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  • Just a newbie with a few rules questions

    Hi, this is my first post here, so sorry for introducing myself with a wall of questions I am preparing a Mage 20 campaign; I already mastered a Mage game but it was something like 15 years ago, the rules have changed and I'm all rusty... After reading M20 I had loads of questions. After reading the Book of Secrets some of them were answered but I had a few extra ones. After reading and searching the forum here, I got a few more answers. Here is what remains of my questions; if you could provide any help or advice I would be most grateful.

    Wonders, wonderful wonderous wonders:
    The M20 rules seem very incomplete. The Book of Secrets clarifies things a lot but also leaves me with a few questions:
    • If a Sleeper operates a vulgar Talisman/Device, the item itself gets the paradox, got it. But what about vulgar Charms/Gadgets (such as the dragon breath candies described in the BoS)? They don't have a quintessence pool and are one-use objects, so they can't store paradox... but sleepers can't get paradox either. I would rule they immediately get the the paradox discharged as burn, but I wonder if there is an official rule.
    • The table in BoS p160 mentions that creating Trinkets requires only Prime 2, and ditto for Charms/Gadgets if the energy is "appropriate" (appropriate resonance, I suppose). But anyway, the minimum required level to energize a Wonder is Prime 3 (if you use tass or personal quintessence), so it seems that in any case you need Prime 3 to create any sort of Wonder, and the only advantage of using Prime 2 for investment is possibly lowering the difficulty by 1 if the other Spheres involved are no higher than 2. Do I understand this right?
    • The M20 base book mentions "temporary wonders", but the BoS does not mention them at all. I suppose the idea has been dropped and globally superseded by the rules provided by BoS.
    • Trinkets seem somewhat too powerful to me. I don't have any beef with the bulletproof sweater or similar things, but the main example given in the BoS... A simple ring allowing to do aggravated damage in brawl? Just with Life 3 and Prime 3 (and quite a bunch of Quintessence, OK)? Usable by anyone, with no Paradox, no quintessence cost, no time limit or limited number of uses? Seriously? That seems seriously overpowered. I mean, it's cheaper than a full Art ifact/Talisman, there is no cost, no drawback, and maybe that's my Vampire years speaking, but aggravated damage is serious stuff. Any opinion on this?

    Locking an effect (M20 p511)
    • Which level of the pattern sphere in question do you need to lock an effect? I would say 2 in general (the minimum level to affect something with said sphere), or 3 for Life if you want to lock on another complex lifeform, but is there any rule somewhere?
    • It seems that the consensus on this forum is that you would need Life 4 to lock an effect on someone else, what is the rationale for that? Life 3 is enough to heal or hurt someone, that fits my definition of "affecting"; I don't think you need to know how to elaborately alter someone else's Pattern to lock some unrelated piece of magick on it.

    Personalized and/or unique instruments:
    • The rules p587-588 seem quite clear: for your affinity sphere, you can have a personalized instrument that allow you to reduce difficulty by 1 when you use it, and there also exist unique instruments that also reduce difficulty by 1 but are, well, unique which means you work without focus if you lost them. That's all and well... but this seemingly contradicts the example given for Dr. von Roth on pages 562-563 when it is said that his car is a personalized and unique instrument. Personalized I can get - probably cars he builds or enhances are his personalized instrument - but unique? That would imply that the instrument is only this specific car and if he totals it, he can never build another one that works as an instrument. This seems in contradiction with the character concept. How should I understand that? (I'm inclined to just ignore the example and make unique instruments work as they are implied to in the chapter on instruments.)

    Quiet level and paradox
    • About entering Quiet as a result of a Paradox backlash, p555 states that "The degree of insanity depends upon the number of Paradox points discharged during the backlash – see the Levels of Quiet chart for details.", and indeed the chart shows Quiet level as a function of paradox discharged.
    • However, the last sentence of the very same p555 states a completely different and contradictory rule: "In all three cases, the level of Quiet depends upon the character's current Paradox Pool". And the text of the chapter is consistent with that rule: for example it mentions getting out of Quiet by gradually reducing one's Paradox.
    • So which is it, current paradox or paradox discharged? Let's say Joe Vulgar Mage gets a backlash when having 15 points of paradox; he rolls and gets 10 successes: 10 points of paradox discharge and 5 remain. The ST decides to make Joe go into Quiet. Does he get Quiet corresponding to the 10 points of Paradox discharged (Quiet level 3) or to "the character's current Paradox Pool", i.e. the remaining 5 points of Paradox (Quiet level 2)? The second option seems absurd: it would mean that larger backlashes result in milder Quiet, and in the extreme case, if you roll only successes on the backlash roll, that you can entirely shed your paradox without any Quiet at all. But the first option is in contradiction with everything else in the chapter; more specifically it dosn't make sense to heal Quiet by reducing current paradox if your Quiet level is not based on your current paradox. And if it's not based on your current Paradox, how can you reduce it? I can imagine various ways to fix that issue, but the rules as they are written are clearly problematic.

    Ability experience cost
    • Does raising an existing ability really has a flat cost of 3 XP per level? It seems... weird... that it differs from other traits for some reason, and as far as I know that would be unprecedented in all the iterations of all the WoD games. Is there some reason why mages are super-learners able to master abilities extremely quickly? That doesn't seem thematically inappropriate, but I'm still somewhat perplexed.
    Many thanks for your answers !
    Last edited by alexendy; 09-04-2018, 06:37 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    Hi, this is my first post here, so sorry for introducing myself with a wall of questions I am preparing a Mage 20 campaign; I already mastered a Mage game but it was something like 15 years ago, the rules have changed and I'm all rusty... After reading M20 I had loads of questions. After reading the Book of Secrets some of them were answered but I had a few extra ones. After reading and searching the forum here, I got a few more answers. Here is what remains of my questions; if you could provide any help or advice I would be most grateful.
    Hey, welcome to M20. I'm more of a revised guy myself, but I have read through M20, so hopefully I'll be able to give relevant advice.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    Wonders, wonderful wonderous wonders:
    The M20 rules seem very incomplete. The Book of Secrets clarifies things a lot but also leaves me with a few questions:

    If a Sleeper operates a vulgar Talisman/Device, the item itself gets the paradox, got it. But what about vulgar Charms/Gadgets (such as the dragon breath candies described in the BoS)? They don't have a quintessence pool and are one-use objects, so they can't store paradox... but sleepers can't get paradox either. I would rule they immediately get the the paradox discharged as burn, but I wonder if there is an official rule.
    Wonder rules have almost always been hazy. I'd argue that charms don't really do paradox since they are one use, i.e. the fact that they destroy themselves upon completion of the spell could be considered "paradox" enough.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    The table in BoS p160 mentions that creating Trinkets requires only Prime 2, and ditto for Charms/Gadgets if the energy is "appropriate" (appropriate resonance, I suppose). But anyway, the minimum required level to energize a Wonder is Prime 3 (if you use tass or personal quintessence), so it seems that in any case you need Prime 3 to create any sort of Wonder, and the only advantage of using Prime 2 for investment is possibly lowering the difficulty by 1 if the other Spheres involved are no higher than 2. Do I understand this right?
    That's one way to interpret it. I prefer to interpret it as Prime 2 being able to make charms out of Tass itself, and thus do not need to use Prime 3 to move quintessence about, since it's already in the object you're turning into a charm. Like if you have Tass bee's wax that you're turning into candles or tass wood you're carving into a limited charge wand.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    The M20 base book mentions "temporary wonders", but the BoS does not mention them at all. I suppose the idea has been dropped and globally superseded by the rules provided by BoS.
    I think charms and gadgets are temporary wonders. Either that, or it's referring to Matter/Life made locked in enchantments.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    [*]Trinkets seem somewhat too powerful to me. I don't have any beef with the bulletproof sweater or similar things, but the main example given in the BoS... A simple ring allowing to do aggravated damage in brawl? Just with Life 3 and Prime 3 (and quite a bunch of Quintessence, OK)? Usable by anyone, with no Paradox, no quintessence cost, no time limit or limited number of uses? Seriously? That seems seriously overpowered. I mean, it's cheaper than a full Art ifact/Talisman, there is no cost, no drawback, and maybe that's my Vampire years speaking, but aggravated damage is serious stuff. Any opinion on this?
    You don't actually need prime to make a trinket if I understand how trinkets work correctly, it's just enchanting stuff with locked in effects using Life or Matter. Unless they are arguing that Prime can be used in place of Life or Matter to lock something in, which I might allow if the argument was made well enough. Making a ring with a locked in effect to cause aggravated damage isn't all that problematic. The main limit of use is how many successes they pumped into duration, and like with any magic, how long the mage is willing to keep the effect running thereafter.

    Aggravated damage is only serious stuff for mages and sleepers. Other splats aren't all that bothered by aggravated damage most days, heck werewolves eat it up for breakfast. Besides, being overpowered in combat isn't necessarily a good hing in a mage game. It turns you into a target either to be stopped, contained, or weaponised.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post

    Locking an effect (M20 p511)

    Which level of the pattern sphere in question do you need to lock an effect? I would say 2 in general (the minimum level to affect something with said sphere), or 3 for Life if you want to lock on another complex lifeform, but is there any rule somewhere?
    That's probably a good rule of thumb. Another argument could be made for having your sphere level match the higher sphere involved. So Matter 3 if you want to put a Forces 3 effect into your shoes, but if it's just a Forces 2 effect, then Matter 2 is sufficient. Another argument can be made that it depends on the complexity of the effect and the item. If you're just putting a simple "bend light around me" Force effect onto a fabric, Matter 2 makes sense. If however you wanted to make a very specific machine part invisible with Forces 2, you may need Matter 4 to isolate the part from the whole.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    [*]It seems that the consensus on this forum is that you would need Life 4 to lock an effect on someone else, what is the rationale for that? Life 3 is enough to heal or hurt someone, that fits my definition of "affecting"; I don't think you need to know how to elaborately alter someone else's Pattern to lock some unrelated piece of magick on it.
    Life 4 is required to transform another, and turning someone into a living Trinket is a pretty severe transformation if ever there was one. You need Life 4 to give someone claws, wings, or change their skin. So it makes sense you'd also need Life 4 to make their skin burn with fire or have their fingers turn objects into gold by touch.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post

    Personalized and/or unique instruments:
    The rules p587-588 seem quite clear: for your affinity sphere, you can have a personalized instrument that allow you to reduce difficulty by 1 when you use it, and there also exist unique instruments that also reduce difficulty by 1 but are, well, unique which means you work without focus if you lost them. That's all and well... but this seemingly contradicts the example given for Dr. von Roth on pages 562-563 when it is said that his car is a personalized and unique instrument. Personalized I can get - probably cars he builds or enhances are his personalized instrument - but unique? That would imply that the instrument is only this specific car and if he totals it, he can never build another one that works as an instrument. This seems in contradiction with the character concept. How should I understand that? (I'm inclined to just ignore the example and make unique instruments work as they are implied to in the chapter on instruments.)
    I'm not all that familiar with this example. But I do know it's possible to recreate or make up a new unique focus over time. But it's very difficult to do, and may cost experience just to do so, and could require a seeking depending on who you ask.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post

    Quiet level and paradox

    About entering Quiet as a result of a Paradox backlash, p555 states that "The degree of insanity depends upon the number of Paradox points discharged during the backlash – see the Levels of Quiet chart for details.", and indeed the chart shows Quiet level as a function of paradox discharged.

    However, the last sentence of the very same p555 states a completely different and contradictory rule: "In all three cases, the level of Quiet depends upon the character's current Paradox Pool". And the text of the chapter is consistent with that rule: for example it mentions getting out of Quiet by gradually reducing one's Paradox.

    So which is it, current paradox or paradox discharged? Let's say Joe Vulgar Mage gets a backlash when having 15 points of paradox; he rolls and gets 10 successes: 10 points of paradox discharge and 5 remain. The ST decides to make Joe go into Quiet. Does he get Quiet corresponding to the 10 points of Paradox discharged (Quiet level 3) or to "the character's current Paradox Pool", i.e. the remaining 5 points of Paradox (Quiet level 2)? The second option seems absurd: it would mean that larger backlashes result in milder Quiet, and in the extreme case, if you roll only successes on the backlash roll, that you can entirely shed your paradox without any Quiet at all. But the first option is in contradiction with everything else in the chapter; more specifically it dosn't make sense to heal Quiet by reducing current paradox if your Quiet level is not based on your current paradox. And if it's not based on your current Paradox, how can you reduce it? I can imagine various ways to fix that issue, but the rules as they are written are clearly problematic.
    Ah Quiet, that ever contentious idea that all players love to talk about, and all STs hate to implement without drawing up specific house rules. Personally I'd look at your question and go "Hey, why not both?" I'd have the initial backlash create an explosive moment of Quiet which could easily be mistaken for just regular paradox backlash. I'd have it last as long as felt appropriate, but probably not longer than a few scenes at most. Then I'd let the current level of paradox determine the severity of quiet from here on out, and perhaps design elements of that quiet based on the initial "big" quiet event I made earlier, see if they catch on to what's happening.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post


    Ability experience cost

    Does raising an existing ability really has a flat cost of 3 XP per level? It seems... weird... that it differs from other traits for some reason, and as far as I know that would be unprecedented in all the iterations of all the WoD games. Is there some reason why mages are super-learners able to master abilities extremely quickly? That doesn't seem thematically inappropriate, but I'm still somewhat perplexed.
    Yeah that's weird. I'd disregard it and carry on as normal.
    Originally posted by alexendy View Post
    Many thanks for your answers !
    And thank you for your questions!
    Last edited by Saikou; 09-06-2018, 08:02 AM.


    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running FINALE: Chapter 39: Green Fairy

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    • #3
      Originally posted by alexendy
      • Trinkets seem somewhat too powerful to me. I don't have any beef with the bulletproof sweater or similar things, but the main example given in the BoS... A simple ring allowing to do aggravated damage in brawl? Just with Life 3 and Prime 3 (and quite a bunch of Quintessence, OK)? Usable by anyone, with no Paradox, no quintessence cost, no time limit or limited number of uses? Seriously? That seems seriously overpowered. I mean, it's cheaper than a full Art ifact/Talisman, there is no cost, no drawback, and maybe that's my Vampire years speaking, but aggravated damage is serious stuff. Any opinion on this?
      Keep in mind that a mage with Prime 2 can make any object to cause Aggravated damage - it's a very standard, very normal, effect right from the book that was always there since 2º edition at least. Prime 3 extends that to allow living beings do the same.

      Thus, to do a weapon that causes Aggravated all the time usable by anyone w/o any cost but quite an amount of successes was only Prime 2 in Revised and 2º ed.

      M20 inculdes the notion of locking an effect, thus a sword that causes Aggravated it's Prime 2/Matter 2. I'm not sure why the example uses Life 3, but I assume it's to cause the whole fist to cause Agg rather than just the ring

      Originally posted by Saikou
      Aggravated damage is only serious stuff for mages and sleepers....
      Sleepers can't even know what Aggravated damage it's because it registers the same as Lethal for them. There's literally no difference, from the pov of a sleeper, if you hit them with a sword or with an aggravated sword, as the (admitedly not great) natural regeneration of humans isn't impaired by it and they can't resist Lethal anyway. Mundane armor protects from Aggravated as long as it makes sense (i.e: to stop an aggravated sword).

      Aggravated damage it's only relevant for dudes who heal and resist damage trough magick...like most supernatural creatures do. Aggravated damage it's a big deal for Vampires because they take their basic resistence and cheap regeneration for granted and thus rarely bother with things like wearing armor. And it's specially nasty because it's one of the few things that can kill them in the first place.

      From the pov of a mage an Aggravated bullet it's only worse than a regular one because it's harder to heal the wound with magick (It's "Always Vulgar" and you need 1 Quint per level) and because resisting it with Life it's costlier (but magical armors haven't any penalty as far as I know). Thus Aggravated it's nasty but hardly OP from the pov of mages (compared with, say, a lasergun that may do "only" Lethal - that most mages can't resist either - but does a lot of it).

      Originally posted by alexendy
      The rules p587-588 seem quite clear: for your affinity sphere, you can have a personalized instrument that allow you to reduce difficulty by 1 when you use it, and there also exist unique instruments that also reduce difficulty by 1 but are, well, unique which means you work without focus if you lost them. That's all and well... but this seemingly contradicts the example given for Dr. von Roth on pages 562-563 when it is said that his car is a personalized and unique instrument. Personalized I can get - probably cars he builds or enhances are his personalized instrument - but unique? That would imply that the instrument is only this specific car and if he totals it
      The example you mention isn't about Instruments but about casting. It only says that Dr. Roth engineered such capabilities into the car (for it to be a personal and unique instrument), it doesn't tell us how.
      If a player were to ask to "engineer" a unique instrument I would allow it and merely ask what kind of unobtanium he's going to use: In other words, there can be a lot of reasons of why this instrument it's unique. Maybe it has the living core of a dead star as it's fuel source (not easy to replace), maybe it was the first hypertech he engineered when he Awoke and thus it acts like a map of his Paradigm (good luck replacing that).

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi, thanks for your help!

        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        Wonder rules have almost always been hazy. I'd argue that charms don't really do paradox since they are one use, i.e. the fact that they destroy themselves upon completion of the spell could be considered "paradox" enough.
        That makes sense.


        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        That's one way to interpret it. I prefer to interpret it as Prime 2 being able to make charms out of Tass itself, and thus do not need to use Prime 3 to move quintessence about, since it's already in the object you're turning into a charm. Like if you have Tass bee's wax that you're turning into candles or tass wood you're carving into a limited charge wand.
        I'll probably play it this way too.

        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        ​You don't actually need prime to make a trinket if I understand how trinkets work correctly, it's just enchanting stuff with locked in effects using Life or Matter. Unless they are arguing that Prime can be used in place of Life or Matter to lock something in, which I might allow if the argument was made well enough. Making a ring with a locked in effect to cause aggravated damage isn't all that problematic. The main limit of use is how many successes they pumped into duration, and like with any magic, how long the mage is willing to keep the effect running thereafter.
        I was confused by the fact that the table on BoS p160-161 treats Trinkets as any other wonder whereas, for example, for Fetishes, Periapts and Matrices it specifies that there is no need to energize the wonder.

        So basically, Trinkets are items with an effects locked onto them (which would require Matter 2, I suppose, if said pattern is a regular item), and a "Storyteller's option" duration if you want them to be more or less permanent. That makes sense.

        (Regardless of the question of whether aggravated damage is serious stuff or not, I'm still not completely happy with that aggravated damage ring. It inflicts aggravated damage to people it hurts, but not to the wearer? Or the ring makes the weaver deal aggravated damage? That looks too complicated for a trinket for me. I wouldn't be bothered by the same thing on a "life sucking" blade, for example. But well - that's just my opinion.)

        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        If you're just putting a simple "bend light around me" Force effect onto a fabric, Matter 2 makes sense. If however you wanted to make a very specific machine part invisible with Forces 2, you may need Matter 4 to isolate the part from the whole.
        I like that, thanks.

        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        Life 4 is required to transform another, and turning someone into a living Trinket is a pretty severe transformation if ever there was one. You need Life 4 to give someone claws, wings, or change their skin. So it makes sense you'd also need Life 4 to make their skin burn with fire or have their fingers turn objects into gold by touch.
        I never understood it as a "pretty severe transformation", more like "glueing" whatever effect you're doing to the target pattern. I would require Life 4 only if you want to have a very fine control on where or how you are applying the effect, as in your example with Matter 2 or 4. But I think both views are reasonable.


        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        Ah Quiet, that ever contentious idea that all players love to talk about, and all STs hate to implement without drawing up specific house rules. Personally I'd look at your question and go "Hey, why not both?" I'd have the initial backlash create an explosive moment of Quiet which could easily be mistaken for just regular paradox backlash. I'd have it last as long as felt appropriate, but probably not longer than a few scenes at most. Then I'd let the current level of paradox determine the severity of quiet from here on out, and perhaps design elements of that quiet based on the initial "big" quiet event I made earlier, see if they catch on to what's happening.
        That's as good a proposal as any I had. But yeah, probably it's better treated with house rules appropriate to whatever the ST want to do.


        Originally posted by Saikou View Post
        Yeah that's weird. I'd disregard it and carry on as normal.
        Same for me; current rating x2 is good enough
        Last edited by alexendy; 09-06-2018, 05:52 PM.

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        • #5
          You clearly read M20 very thoroughly! Congrats. A person after my own heart.

          It's possible that his car is a unique personalized instrument because the car was adapted from some limited edition model that he couldn't replace. Or because he made it out of the metal he salvaged from the endoskeleton of an insane etherite cyborg.

          Or maybe he has the hands of Daedalus merit! It makes all tech you get to know into unique and personalised instruments (which is quite op but there's a huge list of things that are op!).

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
            You clearly read M20 very thoroughly! Congrats. A person after my own heart.
            Thanks ! I like to be torough and I love Mage and reading RPGs in general, but M20 proves a challenge to my time and energy ^^

            Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
            It's possible that his car is a unique personalized instrument because the car was adapted from some limited edition model that he couldn't replace. Or because he made it out of the metal he salvaged from the endoskeleton of an insane etherite cyborg.
            It's certainly possible; I don't say otherwise. My main point of perplexity, which I did not state very clearly, is this specific sentence (M20 p562-563):
            Because Dr. von Roth has been engineering such capabilities into the car, it functions as a unique, personalized instrument
            (emphasis mine)

            This seems to imply that the car functions as a unique, personalized instrument because von Roth engineered those capabilities, and that any similar car in which he would engineer similar capabilities would also function as a unique, personalized instrument. But the rules about unique instruments (p588) state that they are, well, unique (one of a kind and impossible or extremely difficult to replace) and that if you lose it you are working without focus (+3 diff) for all magical works you would have used it for. Now I agree with you and the previous posters that this is not really a contradiction, maybe the capabilities in question are incredibly hard to engineer and therefore his car is really "unique" (impossible or very difficult to replace), but then it functions as a unique instrument because it is unique, not just "because Dr. von Roth has been engineering such capabilities into the car". I may be hair splitting or just not understanding well but this phrase seems to carry a different meaning for "unique" instruments.


            Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
            Or maybe he has the hands of Daedalus merit! It makes all tech you get to know into unique and personalised instruments (which is quite op but there's a huge list of things that are op!).
            Hadn't seen that one, nice! But from what I read (BoS p71) it just makes almost every tech stuff you can familiarize with into personalised instruments, not unique ones.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by alexendy View Post

              Thanks ! I like to be torough and I love Mage and reading RPGs in general, but M20 proves a challenge to my time and energy ^^



              It's certainly possible; I don't say otherwise. My main point of perplexity, which I did not state very clearly, is this specific sentence (M20 p562-563):
              (emphasis mine)

              This seems to imply that the car functions as a unique, personalized instrument because von Roth engineered those capabilities, and that any similar car in which he would engineer similar capabilities would also function as a unique, personalized instrument. But the rules about unique instruments (p588) state that they are, well, unique (one of a kind and impossible or extremely difficult to replace) and that if you lose it you are working without focus (+3 diff) for all magical works you would have used it for. Now I agree with you and the previous posters that this is not really a contradiction, maybe the capabilities in question are incredibly hard to engineer and therefore his car is really "unique" (impossible or very difficult to replace), but then it functions as a unique instrument because it is unique, not just "because Dr. von Roth has been engineering such capabilities into the car". I may be hair splitting or just not understanding well but this phrase seems to carry a different meaning for "unique" instruments.




              Hadn't seen that one, nice! But from what I read (BoS p71) it just makes almost every tech stuff you can familiarize with into personalised instruments, not unique ones.
              I don't know why but I've always misread that. Yeah I imagine that the section with him using the car that way was just written slightly sloppily.

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