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[Hack question] Harsher, meaner Magic

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  • [Hack question] Harsher, meaner Magic

    I'm looking for a way of making magic a little scarier and more dangerous. There's a tension between "playable" and "thematic" when it comes to horror magic and I'd like to lean a little more heavily on the perils of magic.

    The easiest one-stop shop I could see is just to remove free Reach entirely. That is, any and all Reaching adds a paradox die. I do not have a head for mechanics, however, and Mage is very complicated. I don't want to be changing a load-bearing rule and bringing the entire Jenga tower down.

  • #2
    Have you run it as-is? If you have not, I'd recommend running sans-hacks first.

    In my experience as an ST for a Mage 2e game, paradox due to overreaching occurred fairly often (every few sessions), but removing free reach would have made spellcasting unreasonably tedious, drastically reducing the opportunities for non-paradox related Hubris (the real source of horror).


    Mentats - a 2e Free Council Obrimos Legacy (Mind/Forces) built around being a human computer; Thaumatech Engineers - a 2e Free Council Obrimos Legacy (Matter/Prime) focusing on the creation of Imbued items and the enhancement of Sleeper technology

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    • #3
      Instead of removing Free Reach entirely, for the reasons that proindrakenzol mentions, I would simply move up the Paradox dice chart by 1, so that Gnosis 1-2 is 2 Paradox dice per OverReach, Gnosi 3-4 is 3 Paradox dice per OverReach and so on. Furthermore, the extra dice from repeated paradoxical castings could be increased to +2 or make it compounding so that every additional time adds an additional +1 in addition to the regular increase (so it goes +1, +3, +5, +7, etc.).

      A different kind of Hack that puts more control into your hands as Storyteller could be that even a successfully cast spell that is not relinquished can be subject to Havoc sometimes. Once per Scene you as Storyteller can give 1 Arcane Beat to a player for making one of their successful spells suffer Havoc.


      Politeness is the lubricant of social intercourse.

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      • #4
        I would suggest leaving Reach and Paradox as is at first, but try either removing the possibility of containing a paradox or make the damage from containing harsher and longer lasting. Whatever you do, let us know how it goes.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Professor Phobos View Post
          I'm looking for a way of making magic a little scarier and more dangerous. There's a tension between "playable" and "thematic" when it comes to horror magic and I'd like to lean a little more heavily on the perils of magic.

          The easiest one-stop shop I could see is just to remove free Reach entirely. That is, any and all Reaching adds a paradox die. I do not have a head for mechanics, however, and Mage is very complicated. I don't want to be changing a load-bearing rule and bringing the entire Jenga tower down.
          Part of the problem with this is that because magic is easy, it leads to people using it when they shouldn't. Which leads to Acts of Hubris. If all magic is difficult and dangerous, then there would be less reason to whip it out except for important occasions. There are also workarounds. It could promote an emphasis on Imbued items, for instance, which could be made more safely in a sanctum then allow for the same ease of use in public.

          Like the others, I suggest you try playing it without the rules change first.
          Last edited by nofather; 06-20-2019, 12:27 PM.

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          • #6
            The easiest way to create horror it is by having the Abyss involved, for example, like being in an area where the Nemesis Continuum has taken root:

            https://m45t1g05.blogspot.com/2017/0...inuum.html?m=1

            Or trying to help someone who was born afflicted by The Nativity will make paradox more common, as well as create many complications as other mages each try to solve the problem in not necessarily the best ways:

            https://m45t1g05.blogspot.com/2017/1...ivity.html?m=1

            I also enjoy this rewrite of the Fangs of Mara, it makes players become the source of horror as they walk on a knife's edge to wield potentially very helpful powers that may turn on them:

            https://m45t1g05.blogspot.com/2017/0...gs-of.html?m=1

            What happens if an Illuminated Path mage gets wind of any of this ? Their response will hardly be kind. Or a high ranking Arrow with traumatic battles against the Abyss ? I tend to prefer situations that cause horror due to presenting players with the unknown and seeing the emergent decisions taken. Because at the end of the day, for good or ill, the message they receive is the same: "You did it !"

            From a pure mechanics standpoint, the easiest way to create horror is to break their flow at key intervals. It needs to be something that has a strong effect when it comes up, but is not a constant pressure, otherwise they may get used to it (which is why I suggested an Invader, being close to them automatically creates this change of pace). In which case we need to start looking at the kind of players you have and how they solve problems.
            Last edited by KaiserAfini; 06-21-2019, 01:50 AM.


            New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.


            The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists

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            • #7
              To use an idea from Signs of Sorcery, how about making Warped Rotes far more common?

              Or maybe having all improvised spells develop hitches in this manner?

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