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  • Effects the "HAB" can't observe

    A Mage touches someone's wrist, shouts an incantation in Latin, and uses Life to give them cancer.

    The Hypothetical Average Bystander, or HAB, cannot see the cancer, cannot observe the sickness being inflicted.

    It is my opinion, based on reading M20, Book of Secrets and How Do You Do That, that the magick is Vulgar since the matter of Coincidental/Vulgar is sorted by cause and effect. People don't believe that shouting "hey presto" and grabbing someone's arm can give them a terminal illness - the HAB isn't stopped from "observing" the vulgarity by the fact that the disease will take months to manifest.

    The HAB isn't omniscient, but it at least gets to see the cause and effect at play.

    As a contrasting example, there's pulling a gun from your pocket, as described in M20. That can be coincidental because to the HAB, there could have been a gun inside that pocket. Cause is your practice, effect is pulling out a gun, but the HAB might see the practice as incidental to what's happened - they've been fooled. The question is whether "they could have already had cancer" comes into play...

    IMO "invisible" effects should be judged on a cause and effect, with Coincidence vs Vulgarity being judged as a result. Just because you turned an eagle invisible before you turned it into a phoenix doesn't make it Coincidental! The HAB is at least assumed to be able to observe what is actually happening from a reasonable distance.

    Meanwhile, the eagle being invisible, or the slow-growing cancer manifesting internally in a way that no one could "witness", means that what you're doing is Vulgar *without* witnesses, even if there are potential witnesses present. The *actual* Bystander doesn't get to see what you're doing unless it's something they can perceive.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by 11twiggins; 06-26-2021, 12:38 PM.

  • #2
    As a postscript, this also raises questions about effects over distance.

    If a Mage sits in her sanctum and waves her arms around while burning incense, and a hundred miles away a mild storm turns into gale force winds with dangerous lightning... what does the HAB see? Both ends? Just the result? What *could* make this Vulgar?

    Vulgar vs Coincidental is described as "People can't do THAT?!" vs "Yeah a person can do that." But is this more a case of "This weather is impossible!" vs "Yeah weather be like that sometimes." And how does this interact with Sanctums, which typically shield a mage from vulgarity? Does that stop working if she reaches outside?

    Essentially I'm interested in seeing people's opinions on this because it does have big implications for the use of magick from afar, and magick with effects which are enormous yet initially subtle.

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    • #3
      If you tie vulgar versus coincidental to cause and effect, you have effectively eliminated coincidental.

      More generally, whether something is vulgar or coincidental has nothing to do with whether or not there seems to be a connection between what the Mage does and what the effect is. If anything, the opposite is true: an effect is coincidental if the hypothetical average bystander can reasonably conclude that the effect might have happened on its own, and that it happening right after the mage took action is merely *ahem* a coincidence: correlation, not causation.


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      • #4
        However, a lot of Coincidental effects aren't "coincidences", they're simply something a sleeper believes makes perfect sense.

        A martial artist nerve pinching someone in a way where they seize up using Life.

        A hacker breaking into a top secret mainframe using Data.

        A bulky guy punching a door off its hinges using Forces.

        A person of incredible beauty leading impressionable people like ducklings using Mind.

        A priest in a congregation of hundreds casting out a possession through prayer using Spirit.

        Many of the "coincidental" effects described in M20 aren't coincidental in the most common sense of the word, that's just the game term for it. The HAB isn't staring at events and thinking "yeah I guess that could have happened by chance" in M20 by default, that's just one way they can behave. Another way is to look at events and query whether they make sense, whether the "magick" performed before them fits reality, even if only just barely.

        Essentially if you make "giving a person cancer" coincidental, then that opens questions of giving people strokes or heart attacks - we see young and healthy people drop down from heart attacks. Is that coincidental? Will a HAB really think "hmm, I blame the person who clicked their fingers and said hey presto" in a way that's strong enough to bring a paradox spirit a-calling?

        My overall point is that when you deal with questions of manipulating things that people can't see, you need to develop a more nuanced means of determining coincidental vs vulgar, since if you stick to a broad idea then some very, very potent and dangerous, hell *vulgar* magick will slip by simply because it isn't immediately visible to a HAB.

        On the other hand, number of successes needed is a whole other issue. Just because magick is coincidental doesn't mean it's easy - in the "invisible eagle turned into a mythical bird" example, it might be Coincidental since the bird isn't being perceived (still not certain on that), but the successes needed to turn it into a bird which is reborn when it dies would be very impressive either way.

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        • #5
          In Mage Made Easy, Brucato sideways a way of simplifying the Vulgarity issue: not by adding nuance (as in, saying more factors to consider when deciding where it falls), but by removing some nuance: instead of Coincidental, Vulgar, and Vulgar with Witnesses, your choices are Subtle, Uncanny, and Extreme. If the HAB would look at it and say “yeah, that makes sense”, then it's Subtle; of the HAB would look at it and go “WTF?”, then it's Extreme. And if it's neither Subtle nor Extreme, it's Uncanny.

          I expand on that with a house rule that eliminates the difficulty modifications for the different stages: in my games, the only difference between Subtle, Uncanny, and Extreme it's how much Paradox you generate; for the purpose of difficulty, everything is Highest Required Sphere + 4. One less thing to worry about. (Two, of you count the fact that you're no longer concerning yourself with whether or not there are actual Witnesses present.)

          And as you say, Coincidental (or Subtle) doesn't mean easy; there's still the type of Feat it is to consider.


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          • #6
            Subtle Uncanny and Extreme sound like good ideas - I might try it out with more experience mage players at some point. For now I'm trying to keep house rules to a minimum because of player inexperience!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
              However, a lot of Coincidental effects aren't "coincidences", they're simply something a sleeper believes makes perfect sense.
              Believes is the keyword here.But insterad of "a sleeper" it's "sleepers" in general. This is true to both the average and the omniscient observer. The difference it's not what causes Paradox, but to what an extent an effect should be plausible. And you shouldn't be too caught in the words (omniscient, average, etc...it's a way of making a point, but actually the concepts are fuzzier than that).

              This is why some thing that are scientifically impossible could get a pass if enough people believes, depending on the Reality Zone.

              If it literally needs to be a coincidence we're arguably beyond even HOO territory.

              For The Omniscient Observer It's not enough thet the effect would seem to be a coincidence for bystanders, because it's plausible that with careful investigation one could discover the truth. If it's even remotely plausible that your act of magick could be discovered as a complete impossibility (say, your pocket rips open just when you were summoning), then it's not Coincidental. But arguably this doesn't require your magick being actually a coincidence: Sensible interpretations of HOO don't make the observer trully omniscient (in which case not even sensory effects would get a pass).

              I think many would say that a cancer could be Coincidental under HOO if it's slow and realist enough in it's appearance because...if I'm not mistaken...it's hard to predict cancer and a lot of everyday activities are able to cause it.
              Let's imagine: If the patient was trully under constant observation by medics, but not under their control, and if the patient does something that could potentialy cause Cancer (like, say, being exposed to the sun. Or chemicals used in the city. Or smoking. Or...)...would it be regarded as impossible for the patient to develop a cancer?. If the answer it's "no, it could be wierd but never impossible", then even HOO would (usually, I think) be satisfied

              For the HAP, it's omnipresence it's limited: It's hypotetical, so it's always there, but it can't be where a human couldn't possibly be (like, he can't be in your pocket). And can be fooled by stuff that seems a coincidence but could be proven not to be with more research.

              In the case of the Cancer, even if it's appearance would be relatively, sudden and in someone that never did anything that could cause Cancer, it would be Coincidental. In this case it's as if the medics had the person as patient and say: Yeah, surely the dude did something that could cause Cancer, and never realized the symptoms. The person isn't under constant medical observation, but it is under enough observation that if the Cancer trully looks supernaturally vicious even by someone that doesn't know medicine - then it would be called out (In a Reality Zone where most do know Medicine, reality could be more demanding than that)

              Always look at the Effect. Never at the mage. What the mage does it's irrelevant, unless it's something that affects how the effect manifests. The location of the mage it's only relevant for the aspects of the effect that happen at that location

              For instance: Summoning a gun from your sanctum to your pocket doesn't require the gun to be hidden to be Coincidental - The observer can't peek at your sanctum. But doing it the other way arround would get your Paradox even if you're in the Sanctum (same with the Umbra or Zones)
              Last edited by Aleph; 06-26-2021, 02:51 PM.

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              • #8
                Aleph so your stance as a storyteller would be to look at the size of the Feat, in cases like this, as opposed to looking at the axis of coincidence. A cruel and sneaky Mage can hand out cancers paradox free (not sure why they *would* but Nephandi do be Nephandi-ing) but a good number of successes will be necessary.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Always look at the Effect. Never at the mage. What the mage does it's irrelevant, unless it's something that affects how the effect manifests. The location of the mage it's only relevant for the aspects of the effect that happen at that location
                  One nitpick with this: I'd say that the mage's actions can render something that would otherwise have been Vulgar as Coincidental, but never the other way around: for better or worse, the game includes a Blatancy Ability, and one of the few edges that the Technocracy of said to have over the Traditionalists is that Devices can render Coincidental an Effect that would otherwise be Vulgar.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
                    A Mage touches someone's wrist, shouts an incantation in Latin, and uses Life to give them cancer.

                    The Hypothetical Average Bystander, or HAB, cannot see the cancer, cannot observe the sickness being inflicted.

                    It is my opinion, based on reading M20, Book of Secrets and How Do You Do That, that the magick is Vulgar since the matter of Coincidental/Vulgar is sorted by cause and effect. People don't believe that shouting "hey presto" and grabbing someone's arm can give them a terminal illness - the HAB isn't stopped from "observing" the vulgarity by the fact that the disease will take months to manifest.

                    The HAB isn't omniscient, but it at least gets to see the cause and effect at play.

                    As a contrasting example, there's pulling a gun from your pocket, as described in M20. That can be coincidental because to the HAB, there could have been a gun inside that pocket. Cause is your practice, effect is pulling out a gun, but the HAB might see the practice as incidental to what's happened - they've been fooled. The question is whether "they could have already had cancer" comes into play...

                    IMO "invisible" effects should be judged on a cause and effect, with Coincidence vs Vulgarity being judged as a result. Just because you turned an eagle invisible before you turned it into a phoenix doesn't make it Coincidental! The HAB is at least assumed to be able to observe what is actually happening from a reasonable distance.

                    Meanwhile, the eagle being invisible, or the slow-growing cancer manifesting internally in a way that no one could "witness", means that what you're doing is Vulgar *without* witnesses, even if there are potential witnesses present. The *actual* Bystander doesn't get to see what you're doing unless it's something they can perceive.

                    Thoughts?
                    Abstract concepts aren’t really my thing, but this I understand and your argument makes sense.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
                      Aleph so your stance as a storyteller would be to look at the size of the Feat, in cases like this, as opposed to looking at the axis of coincidence. A cruel and sneaky Mage can hand out cancers paradox free (not sure why they *would* but Nephandi do be Nephandi-ing) but a good number of successes will be necessary.
                      Answering for myself, I would consider both: the feet for how powerful the effect is, and the vulgarity for the amount of paradox generated. But yes, there can be powerful effects that are subtle and weak effect that are extreme. Giving someone cancer can indeed be subtle. And in fact, unless a tumor suddenly appears and goes bulging out of their flesh, it probably is subtle, uncanny at worst. Vulgarity isn't about reining in powerful Effects; it's about encouraging mages to conceal their magic.


                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                        One nitpick with this: I'd say that the mage's actions can render something that would otherwise have been Vulgar as Coincidental, but never the other way around: for better or worse, the game includes a Blatancy Ability, and one of the few edges that the Technocracy of said to have over the Traditionalists is that Devices can render Coincidental an Effect that would otherwise be Vulgar.
                        Yes I was thinking about this with High Ritual for instance.

                        Speaking of Blatancy... how does it work? Surely Blatancy is something you roll *after* the magical bomb drops, to try and sell what you just did as real.

                        "Oh it took me YEARS to master that trick!"

                        Thing is that if your excuse comes after the magick, you've already rolled! Difficulty and paradox have been dealt with!

                        So do you have to roll Blatancy beforehand? Why are all the examples given "making up excuses after the magick drops", as if they didn't playtest it?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dataweaver
                          One nitpick with this: I'd say that the mage's actions can render something that would otherwise have been Vulgar as Coincidental, but never the other way around: for better or worse, the game includes a Blatancy Ability, and one of the few edges that the Technocracy of said to have over the Traditionalists is that Devices can render Coincidental an Effect that would otherwise be Vulgar.
                          Yeah. That's what I meant with "something that affects how the effect manifests". Like, if your Technocrat summons a fireball from a device, that's "more coincident" than a person waving their hands and causing fire to appear from nowere. But that's not because Reality has something against waving hands, but rather it has something against fire appearing w/o a plausible source

                          Originally posted by 11twiggins
                          so your stance as a storyteller would be to look at the size of the Feat, in cases like this, as opposed to looking at the axis of coincidence. A cruel and sneaky Mage can hand out cancers paradox free (not sure why they *would* but Nephandi do be Nephandi-ing) but a good number of successes will be necessary.
                          Coincidental, as I understand it, has more to do with "it looks like a coincidence" than "it is a coincidence". Magick it's about making things happen, not about leaving stuff to randomly happen (Well, maybe except for Entropy - that actually controls coincidence. I will leave to the philosophers to ponder if that makes it's effects to be coincidences)

                          I think it's always worthy to go back to the basis: To determine if Paradox happens, the book asks if an effect would be considered impossible by an observer. The book doesn't ask if it's implausible nor unlikely. The HAP, HOO, etc. debate happens afterwards to determine what impossible and observer mean, what are the limits of belief - and, trully, they're only useful as general guidelines. I wouldn't take them as rules.
                          The "axis of coincidence" could be useful to ponder those questions - but it doesn't need to be the top priority. In general, what it's trully plausible and what it's believed as possible coincide. But ultimately belief it's the key. Especially under HAP (and more so in M20 with it's RZ)

                          In other words: Make it look like an accident :P
                          Last edited by Aleph; 06-26-2021, 03:44 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Make it look like an accident, or make it look like science (where by “science” I meant “how Sleepers believe the world works”).

                            And on that first point, another house rule that I use is that I don't use the Domino Effect; instead, I use “once is an accident; twice is coincidence; thrice is enemy action”: that is, if you try repeated castings of a Coincidental Effect, you can get away with it once (the second casting); if you try a third time, it's no longer accepted as something that happened on its own, and you eat Paradox for it being Vulgar. This is, of course, a rule of thumb: if the HAB wouldn't find it strange for the same Effect to be happening over and over again, it remains Coincidental. Again, a key feature of my “axis of Coincidence” house rules is to take Difficulty modifications out of the picture: the only thing that such changes affect is how much Paradox you generate.

                            As for Blatancy: always roll it first. You're not modifying the roll after the fact; you're adjusting the circumstances under which the Effect is generated ahead of time. If you wait until you're making the Arete roll, you've waited too long.


                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
                              However, a lot of Coincidental effects aren't "coincidences", they're simply something a sleeper believes makes perfect sense.

                              A martial artist nerve pinching someone in a way where they seize up using Life.

                              A hacker breaking into a top secret mainframe using Data.

                              A bulky guy punching a door off its hinges using Forces.

                              A person of incredible beauty leading impressionable people like ducklings using Mind.

                              A priest in a congregation of hundreds casting out a possession through prayer using Spirit.
                              Well yes. To have a paradox you basically need two things. The Hypothetical/Actual Bystander must (correctly) think that the Mage caused the effect and the Hypothetical/Actual Bystander must think that the mage couldn't have caused the effect. That's the paradox*. When the HB thinks the mage had nothing to do with the effect that invalidates one of the elements of the paradox. When it thinks the mage's actions could reasonably have caused the effect that invalidates the other.

                              *It's implied that Paradox is more complicated in universe, but this is the foundation of the Hypothetical Bystander test.

                              Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post
                              Many of the "coincidental" effects described in M20 aren't coincidental in the most common sense of the word, that's just the game term for it. The HAB isn't staring at events and thinking "yeah I guess that could have happened by chance" in M20 by default, that's just one way they can behave. Another way is to look at events and query whether they make sense, whether the "magick" performed before them fits reality, even if only just barely.

                              Essentially if you make "giving a person cancer" coincidental, then that opens questions of giving people strokes or heart attacks - we see young and healthy people drop down from heart attacks. Is that coincidental? Will a HAB really think "hmm, I blame the person who clicked their fingers and said hey presto" in a way that's strong enough to bring a paradox spirit a-calling?

                              My overall point is that when you deal with questions of manipulating things that people can't see, you need to develop a more nuanced means of determining coincidental vs vulgar, since if you stick to a broad idea then some very, very potent and dangerous, hell *vulgar* magick will slip by simply because it isn't immediately visible to a HAB.

                              On the other hand, number of successes needed is a whole other issue. Just because magick is coincidental doesn't mean it's easy - in the "invisible eagle turned into a mythical bird" example, it might be Coincidental since the bird isn't being perceived (still not certain on that), but the successes needed to turn it into a bird which is reborn when it dies would be very impressive either way.
                              The Coincidental/Vulgar divide is not there to keep magic from being too powerful. It may do that by accident in quite a number of cases, but that is not the purpose. The purpose is to keep the real world looking like the real world.


                              Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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