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M20: Rotes, fast-casting, and prepared effects

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  • M20: Rotes, fast-casting, and prepared effects

    What are rotes, precisely? The closest the book have to the definition of rotes are sections on page 529 and a sidebar on page 602, both of which define rotes as equivalent (or a subclass) of "(pre-)prepared effects". But what constitute "preparedness" in this context? On page 529, there are (seemingly optional) systems for learning rotes from a source - another mage or a book. Is it possible for mage to create rote by themselves? And most importantly, are there benefits (and/or drawbacks) of using rotes, opposed to effects created ad hoc? Do tropes of recovering forgotten ancient knowledge, secrets hoarded by rival magi, etc have place in M20 - and would they involve rotes?

    On related note, what is fast-casting in M20? In Mage Revised, it is what rotes were contrasted with. Fast-casting had marginal drawback of +1 difficulty. Mage Translation Guide, though, goes away from that: on page 39 of the Guide, fast-casting is defined as casting a spell at the same time as taking another instant action. It seem to imply what one of uses of fast-casting is to utilize a focus and create an effect with it on the same turn. This fast-casting have same +1 difficulty penalty. On the same page, but in completely different section, the Guide discusses rotes - rotes are said to have -1 difficulty bonus on casting and "some rotes bend the rules for Sphere requirements or harness strange permutations in the nature of reality that most mages are unaware of." In M20, fast-casting is talked about on page 535, but there are no definition beyond "making stuff up and firing it off without preparation or practice.". On page 415, there is rules for fast-casting in combat, which give almost same not-quite-definition: "making stuff up in the heat of that moment." But also, the next phrase there seem to imply what fast-casting applies to creating an effect in a single turn during combat. Two kinds of effect specifically do not have the fast-casting penalty: those what are created using weapons or martial arts as a focus, and "rituals that involve preparation before a fight". Using weapons and martial arts as a focus covered on page 413; there is a mention what, opposed to earlier edition, in M20 such a focus is used on the same turn as a creation of effect and two rolls for these constitute a single action; it reminds of fast-casting definition in Mage Translation Guide, but I cannot find such a rule in Mage Revised - maybe I overlooked it, or maybe it is from earlier editions? Returning to fast-casting in combat in M20, it is unclear what are "rituals what involve preparation before a fight" referring to, precisely.

    Searching M20 for "prepar[ation]", I came upon a passage in High Ritual Magic description, on page 578: "In practical terms, High Ritual Magick is slow and precise. The wizard might call upon the results of his prior work in the heat of the moment, but those results – enchanted wands, crafted staves, precious amulets, mystic scrolls, imprisoned demons, angelic favors, priceless statues, carved jade pendants, Otherworldly gates, fine robes, imposing tomes – must be prepared well in advance." These are quite similar to the mentions of "preparedness" related to rotes and/or fast-casting above, but mechanically some of these would be a creation and latter use of Wonders, and some to the favors of spiritual Allies. Also, this reminds me of a sidebar in the Order of Hermes tradition book about "almost-finished" effects, involving lenghty ritual beforehands, and saying only final word of a spell, drawing last line of pentacle, etc. in a moment of need (e.g. in a heat of a battle) - not unlike non-Vancian interpretation of spell preparation in D&D 5, really
    Last edited by mindszenty; 06-01-2015, 07:27 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by M20, page 539
    Rules-wise, a rote is simply an Effect that your character has used before or learned from someone else. Some groups teach rotes as part of basic training, whereas others pass them along to their close friends, apprentices, and so on. Beyond the story-based opportunities to learn such tricks, there's nothing special about a rote. You do not need to spend points to learn one, nor are you limited to a certain number of rotes. If your group wants to reflect the process of learning rotes from some other character or source, simply roll your character's Intelligence + either Esoterica (for mystic techniques) or Science (for technomagickal rotes), with a difficulty based upon the highest Sphere in that rote + 5. Learning a Rank 1 rote would be difficulty 6, and a Rank 5 rote would be difficulty 10. If you want to have characters discover rotes through research or mystic/ technological tomes, use a Perception + Research roll with the same difficulties given above. This way, a hidden library or forbidden codex can present new and interesting opportunities for a sharp-witted character.

    Naturally, the mage must share a focus with the rote in question before he can use it to his benefit. A Man in Black isn't going to get far with a voodoo curse unless he adjusts his thinking to accommodate such Deviant ideas! A character who wants to adopt a rote from a different practice or paradigm would be casting that Effect at +2 difficulty, as if he were working with unfamiliar tools… which is, of course, exactly what he's doing.
    The idea that rotes give you some sort of mechanical benefit is unique to the Revised Edition.

    You may, of course, house-rule things so that there is a mechanical benefit (for instance, you might rule that knowing a rote gives you a -1 difficulty modifier), in which case you probably will want to make them something that takes effort to acquire. You might, for instance, say that each dot in a suitable Ability gives you one rote for free, and that additional rotes can be bought for 1 xp each. That said, many find this to be a needless complication at best and contrary to the spirit of Mage at worst.

    I personally have a more drastic house rule that I use, which makes rotes very powerful for starting mages but increasingly worthless as the mage becomes more and more capable: they're like instruments in that regard (but moreso, in that instruments don't let you do things that you couldn't otherwise do). You'll find a link to it in my sig, under the Ascension hacks; just look for Acolyte Magic.
    Last edited by Dataweaver; 06-02-2015, 12:48 AM.


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    • #3
      I would follow the Vampire method as pertaining to learning Rituals, in relation to cost. That is, you don't spend XP to learn them, but must spend in-game time to study it. With variable times needed depending on the strength of the rote. The player CAN spend XP if they don't want to eat up game time, but they could do the other way if they want (although at that point, you could just as easily take some time one-on-one with the storyteller to roleplay the learning of a rote). This may very well not be the most ideal method, but I'd give it merit if only because it makes it consistent with other game lines, something so often lacking in the oWoD.

      As for mechanical benefits of using Rotes, I always thought the Revised rules on fast-casting troubling. That fast-casting - as defined in the Revised rulebook - was closer to the default in casting Effects, and should thus use the default difficulty. After all, no Mage starts their magical life knowing Rotes, right? They have to build them afterwards. Instead, I'd like Rotes learned and mastered to have -1 to difficulty. It took them time and effort to learn (and might involve specially prepared items), so why shouldn't their effort be rewarded? It also encourages players to pursue the accumulation of reliable Effects (which is good for the Storyteller, as it means less time spent hashing out the specifics of an Effect every time magic is used).

      On the subject of pre-prepared tools, I always cite the passage from The Order of Hermes Revised Tradition Book (p. 64). Basically saying that all Mages usually have some kind of time-consuming activity they need to do on a regular basis to keep their magic working. Whether it's the Akashic who meditates and practices their martial arts, the Etherite who builds their techno-magic gizmo, or the Hermetic who ritually chants incantations, grinds their alchemical herbs, or expertly carves their oak wand with symbols dedicated to fire elementals. Not for any mechanical reason, but because their Paradigm says they have to. It's also why a shaman must keep to the letter of their bans and geaes, even though another Spirit user might not see it as vital.

      In the context of Rotes, a Hermetic might not be able to make that enemy's gun explode unless he spent an hour or two carving ruins into a glass or crystal arrow head, and snaps it at the appropriate time. Some Rotes require you to do all the necessary steps at the time, while others (or other interpretations of the same Rotes) might allow the user to do much of their work beforehand, save the last activating step.

      Or to put it another way, the last step of a Hermetic's lightning spell might be pointing their wand and speaking a word of power (long after chanting the incantations and carving the wand), while the mechanically identical use of an Etherite's zap gun might be to point it and pull the trigger (long after building the zap gun and tuning its instruments).


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      • #4
        On the subject of prepared tools as Wonders, not all Foci are Wonders. A Wonder is enchanted so it itself has power. An Artifact is able to do one or more Effects really well, a Talisman can do that and have its own Arete score (usable by non-Mages), a Charm is an Effect hung on a material trigger with all its dice rolls done in advance (so the creator already knows that it will work), etc. A ritually prepared Instrument does not have to be so enchanted, because the magic is in the act of using it, not in the object itself. A wand carved with runes could be taken from the Mage who made it, but unless it's a Wonder no one else could use it to cast the same Effects or use it at all if they have no Arete of their own. It's just a stick to them, because the wand is an tool for focusing the Mage's efforts towards magic. Another Mage could use the wand, but only as a focus to cast their own Effects, using their own Rotes. Alchemically prepared materials might be a Charm, or it might not be. If it's a Charm, the Arete roll was done in advance, whereas a non-Charm Alchemical Focus must be rolled at the time it's used (and carrying the corresponding risk). But just because the Mage can't enchant the potion or whatever in advance, doesn't mean they don't still have to prepare the potion.


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