distant animal howls or human screams might be heard, seeming to come from the direction of the mage, but they last only a second or two (onlookers are rattled enough that the mage boosts his Intimidation roll).
A Node generates a number of points of Quintessence equal to its dots each day. This Quintessence can be harvested, either by meditating at the Node or by using Prime Effects (see below.) If this Quintessence is not harvested, it congeals into Tass of a type and Resonance appropriate to the Node. Some mages forbid others from harvesting free Quintessence, cultivating it into Tass that can be stored and used later.
Whenever a mage’s Quintessence score drops below her Avatar or Prime rating, she can meditate at a Node, for at least one hour, in an attempt to rebuild her Quintessence levels. She rolls Perception + Meditation (DC 7) for each hour spent at the Node and gains one point of Quintessence per success. She cannot, however, absorb more Quintessence per day than her rating in Avatar or Prime (whichever is higher), or more Quintessence than the Node provides each day.
Prime can also be used to harvest Quintessence from a Node. Prime • can be used once per day to harvest Quintessence above the mage’s rating in Avatar or Prime. Prime ••• can be used to harvest Quintessence as many times per day as the mage desires – up to the Node’s limit, of course.
Each Node is tied to a particular time of day when this replenishment can take place — sundown, sunrise and midnight are the most common.
A Node’s Quintessence shares the place’s quality of Resonance. Resonance quality in opposition to an Effect’s — calm Resonance for an attack spell, violent resonance for a healing spell — levies a +1 difficulty penalty on Effect rolls. For this reason, mages do not let their Nodes become polluted with foreign or impure auras. They work to maintain proper resonance quality.
Additionally, a Node’s close vicinity (five yards per dot rating) is always suffused with power. This power lowers the difficulty of all Effects cast within this area by -1 per two dots in the Node’s rating (round up).
A Node’s rating is a Threshold for all Effects involving that Node. This Threshold is waived for characters who perform the necessary oblations at the Node in order to placate its guardian spirit(s) (which differ for each Node and may not be immediately obvious.)