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Horizon's Wild and Crazy Homebrew Rules and Metaplot Choices

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  • Horizon's Wild and Crazy Homebrew Rules and Metaplot Choices

    I will separate this into A and B, Rules and Metaplot Choices. If I edit this, I will post a reply explaining the edit (changed from-to). To start, this is everything important that I can remember.

    Part A: Rules

    1) Starting Arete:

    I raise the cap on starting Arete from three to five. Spheres remain capped at three.

    Why? There are two reasons. First, the cost of raising Arete is punitive. The player wants to raise a Sphere, but their Arete is not high enough. They have to spend XP on a magic stat that doesn't give them any additional capabilities, besides an additional die. Second, three dice on a magic role is kind of pitiful. Picture a mage using forces to defend himself with three dice to roll versus an un-awakened enemy shooting a handgun (say dexterity 3 and firearms 2).

    I simply adjust the level of Magical Wisdom the rating symbolizes downward. The maximum listed Arete is 10, so it's not that different in regards to the Wisdom it symbolizes. Taking Arete at five requires all of the players freebie points and one additional point from flaws. It has a cost.

    2) Acquiring Backgrounds during play:

    Things like Resources or a Node don't cost XP. The players' actions determine whether or not they obtain the thing. For something like Destiny, which is intrinsic to the self, I would have the player spend XP to unlock it, Discovering their Destiny.

    Why? Under the "new backgrounds cost XP" rule, the storyteller can never take those things away (and it's understandable that players who spent XP would be pissed if they did). I find this limiting, since there are all kinds of unforeseeable story events that could result in losses. A Node could come under siege after an enemy NPC gets a lucky roll on investigation or a Prime Detection Procedure. Money can be stolen. Similarly, you can be invited into a Chantry and later thrown out or have to run, because the Chantry fractures.

    3) Avatars and Seekings:

    Seekings are not a prerequisite for spending XP on Spheres. Seekings are never a journey to an unconnected micro-realm that the Mage has to explore for symbolic meaning. They are directives to do something in the actual setting, be it Earthly or Umbral. The benefit of pursuing the Seeking is that the Avatar will reward the PC by attempting to counteract influences like that would imperil both.

    Why? Story-wise, a character could stray from the path that their Avatar wishes them to pursue, but gain power and knowledge in other ways. They could gain new Mentors through impressive deeds. Conflicts between the demands of Mentors and Avatars are a fun story element. Having the Avatar act as a counteracting influence also does something to make my game easier. It avoids penalizing players who don't take Mind. The standard foot-soldiers of the Technocracy, Black Suits, use Mind and a PC without Mind is normally defenseless against coercive Mind Procedures. My Black Suits take this into account and Mind is still, probably the most powerful Sphere in the game (and players get the chance to figure that out before being captured).

    4) Conjunctional Magic:

    Mages do not have to have the Spheres other casters are using to combine their magic. The group casts as if they were a single Mage with the average Arete of everyone involved and all the combined Sphere Versatility. In order to do Conjunctional Magic, they must estimate the amount of time it will take to achieve the desired effect and then take on a "fused" status for the predetermined time period. During that time, they cannot cast individually, making them more vulnerable, should a group of enemies attack. Another consequence is that Quiet spreads, if someone is so afflicted.

    Why? Players do not have spend precious XP on each other's Spheres of Interest, instead focusing on what they are most excited to learn. There is a vast list of multi-sphere spells that no single mage is going to be able to cast. Under standard rules for conjunctional magic, a group would also be denied those opportunities. Allowing this type of fusion with a bit of danger means they can do something really cool once in a while, having taken necessary precautions.

    5) Paradox:

    Similar to Mage the Awakening, Paradox mostly erases (or deeply suppresses) the memory of sleepers who witness Vulgar Magic. There are exceptions like near death experiences where magic saves a sleeper. Since they are between this world and the next, their awareness is increased and they partly outside the reach of Paradox.

    Why? I find the setting to be implausible, otherwise. The Technocracy has to be this constantly patrolling army, forced to respond to every act vulgar magic done in public. In a world where almost everyone has a cell phone, I can't imagine how repeated, intentional displays of vulgar magic at large public events could be covered up. In the first part of the B section, I explain the kind of Technocracy I prefer.

    Part B: Metaplot

    1) Thinner Technocracy:

    In sleeper society and in most countries, the military, police and intelligence agencies combined are a small fraction of the population, the rest of which are considered Civilians. The former rely heavily on the productive output of the later. Magic can explain how a smaller Awakened Civilian population produces more, but there is still a limit. In terms of Enlightened Personnel, I have it that the Civilian portion of the Technocracy is never smaller than two thirds in any given area. That ratio would be where there is very high tension with other factions. In other areas, Civilians would make up ninety percent of Enlightened.

    Not all of the work Civilian Technomancers do can be in places that are heavily fortified. Some Progenitors work in public hospitals, NWO - Ivory Tower has a large number of professors in universities, and Syndicate - Financiers are constantly generating startup companies in whatever location is suitable. All of these would have a high degree of vulnerability to retaliatory attacks by Tradition Mages who would avenge the deaths of comrades killed by Black Suits, Hit-Marks and Syndicate Enforcers who return to fortified Constructs after each mission.

    The Non-Civilian Technomancers who I send after my players are actually outnumbered by them and must avoid directly provoking a war with regional Traditions that would endanger their own Civilians. Such agents are both well supplied and resourceful. They are methodical, careful and often charming. When they are successful, their missions result in internal conflicts between Traditions or with the Disparate Alliance who are unaware of how the conflict was instigated.

    The reason I give the Union Operative a numerical (often singular) disadvantage is not to make the game less challenging, but more. I play that agent better and more ruthlessly than if I gave myself a proportionate number of freshly cloned (Prime 2, Life 5, Mind 5, DS 5) Black Suits with machine guns and license to kill.

    2) Avatar Storm:

    Originally, I completely rejected the Avatar Storm. More recently, I decided that there has been a Storm (not made from people's Avatars) in a portion of the Umbra that did not affect most Chantries or Constructs. I like the idea of the aftermath that left an area similar to the Grey Wastes from D&D planar mythology. I intend on using this. Since I don't use vampire crossover, Ravnos and The Week of Nightmares didn't happen.

    3) Threat Null:

    It exists and they have my own original, creepy alien allies.

    4) Chantries and Constructs:

    Chantries have a smaller number of Mages than described in the books (hundreds of mages in some cases), while still being physically large. Most of the population are Acolytes or sleepers.

    End - That's it for now. Questions are welcome.


    Thank you for passing time with me in conversation. My Hacks.

  • #2
    I've considered the notion of splitting the current Backgrounds into Special Advantages and Backgrounds, with the former costing xp to acquire and the latter operating on an “easy come, easy go” basis. That would be the only change; but I think it's an important one. You might want to make a list of which of the current Backgrounds become Special Advantages.
    Last edited by Dataweaver; 05-05-2022, 11:51 PM.


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    • #3
      Will do soon.


      Thank you for passing time with me in conversation. My Hacks.

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      • #4
        On the Starting Arete, one of your rationales is that the dice pool is too small. You might consider a two-trait pool instead of just Arete, giving more dice overall. Arete+Sphere would be an obvious option; but I could instead see an Arete+Ability casting pool, using the mage's Focus to determine which Ability is appropriate.

        A possible downside might be that players will be inclined to spam one Ability, using it for everything and making it a cheap substitute for Arete. Ideally, there should be three or four Abilities that the mage uses as part of her Focus; and the player should have some sense of when each Ability would be appropriate. I'd make that part of the character creation process, when the player is working out the mage's Focus.


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        • #5
          Avatars and Seeking: so this would be something along the lines of the Avatar rating serving as automatic countermagick against any Effect that would disrupt the Seeking?


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          • #6
            Acting in Concert: maybe a simpler way would be to require that every Sphere in the Effect be covered by someone in the group; require that every collaborator must have at least one dot in at least one of the required Spheres; and apply a +1 difficulty to his roll for every required Sphere that he doesn't have at least one dot in.

            So three mages, each specializing in a different Sphere but not having any dots in the other two mages' Spheres, could collaborate on an Effect requiring all three Spheres; but each would suffer a +2 Difficulty for only having one of the three Spheres.

            Maybe also introduce a “Team” Pooled Background that lets each mage on the Team to offset penalties that arise from having to coordinate their actions — including, but not limited to, the above penality for not having all of the necessary Spheres for a collaborative Effect.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
              On the Starting Arete, one of your rationales is that the dice pool is too small. You might consider a two-trait pool instead of just Arete, giving more dice overall. Arete+Sphere would be an obvious option; but I could instead see an Arete+Ability casting pool, using the mage's Focus to determine which Ability is appropriate.

              A possible downside might be that players will be inclined to spam one Ability, using it for everything and making it a cheap substitute for Arete. Ideally, there should be three or four Abilities that the mage uses as part of her Focus; and the player should have some sense of when each Ability would be appropriate. I'd make that part of the character creation process, when the player is working out the mage's Focus.
              There are already optional rules for requiring skills to back up focus in V20 (p276, Optional Rule: Minimum Abilities) and each of the practices have 'Associated Abilities' listed in them. Extend that a little by insisting that characters have at least three skills from the associated abilities at the requisite levels for their spheres and you've got the basis for how to do it. You could even insist on an ability per instrument if you were particularly strict.

              @OP - Allowing players to start with Arete 5 has some knock on effects in optional rules. The 'Automatic Successes' optional rule on p539, allows your players with Arete 5 to coast level 1 and 2 sphere effects automatically, which is a pretty powerful.
              Last edited by Dogstar; 05-07-2022, 07:06 AM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                On the Starting Arete, one of your rationales is that the dice pool is too small. You might consider a two-trait pool instead of just Arete, giving more dice overall. Arete+Sphere would be an obvious option; but I could instead see an Arete+Ability casting pool, using the mage's Focus to determine which Ability is appropriate.

                A possible downside might be that players will be inclined to spam one Ability, using it for everything and making it a cheap substitute for Arete. Ideally, there should be three or four Abilities that the mage uses as part of her Focus; and the player should have some sense of when each Ability would be appropriate. I'd make that part of the character creation process, when the player is working out the mage's Focus.
                I told players that, for the moment, most spells would have their successes automatically spent on intensity, to keep the system simple. The area of effect is the immediate area. Range is line of site (except for the dimensionalist with Correspondence). Duration is one scene. I'm using kind of a loose hybrid between Magic Squared, the old system where total successes affect all aspect of the spell, and Divided Successes, which I will have to do some practice exercises to get more familiar with. When we move more toward the Divided Successes, I will be encouraging the players to develop Resonance and Synergy, which add dice. They are comfortable with mid-level Arcane, which Resonance counteracts (usually).

                ​We have been using Magic Enhancing Abilities and vice versa, lowering the difficulty of the appropriate roll. That has worked out well, the players having Attribute Specialties that give them double tens. I like the excitement a player gets when they score a load of successes. This is done when they have the luxury of time. When it's an encounter, it's usually a straight up Arete roll.

                While adding abilities could be a substitute for the higher cap, the other rational is important. XP spent on Spheres increases the versatility of what they can do and they can start thinking about Spheres at 4 early in the game.

                Originally posted by Dogstar View Post
                There are already optional rules for requiring skills to back up focus in V20 (p276, Optional Rule: Minimum Abilities) and each of the practices have 'Associated Abilities' listed in them. Extend that a little by insisting that characters have at least three skills from the associated abilities at the requisite levels for their spheres and you've got the basis for how to do it. You could even insist on an ability per instrument if you were particularly strict.
                It's an option I've forgone. For an Akashayana, I would require that they have Do to be a member of the Tradition. Same for VA and Computers. For the most part, there are a lot of demands on those Ability point allocations. Alertness, Awareness and Meditation are so basic to surviving and functioning in Mage society that a good amount of points are eaten up by those.

                Originally posted by Dogstar View Post
                @OP - Allowing players to start with Arete 5 has some knock on effects in optional rules. The 'Automatic Successes' optional rule on p539, allows your players with Arete 5 to coast level 1 and 2 sphere effects automatically, which is a pretty powerful.
                I still allow the chance for those 1s to show up and they do. Sometimes players are trying to penetrate a Ward.

                Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                Avatars and Seeking: so this would be something along the lines of the Avatar rating serving as automatic countermagick against any Effect that would disrupt the Seeking?
                Yes. There are three statuses:
                1) The Mage has told their Avatar to go screw itself and blown off the Seeking. Avatar provides no benefit.
                2) The Mage has added the Seeking to their priority list. Counter-Magic at normal Difficulty.
                3) The Mage is doing everything reasonably possible to accomplish the Seeking. Counter-Magic at lower Difficulty.
                RP-wise, the Avatar says something to the character, like, "Don't get in the car.". Another thing is that the Avatar is neutral between factions, except for Nephandi. If getting in the car would mean a promising career in a Convention they would flourish in, the Avatar could simply allow the Uncanny Influence through.

                Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                Acting in Concert: maybe a simpler way would be to require that every Sphere in the Effect be covered by someone in the group; require that every collaborator must have at least one dot in at least one of the required Spheres; and apply a +1 difficulty to his roll for every required Sphere that he doesn't have at least one dot in.

                So three mages, each specializing in a different Sphere but not having any dots in the other two mages' Spheres, could collaborate on an Effect requiring all three Spheres; but each would suffer a +2 Difficulty for only having one of the three Spheres.

                Maybe also introduce a “Team” Pooled Background that lets each mage on the Team to offset penalties that arise from having to coordinate their actions — including, but not limited to, the above penality for not having all of the necessary Spheres for a collaborative Effect.
                Hmm. I'm considering this.


                Thank you for passing time with me in conversation. My Hacks.

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                • #9
                  House Rule: Magic Touch

                  A capacity for magic touches everything a mage does.

                  By spending a point of quintessence a mage may add their arête dice to the dice pool for an action the mage is attempting. This includes mundane activities such as cooking food, driving a car, or running away from a bad guy. What the magic is attempting must be coincidental. It must also track with the paradigm, practice and instruments of the mage.

                  However, this will be influenced by any paradox the mage has accumulated. Using arête this way permits the possibility of magical success and magical failure. Some dice in the pool are designated the arête dice. The critical success or failure of these dice determines the magical nature of the results.

                  Examples:

                  Thomas is a making a difficult dish for dinner. This will be Crafts + Intelligence, or a Crafts (1) + Intelligence (2) for a total of 3. His player spends a point of quintessence to add his 2 arête to the pool. This allows for 5 total dice.
                  He rolls a 2, 4, 6, 10 and a 5. He has accumulated 2 successes. The final 2 dice are the arête dice. So the 10 is a critical magical success. Thomas has no paradox points. So the Storyteller decides people ask Thomas his secret to the recipe until it becomes irritating.

                  Richard is driving his car in rush hour traffic and trying to ditch someone following him. This will be Drive + Manipulation, or a Drive of 2 + Manipulation of 2 for a total of 4. His player spends a point of quintessence to add his 2 arête to the poll. This allows for 6 total dice.
                  He rolls a 3, 5, 6, 7 and a 10. He has accumulated 3 successes. The final 2 dice are the arête dice. The 10 is a critical magical success. Richard has 1 paradox point. So the Storyteller decides while moving through traffic the radio of his car – and all the adjacent cars, including for the people after Richard – play chase music.

                  Last edited by Grumpy RPG Reviews; 05-10-2022, 10:19 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Overall I really like most of these house rules / hacks. One idea I'd offer, just for thought, is as follows:


                    My ST requires that for every sphere my character knows, I define an ability linked to it. So for example, I have Time and I chose Academics: Mathematics. For Matter, it's Science: Chemstry. For Life, it's Science: Biology.

                    I really like this requirement, and as a player I would do this even if the ST did not require it. It forces me to give a lot of thought to how the character actually does what he does, and it makes defining paradigm, practice, and instruments very easy.

                    Now, the limitation is only that if you have insufficient ability for your your sphere, you increase difficulty. Currently I have Time 4, but only Academics: Math at 3 dots. Therefore, any Time 4 effect I try to produce is at +1 base difficulty. If I had Math at 2 dots, Time 4 Effects would be at +2 base difficulty.

                    With your house rules, this approach could be modified. Instead of adjusting difficulty, you could adjust the number of dice. For example, the character has Time 4 and mathematics 3. Time 1 effects would receive +2 dice, Time 2 effects would receive +1 dice, Time 3 effects would just roll Arete, and Time 4 effects would receive a one die penalty (-1 die).

                    In addition to this, instead of having a starting Arete of up to 5, you could just reduce the xp cost of Arete to something like current rating x4 or x5.

                    Anyway, not saying these ideas are better, just offering them up for discussion.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
                      House Rule: Magic Touch

                      A capacity for magic touches everything a mage does.

                      By spending a point of quintessence a mage may add their arête dice to the dice pool for an action the mage is attempting. This includes mundane activities such as cooking food, driving a car, or running away from a bad guy. What the magic is attempting must be coincidental. It must also track with the paradigm, practice and instruments of the mage.

                      However, this will be influenced by any paradox the mage has accumulated. Using arête this way permits the possibility of magical success and magical failure. Some dice in the pool are designated the arête dice. The critical success or failure of these dice determines the magical nature of the results.

                      Examples:

                      Thomas is a making a difficult dish for dinner. This will be Crafts + Intelligence, or a Crafts (1) + Intelligence (2) for a total of 3. His player spends a point of quintessence to add his 2 arête to the pool. This allows for 5 total dice.
                      He rolls a 2, 4, 6, 10 and a 5. He has accumulated 2 successes. The final 2 dice are the arête dice. So the 10 is a critical magical success. Thomas has no paradox points. So the Storyteller decides people ask Thomas his secret to the recipe until it becomes irritating.

                      Richard is driving his car in rush hour traffic and trying to ditch someone following him. This will be Drive + Manipulation, or a Drive of 2 + Manipulation of 2 for a total of 4. His player spends a point of quintessence to add his 2 arête to the poll. This allows for 6 total dice.
                      He rolls a 3, 5, 6, 7 and a 10. He has accumulated 3 successes. The final 2 dice are the arête dice. The 10 is a critical magical success. Richard has 1 paradox point. So the Storyteller decides while moving through traffic the radio of his car – and all the adjacent cars, including for the people after Richard – play chase music.
                      Nitpick: it's not “arête”; it's “Arete”. Apparently, the hat on the e changes the meaning from “excellence” to “to arrest”.

                      The “magic touch” is technically what “Magick Enhancing Abilities” is all about: make an Arete roll (probably Coincidental, and requiring at most two dots in an appropriate Sphere; so Difficulty 5), and reduce the Ability roll's difficulty by one per success. I could even see the willworking roll being a free action performed concurrently with the Ability roll.


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by breggie View Post
                        Overall I really like most of these house rules / hacks. One idea I'd offer, just for thought, is as follows:


                        My ST requires that for every sphere my character knows, I define an ability linked to it. So for example, I have Time and I chose Academics: Mathematics. For Matter, it's Science: Chemstry. For Life, it's Science: Biology.

                        I really like this requirement, and as a player I would do this even if the ST did not require it. It forces me to give a lot of thought to how the character actually does what he does, and it makes defining paradigm, practice, and instruments very easy.

                        Now, the limitation is only that if you have insufficient ability for your your sphere, you increase difficulty. Currently I have Time 4, but only Academics: Math at 3 dots. Therefore, any Time 4 effect I try to produce is at +1 base difficulty. If I had Math at 2 dots, Time 4 Effects would be at +2 base difficulty.

                        With your house rules, this approach could be modified. Instead of adjusting difficulty, you could adjust the number of dice. For example, the character has Time 4 and mathematics 3. Time 1 effects would receive +2 dice, Time 2 effects would receive +1 dice, Time 3 effects would just roll Arete, and Time 4 effects would receive a one die penalty (-1 die).

                        In addition to this, instead of having a starting Arete of up to 5, you could just reduce the xp cost of Arete to something like current rating x4 or x5.

                        Anyway, not saying these ideas are better, just offering them up for discussion.
                        Note that this is already kind of covered by the Focus system: your Practice define a set of associated Abilities, which play into how you use your Practice in various ways: setting Ability requirements to work Magick is one such use; Abilities enhancing Magick and Magick enhancing Abilities are two others.

                        For Enlightened Scientists, I use a house rule that replaces the Willpower cap on Arete with an Ability cap on Enlightenment: that is, when performing Enlightened Science, you need to know what you're doing; it's as essential for a Scientist as having sufficient Willpower is to a regular mage. So for Scientists, you roll the lesser of Enlightenment or an appropriate Attribute+Ability pool to perform an Adjustment or Procedure.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                          Nitpick: it's not “arête”; it's “Arete”. Apparently, the hat on the e changes the meaning from “excellence” to “to arrest”.
                          Accents are common to both Greek and French. In, "aretḗ", Greek, the accent consisting of two lines above the e is unique to Greek, giving it an ay-sound. You get the same ay-sound with a single diagonal line in French. The more common meaning of “arête”, in French is "stop", which can apply to arrest.

                          Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                          The “magic touch” is technically what “Magick Enhancing Abilities” is all about: make an Arete roll (probably Coincidental, and requiring at most two dots in an appropriate Sphere; so Difficulty 5), and reduce the Ability roll's difficulty by one per success. I could even see the willworking roll being a free action performed concurrently with the Ability roll.

                          Magic Enhancing Abilities is a solution to the scarcity of Quintessence.


                          Thank you for passing time with me in conversation. My Hacks.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                            The “magic touch” is technically what “Magick Enhancing Abilities” is all about: make an Arete roll (probably Coincidental, and requiring at most two dots in an appropriate Sphere; so Difficulty 5), and reduce the Ability roll's difficulty by one per success. I could even see the willworking roll being a free action performed concurrently with the Ability roll.
                            My version allows the PCs to have magic successes, or magical failures. Like in V5 with bestial successes or bestial failures. The magical successes and magical failures allow for more drama and strangeness.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by breggie View Post
                              Overall I really like most of these house rules / hacks. One idea I'd offer, just for thought, is as follows:


                              My ST requires that for every sphere my character knows, I define an ability linked to it. So for example, I have Time and I chose Academics: Mathematics. For Matter, it's Science: Chemstry. For Life, it's Science: Biology.

                              I really like this requirement, and as a player I would do this even if the ST did not require it. It forces me to give a lot of thought to how the character actually does what he does, and it makes defining paradigm, practice, and instruments very easy.
                              When I made my Etherite, I took Prime 3 and Matter 3. He's learning Forces, now at 2. I took Crafts 3 , Technology 3 and Science 3, the last two applying to mechanical engineering. Crafts relates to shaping the surface that goes over a something, plastic molds and textiles, etc. I could think on which spheres would match to which abilities.


                              Originally posted by breggie View Post
                              Now, the limitation is only that if you have insufficient ability for your your sphere, you increase difficulty. Currently I have Time 4, but only Academics: Math at 3 dots. Therefore, any Time 4 effect I try to produce is at +1 base difficulty. If I had Math at 2 dots, Time 4 Effects would be at +2 base difficulty.

                              With your house rules, this approach could be modified. Instead of adjusting difficulty, you could adjust the number of dice. For example, the character has Time 4 and mathematics 3. Time 1 effects would receive +2 dice, Time 2 effects would receive +1 dice, Time 3 effects would just roll Arete, and Time 4 effects would receive a one die penalty (-1 die).
                              He will aim for Prime 4 between Summer 2015, where we're at in the campaign, and current day. The ability associated with Prime would have to be raised to 4. I think I will associate Prime with Science.

                              Originally posted by breggie View Post
                              In addition to this, instead of having a starting Arete of up to 5, you could just reduce the xp cost of Arete to something like current rating x4 or x5.
                              Next chronicle.

                              Originally posted by breggie View Post
                              Anyway, not saying these ideas are better, just offering them up for discussion.
                              Good ideas. Thank you.


                              Thank you for passing time with me in conversation. My Hacks.

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