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Alternative Wisdom 2.0

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  • Alternative Wisdom 2.0

    Because I highly dislike original Wisdom system, I've experimented with ideas of my own for years. This is the system I came up and now use in my Mage games. I've shared it with several other people, who liked it, but I never shared it here, for reasons I don't remember. So, here it is.

    Mission statement:
    1. Wisdom should be about usage of magic, not about general morality and mundane actions of mage. If you believe that Wise mage is wise about everything - read no further.
    2. Wisdom should have clear and concrete rules for players and Storyteller to use. The less is “up to ST”, the better.
    3. Because different Orders have different views of how mage should use his magic, Order of mage should matter in Wisdom system.
    4. Wisdom should encourage indirect usage of magic, or using mundane methods when appropriate.
    What is Wisdom
    Wisdom is knowing how, when and why use magic - and how, when and why not to use it. Wisdom is also about knowing risks and consequences of magic. Magic is power to change the world, but too often mages don't think enough about consequences and ramifications of their actions. The more are potential effects of your action affect others in violent and unpredictable ways, the worse your Wisdom gets.

    Wisdom is about usage of magic. It doesn't act on mundane actions of mage. It's entirely possible to be a Wise serial killer - as long as you don't use your magic to kill and torture people. Wisdom isn't about your character as well - it's only about how you use your magic, and how you don't.

    Wisdom is linked to soul health somehow. Your soul becomes more disjointed as your Wisdom sinks down, and this affects all your magical being. Your released Paradoxes become worse; at the same time, your Paradox conditions come off faster. Your Nimbus is getting easier to notice, as you spread its effects on your sympathetic links.

    At the same time, Wisdom is linked to free will. You don't suffer from Wisdom loss for actions you were mentally dominated into doing (but your manipulator will), unless you let yourself be dominated. Wisdom hits take place even when you dominate people with good intentions or if they ask for it (through you still get bonuses from your Code). Free will is sacrosanct to Wisdom, and to stay on highest levels of Wisdom, you need to let people take their own decisions - no matter how stupid and destructive those are. The best you can do is try to explain it to them.

    True nature of Wisdom, and if is external or internal to mage, is ultimately a Mystery. Mages know that Wisdom is more or less universal to all mages, but mutable by individual mage by different means such as learning a Code or developing a Legacy. Wisdom is linked to soul health of an individual, but losing the soul paradoxically don’t make mage less Wise, nor does it allow to ignore Wisdom. Wisdom may be linked to Gnosis of mage, but only a few Legacies, including feared Timori, can manipulate Gnosis of mage directly, and they don’t share their twisted secrets. All attempts to warp Wisdom directly, or create artificial Codes with Mind magic have failed horribly, showing mages again how little they really know - about universe, about magic and about themselves.

    Wisdom loss leads to mental distortion. A person ceases to see people as people. Moreover, in a certain sense, the mage ceases to believe that the world around him is real and is not part of the imagination of mage. The mage ceases to restrain the natural desire to solve any problem and any conflict immediately with casting of a certain spell, and begins to perceive the reality around him as something malleable, something that can be given the desired shape at any time. It becomes easier for the magician to find a common language with entities that never were human, but he loses the ability to communicate with people who do not have magic. In the last steps, the magician may completely stop acting like a human being.

    Losing Wisdom occurs through Acts of Hubris. Ultimately, Hubris is about:
    1. Using magic in selfish and destructive ways. It's always easier to destroy than to build, and to destroy with magic is very easy indeed. While not always bad per se, it is easy to lose touch with your human nature by becoming a magical super-predator.
    2. Denying freedom of will. Using people and other sentient creatures as your puppets is stopping to see the them as people, and once you believe yourself to be the only truly human creature in the masses of unAwakened rabble, Madness is not far away.
    3. Destroying magic. Fallen World is a small, miserable place, robbed of true magic and wonder. Destroying Supernal is destroying the last pieces of greater whole, forever denying the reality true wonder and hope.
    4. Allowing the Abyss to take hold. The Abyss is antithesis to Supernal and magic. To truck with the Abyss is to deny your very being and to invite the ultimate destruction of known reality.
    5. Dangerous magical experiments and pursuing Left-Handed knowledge. Too often mages do the things because they can, without ever stopping to think if they should. That includes using magic to affect souls (Reapers) and prolong lifespan through unnatural means (Liches)
    Example Acts of Hubris

    Selfish and destructive use of magic
    • Using magic for a personal material gain (Enlightened).
    • Affect innocent bystanders with your magic (Enlightened).
    • Killing living being with magic (Enlightened).
    • Traumatizing person without physical injury, messing with his personal life with magic, causing temporary social damage (get him fired, his possessions destroyed, etc)(Understanding).
    • Hurting sentient beings with magic (causing negative Conditions or dealing lethal damage up to major wound)(Understanding).
    • Causing lasting trauma or injury to sentient being with magic (causing negative Persistent Conditions or aggravated damage)(Weathered).
    • Destroying personal life with magic, causing permanent social damage (cause divorce, destroy his life-long business or career, destroy his reputation, etc.)(Weathered).
    • Killing sentient being with magic, destroying the consciousness and/or sense of self (Falling).
    • Causing mass death and/or destruction with magic (Hubristic).
    • Magical torture and other heinous acts (Hubristic).
    Divorce or cancer, both suck
    In a way, destroying personal life is just as bad as harming person physically - he feels the pain all the same, and wounds on the heart may take a longer time to heal than wounds on the body. Such course may be necessary, but never Wise.

    Why, why would you do that?
    Unlike in other areas, in killing/hurting people with magic, the mindset of the mage matters. Does he kill trying to protect himself or the others? Does he kill in a cold, premeditated way? Does he kill in a fit of rage? Circumstances should move Act of Hubris along the line: it’s one thing to kill with a death curse as a last resort in self-defense, and other to violently burn a person alive because he said a wrong word about you; but ultimately, this kind of magic use always remain hubristic to some degree - in the end mages have too many options and possibilities to ever stop considering if there were was no other - better - way.
    Suggestions for this:
    • Hurting or killing others to protect yourself or others bring the Act of Hubris one step higher.
    • Hurting or killing others in a cold, premediated way bring the Act of Hubris one step higher.
    • Hurting or killing others for your personal gain or pleasure bring the Act of Hubris one step lower.
    • Hurting or killing others emotionally - in a fit of rage, out of fear - bring the Act of Hubris one step lower.
    It’s not the fall that kills you
    Okay, but what about using magic indirectly to kill? You may routinely kill people using Veiling, as they aren’t able to see you or react to you. You can enchant your weapon, or yourself, to get an edge. Does that counts as using magic to kill?
    There are three options:
    • No, it doesn’t. When you kill a person with magic, you form an Imago around injury and death, misusing your great and grand gift of creation to maim and slaughter. But indirect usage is just that - indirect usage. Spells themselves aren’t tainted with your murderous intentions.
    • It does, but it sets the bar higher. You aren’t using magic directly to kill, but you still misuse it - understandable, but still a sad fact. You move the Act of Hubris two steps higher.
    • Yes, it does. Either you kill people completely mundanely, or you suffer Wisdom loss - no third option about it. It’s intent that matters, and your intention is to kill other people, when the other options would be just as sufficient.
    Personally, I’d recommend using the first or second option. The third one moves Wisdom heavily towards morality, while it should be about usage of magic (as far as this system is concerned). It also requires answering a lot of questions. For example: it is permissible to use Mage Armor in combat? Are unintentional kills with magic counted as Wisdom hits? Should you remove your permanent buffs before entering combat, if you want to avoid Wisdom loss? and so on.

    Denying freedom of will
    • Superhuman levels of charisma and persuasion (21+ dice on social rolls)(Enlightened).
    • Influencing a person supernaturally without direct mind control (charming, suggestion) (Understanding).
    • Cursing a person with magic (Understanding, Weathered is spell is permanent).
    • Binding a person to Oath with Fate magic (Understanding, Weathered is spell is permanent).
    • Shaping the future of person or rewriting his history extensively with Time magic (Understanding, Weathered is spell is permanent).
    • Manipulating sympathetic connections with Space magic to achieve mind control-like effects (Understanding, Weathered is spell is permanent).
    • Direct mind control of target without moral code violation (Weathered).
    • Partial rewriting of a person’s personality (Weathered).
    • Direct mind control of a target with a moral code violation (Falling).
    • Rewriting the personality of a person or absorbing it, creating magical puppets out of humans (Hubristic).
    Other Arcana
    Denying freedom of will is not limited to Mind magic. Warping Fate of person, or using Life to urge his basic instincts is just as bad in the end. Ultimately, it is the ability to make meaningful choice what matters; the less choice for the subject left after the spell, the worse this spell is for the Wisdom of the caster.

    Toxic Memes
    Mages can reshape person by more subtle means that direct overwriting of personality - by subjecting him to memetic agents, or tinkering around with his Oneiros. Such attempts are not necessary unwise, but do fall under human experimentation (look below for more details).

    Worse than killing him
    Irreversably rewriting the personality of person is even less Wise than destroying it. Why? In the second case, you essentially kill everything what the person was. But in the first case, you are not only killing the person - you are rewriting person as you see fit, ultimately denying him even the right to be dead and gone.

    What measure is non-human?
    It’s easier if it’s not human. When using magic on supernatural creatures to deny them freedom of will, raise all Acts of Hubris levels by one degree.

    Destroying Supernal magic
    • Allowing a Mystery to be contaminated by a Nimbus (Enlightened).
    • Dispelling ancient (100+ years) magical spells and enchantments (Enlightened).
    • Killing a Sleepwalker (Enlightened).
    • Destroying a Grimoire, Rote or Imbued Item (Understanding).
    • Destroying knowledge about Awakened or Supernal magic (Understanding).
    • Destroying knowledge about Mystery with Supernal origin (Understanding).
    • Killing a Proximi or person with Second Sight (Understanding).
    • Killing another mage or removing Gnosis from him (Weathered).
    • Destroying Hallow or Supernal Verge (Weathered).
    • Destroying a Proximi Dynasty by killing all members and/or destroying all knowledge about it (Weathered).
    • Entering an Adyton (Weathered).
    • Destroying an Artifact or chopping Sarira to pieces (Falling).
    • Destroy Thurae or Soul Eyes (Falling).
    • Disrupting an Awakening (Falling).
    • Destroying a Legacy by killing all members and/or destroying all knowledge about it (Falling).
    • Destroying a Supernal Entity or fail to act in its defense from complete destruction by the Abyss (Hubristic).
    • Preventing, attempting to undo or causing an Awakening to fail (Hubristic).
    • Destroying artifact of Time Before (Hubristic).
    • Attempting to harm or disfigure Supernal Realms or Watchtowers (Hubristic).
    What measure is non-Supernal?
    Those Acts of Hubris are primarily about the destruction of Supernal magic in the Fallen World. Mages don’t have similar obligations to the Fallen World magic, or other supernaturals - they won’t lose Wisdom from killing a vampire who knows blood sorcery, or destroying werewolf’s fetish. Still, most mages will refrain from such a course of action, if there is a sensible alternative.

    It’s mine, mine!
    Hoarding magic for yourself doesn’t damage Wisdom of mage - after all, other mages can get access to it after your probable demise. Mages can also restrict access to dangerous secrets to those who, in their opinion, doesn’t deserve them - that is modus operandi for Mysterium and Guardians alike. But permanently removing the chance for other mages to gain said knowledge is inherently Hubristic. Mysterium magic have Censoria for storing forbidden knowledge without destroying it; Guardians are more final about their solutions, but they do have “sacrifice Wisdom” Code especially for cases like this.

    Allowing Abyss or Lower Depths to take hold
    • Overreaching on a spell (Enlightened).
    • Relinquishing a spell unsafely with Advanced Duration (Enlightened if day-long, Understanding if week-long, Weathered if month-long, Falling if spell is year+ long or permanent).
    • Not attempting to contain Paradox within soul (Understanding).
    • Allowing a Sleeper to witness obvious magic (Understanding).
    • Creating “Open” Condition for Abyssal creatures by any means (Understanding, Weathered if Condition is Persistent).
    • Inuring spell (Weathered). This means that mage will roll Wisdom twice and may lose it twice.
    • Causing a Paradox Anomaly (causing an Abyssal Environmental Tilt) (Weathered).
    • Accidentally summoning an Abyssal or Lower Depths entity (not through Paradox Manifestation) (Weathered).
    • Casting Antinomian Spell or Rote (Weathered).
    • Using Investments or other powers granted by Abyssal or Lower Depths entities (Weathered).
    • Willfully summon Abyssal or Lower Depths entity (Falling).
    • Causing a Paradox Manifestation (Falling).
    • Learning an Abyssal or Lower Depths Legacy (Falling).
    • Creating Aberrances and Scars (Falling).
    • Making a deal with an Abyssal or Lower Depths entity (Falling, Hubristic if deal involves permanent components).
    • Creating an Abyssal Verge or Malus Loci (Hubristic).
    • Creating an Abyssal or Lower Depths Legacy (Hubristic).
    • Abyssal Initiation at Dur-Abzu (Scelesti aspirant can willingly fail this one at Wisdom 1 and automatically gain first dot of Joining) (Hubristic).
    Unwise and stupid
    Trucking and dealing with Abyss or Lower Depths isn’t just immoral; it is also extremely dangerous. But Mages have dangerous lives in general, and many of them think they can handle the consequences - and so their Wisdom falls as a result.

    But I am Scelesti...
    No, Scelesti most definitely don’t ignore this part of Wisdom until they pass their Joining - enjoy your falling from grace.

    Dangerous magical experiments and pursuing Left-Handed knowledge
    • Sacrifice a non-sentient creature (Enlightened). Sacrificing a sentient creature counts as killing with magic.
    • Creating a soul stone (Understanding).
    • Entering pacts with godlike (Rank 6+) creatures (Understanding).
    • Giving supernatural abilities to living creatures which don’t have them (Understanding).
    • Binding ephemeral creatures in the material world (Understanding, Weathered if binding is permanent).
    • Using magic to prolong life beyond human lifespan (Understanding).
    • Inflict supernatural Conditions (Understanding, Weathered if Condition is Persistent).
    • Magically transforming a person into another sentient being (Understanding, Weathered if spell is permanent).
    • Human (including Sleepwalkers and Mages) suffering a breaking point due to magical experiment (Understanding).
    • Creating flawed or faulty equipment with magic (Understanding).
    • Removing the soul from human (Weathered).
    • Giving dangerous reproducible hypertech to Sleepers (Weathered).
    • Removing important parts of human psyche; messing with Oneiros; exiling daimon (Weathered).
    • Creating magical monsters (Weathered).
    • Creating Living or Haunted Grimoire (Weathered).
    • Magically transforming a person into a lesser being (Weathered, Falling if spell is permanent).
    • Forcefully abducting and/or exiling another person (mage, Sleeper or Sleepwalker) into the Realms Invisible (Weathered, Falling if spell is permanent; no Wisdom damage if person is capable of getting out on his own).
    • Human (including Sleepwalkers and Mages) failing a breaking point and/or developing negative mental Conditions due to magical experiment (Weathered).
    • Bind ephemeral entity to an unwilling human (Falling, Hubristic if spell is permanent).
    • Learning Reaper or Lich Legacy, developing a new Attainment in those Legacies (Falling).
    • Disfiguring souls (Falling).
    • Attempt to dedicate two soul stones at once (Falling).
    • Creating Perfected blood or skin (Falling).
    • Using magic to prolong life by using others as resource (Hubristic).
    • Using magic to inflict “fates worse than death” (Hubristic).
    • Destroying soul (Hubristic).
    • Attempt to magically warp your own Wisdom (Hubristic).
    • Using an Astra’s Sublime Power (Hubristic).
    “Willing” subjects
    What about willing subjects? There are many Sleepers and Sleepwalkers who wouldn’t object to a chance to become super-strong, or unnaturally attractive, or… Is it so bad to experiment on them?

    Actually, there are several reason why mages shouldn’t experiment even on willing subjects. First of all, most subjects don’t understand possible risks and downfalls. It’s not enough to say “I’ll try to make you sexy, you in?” without also mentioning “but if I fail, you may become horrible monster which will try to rape and murder everything you see”. Failing to mention danger of said experiment is certainly an Act of Hubris to a mage.

    Second, mages can’t be sure in the outcome of their experiments. This is a Fallen World - magic gets distorted or outright corrupted by Abyss. If experiment consists of casting a spell on a subject, the mage must either keep control over the spell, or relinquish it safely. Failing to do that is is certainly an Act of Hubris to a mage, and you can’t say “he knew the risks”, even if you explained the risks, because you made a conscious decision the let spell be distorted, sooner or later.

    Third, mages can’t be sure even in the outcome of successful experiments. Let’s say you managed to remove fear from an anxious person, and helped him get rid of a mental disease in the process. Great, right? But he continues to live without fear, starts taking unnecessary and stupid risks, and soon dies in a car crash after deciding there is nothing to be afraid of in driving through the crossroad on red light. The reason for his death connected very directly with your successful magical experiment, and by extension - with your Wisdom.

    All that said doesn’t mean you can’t make magical experiments without them being Acts of Hubris… but you need to be very careful, very open with explaining possibilities and even after all that, you still may lose Wisdom from unexpected consequences.

    Don’t let it stop you, anyway.

    Hierarchy of Importance
    There is hierarchy in act: it’s easy to experiment on living creatures who don’t get sentience (animals, plants, etc). It’s harder to experiment on sentient creatures who can think, talk and act (ghosts, Goetia, spirits). Only the most callous and hubristic mages can experiment on humans without losing Wisdom. In general, experiments on non-sentient creatures should bring the Act of Hubris one step higher; experiments on non-human sentients shouldn’t change the Act of Hubris level, and experiments on humans and human-like sentients should bring the Act of Hubris one step lower.

    Help me, I am being oppressed!
    Yes, Wisdom has a very clear bias about humans being more important than other sentient beings here. You may change that if you want it, but remember that it’s easier to turn people into monsters if you done your homework on animals and persuaded yourself that everything works fine and no side effects were found.
    Last edited by Dark Archon; 06-12-2021, 12:00 PM.

  • #2
    Wisdom levels and their effects

    Wisdom 9-10 (Enlightened) (5 dice): Mage retains control over his magic. He carefully considers every spell, and never uses magic without trying to understand consequences as fully as he can. Only most enlightened and wise mages are able to stay on this level for long. Mage have +2 to all self-control rolls; +2 to social rolls with mages impressed by Wisdom level; initial impression level in Social Maneuvering is automatically one level higher with such mages. Duration of Paradox Condition/Anomaly: One Story/Month / One Scene.

    Wisdom 7-8 (Understanding) (4 dice): Mage controls his magic - mostly. On this stage, mage is either novice, who don’t understood his power fully yet, or balanced mages, who try to control themselves, their magic and consequences - even if reality pushes them.
    No bonuses or penalties. Duration of Paradox Condition/Anomaly: One Chapter/Day / One Chapter/Day.

    Wisdom 5-6 (Weathered) (3 dice): On this stage mage felt his power in the full. It’s very possible that he have broken rules, promises and betrayed his ideals. Need for Code become nagging feeling, because faith isn’t enough anymore. Mage stops to believe, but still feels remorse. Most mages hang somewhere around this level.
    Mage have -1 to all social rolls with Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, but have +1 to all social rolls with ephemeral, Supernal and Abyssal creatures. Nimbus leaks on Strong sympathetic links. -1 to self-control rolls. Duration of Paradox Condition/Anomaly: One Chapter/Day / One Chapter/Day.

    Wisdom 3-4 (Falling) (2 dice): Magic is an answer to most of your questions. Most of personal rules and taboos were broken in the process of answering, and mage certainly saw and did things nobody would consider moral or right. Need for Code is very real, and without Code mage finds it more and more hard to feel and care about consequences of his actions. Many hardened mages who assume unpleasant and dangerous roles in Mage society have this level of Wisdom.
    Mage have -2 to all social rolls with Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, +2 with ephemeral, Supernal and Abyssal creatures. Nimbus leaks on Medium sympathetic links. -2 to self-control rolls. Duration of Paradox Condition/Anomaly: One Scene / One Story/Month.

    Wisdom 1-2 (Hubristic) (1 dice): Magic is not an answer. Magic is a question, and answer is “yes”. Mage feels no taboos and almost certainly doesn’t care about them. His soul is under great strain, and he isn’t that far from his final destination. Only the most callous, dangerous and determined mages have this level of Wisdom.
    Mage have -3 to all social rolls with Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, +3 with ephemeral, Supernal and Abyssal creatures. Nimbus leaks on Weak sympathetic links. -3 to self-control rolls. Duration of Paradox Condition/Anomaly: One Scene / One Story/Month.

    Wisdom 0 (Madness/Rapture): There are no questions or answers. Mage attained Supernal “enlightenment”. He doesn’t control magic anymore; magic control him, as a meat puppet and conduit through which it can touch and affect Fallen World.

    Optionally, you can also take Derangement Conditions (Persistent Conditions which have the same effect as 1e Derangements) instead of penalties to social and self-control rolls - one Condition for one -1 removed. If you remove penalty to social rolls, you also lose a bonus with ephemeral, Supernal and Abyssal creatures. Those are resistant to curing or suppressing them with magic, and may be removed only by buying Wisdom up.

    Every mage will inevitably commit an Act of Hubris - such is the truth of living in the Fallen World. Just as humans rationalize their actions by necessity and ideology, so do mages maintain their Wisdom by declaring that their actions were committed for the greater good - or for upholding Supernal ideal of their order.

    Codes are systems for such rationalization, carefully build by generations of mages committing the same Acts of Hubris again and again. Codes are ideology, doctrine and Supernal ideals of Orders and Legacies building them. To be able to use Code, a Mage must truly believe in it. Because of that, all Orders do indoctrinate their members in their ways, teaching them Codes and explaining correct use of Magic by Order doctrine. The Guardians of the Veil are especially adept at this. Still, there are many mages who become disillusioned by their Order’s ideals. They can keep certain parts of Code and discard others, but doing so tends to result in losing the Order Status and trust of its members for not following collective ethos.

    To represent following the Сode, you get +3, +2 and +1 bonuses and choose which parts of the Code get which bonus. When you commit an Act of Hubris from using magic in a way outlined by Code, you get bonus to a Wisdom rolls. If using magic outlined by two or three parts of Code, you use only the highest bonus - they don’t stack.

    Adamantine Arrows
    1. Using magic in chosen purview of conflict (usually violence, but there is plenty of Arrows who choose to excel at social conflicts).
    2. Using magic to protect people.
    3. Using magic to honor Vows.
    Guardians of the Veil
    1. Using magic to veil and hide supernatural.
    2. Using magic to prevent unworthy from using or attaining magic.
    3. Sacrificing Wisdom so others don’t have to.
    1. Using magic to uncover hidden and lost knowledge.
    2. Using magic to prevent Pancryptia and save existing knowledge.
    3. Using magic to experiment and create new knowledge.
    Silver Ladder
    1. Using magic to inspire, enlighten and unify others.
    2. Using magic to lead and negotiate with others.
    3. Using magic to uphold Lex Magica and order in mage community.
    Free Council
    1. Using magic to protect freedom.
    2. Using magic to fight Lie.
    3. Using magic to find Supernal in Sleeper knowledge.
    Seers to the Throne
    1. Using magic to manipulate, control and subjugate Sleepers.
    2. Using magic to destroy Pentacle.
    3. Using magic to control magical knowledge and uphold the Lie.
    Banishers are too fractured to have unified Code. Instead, they get +3 bonus to all Acts of Hubris committed by using magic to destroy magic (and mages), and bring all such acts one step higher.

    Tremere already have their Attainments to counter the most grievous effects of being a Reaper-Lich. Following their religious doctrine, they get +3 bonus to all Acts of Hubris committed by using magic to study souls and experiment on them, and bring all such acts one step higher.

    Scelesti don’t have a Code and accept their inevitable Wisdom loss. They actively try to bring Wisdom down in a controlled way to pass their Trial at Dur-Abzu at Wisdom 1, lose the final dot and get the first dot of Joining.

    Legacy Codes
    Many Legacies are very, very old societies, older than Orders and Ministries in their current state. Legacies are also about radically changing oneself. Since Wisdom and soul are linked, warping the souls warps the Wisdom of Legacy member, and failing in developing Attainment may result in Madness from breaking your soul. Using a Legacy Attainment is never considered an Act of Hubris; the mage’s mystic self is completely attuned to their use.
    In addition to that, some Legacies had time and insight to develop their own Codes. Such Legacies have a rich history and deep, developed philosophy behind them; not all Legacies can boast such achievement. At ST discretion, Legacy member can buy Legacy Code Merit.

    Merit: Legacy Code (•-•••)
    Prerequisite: Membership in the sufficiently old and developed Legacy. Character have to be successfully initiated and have Status (Legacy) or Mentor (Legacy Member).

    Effect: Your character has studied extensively history and philosophy of your Legacy, and was taught principles around which Legacy builds magic. Character can have +1-3 bonus (for •-••• versions of Merit) to Wisdom rolls in situations outlined by Legacy Code. Legacy Code should be limited to one short sentence, outlining Legacy activities and usage of magic. If character is member of an Order, Order Code and Legacy Code must not contradict each other.
    For example, Libertine can’t buy Legacy Code which states “Destroy freedom and enslave Sleepers”. This doesn’t mean he can’t be part of the Legacy - just that he can’t warp his Wisdom to follow such Code.

    Personal Codes
    Orders have a long history of developing, defining and perfecting their Codes, but couldn’t a mage develop his own?

    In theory this is possible, but rare in practice. First of all, Codes have significant philosophical basis, developed and refined over the hundreds of years and intrinsically linked with Order or Legacy doctrines. Most mages wouldn’t go that deep to create their own unique philosophy, nor would they feel need to. Remember there is a difference between Code and belief in own self-righteousness - if second would be enough, no mage would ever lose Wisdom, but it’s easy to confuse them.

    Second, Codes are just as much training and indoctrination as they are theory. Order mages are being educated by Order in correct way of seeing themselves and their magic - it is significant part of their training which requires time and external effort. It is possible to run such work on yourself by rigorous discipline or mental self-modification or vision-quest journeys, but unlikely.

    Third, there is noticeable social and peer pressure into following existing Code instead of creating your own. Most mages are part of Orders, and being part of an Order means following the Order Code. Order Code makes mages predictable in the known way, but that’s part of an appeal - other mages who know about Order Code know how other mage will react, to a point. Mages who doesn’t follow Code, but develop their own philosophies, run risk of being ostracized and even being declared a heretic. Such reaction isn’t without a reason - to develop his own Code, person need to explore hubris and test his own limits - ironically with a significant risk of harming or destroying the very Wisdom he wanted to keep in the process. Small Nameless Orders have often had time to at least start developing their Codes, but most apostates are either still follow their former Order code, or just follow basic Wisdom.

    Either way, player characters don’t get personal Codes, unless they are willing to break ties with their Order (and, depending on the tenets of Code they develop, be declared a heretic or Left-Handed) and make creating their Personal Codes their Obsession. Then they have to spend considerable time developing their philosophy, exploring their hubris and learning to tame it with their new Code. This journey isn’t guaranteed to end successfully, either. This could be a start of an exciting adventure, but very outside of “normal” Mage society and norms.

    There is one exception around this rule for the Seers to the Throne. Seer who wants to become Prelate may attempt to warp his Code to include religious tenet to his chosen Exarch, essentially sacrificing his Wisdom for the chosen patron. Success or failure, this kind of religious devotion tends to attract Exarch attention, for better or worse.

    Breaking Wisdom

    Ultimately, there are entire Orders which break Wisdom regularly in their praxis. Banishers kill mages and burn libraries, Scelesti all about letting Abyss in and Seers are all about abusing magic for fun and profit in various, hilarious and awful ways. What about their Wisdom?

    First of all, such Orders aren't supposed to hold high Wisdom at all. Scelesti don't care about Wisdom anyway and see madness as blessings from their Abyssal overlords. Banishers are already psychologically damaged, and Seers are just the type of Mages to go mad with their power over the Fallen.

    Second, they use their Codes extensively exactly to avoid Wisdom loss. Any Banisher or Seer rationalize their hideous actions at some level, and they get better at that over time. Scelesti try to get rid of useless and meaningless moral codes, but they are still humans on some level until final initiation.

    Third, Wisdom often correlates with actual wisdom. That's why Seers have axiom "perceive before influence, influence before dominate". Very often Wise course of action is also wise course of action, and you always have your big guns otherwise. All mages innately feel that some things are better done by mundane means, and some things shouldn’t be done at all.

    Fourth, Attainments exist for a reason. Actual Reapers and Liches don't suffer that much from Wisdom loss due to building their entire magical being around stealing lives and souls. Many mages, including Seers, build their Legacies especially to internalize the innate harm their magic does to everyone around. But their callous and driven natures push them to even greater crimes, eroding their Wisdom nonetheless.

    It’s also worth noting that Pentacle Orders do acknowledge Wisdom existence (even Silver Ladder; though they would never admit that) and objective fact that straying away from it leads to madness and Madness. Adamantine Arrows learn ways of mundane warfare for very important reason - mundane warfare doesn’t cause Wisdom loss, and magically augmented mundane warfare either don’t, or causes substantially lesser Wisdom loss. They also build their Code around servitude and protection, learning to excuse their breaches of Wisdom. Guardians of the Veil also develop their Code and Masques to deal with inevitable Wisdom loss.

    Regaining Wisdom

    So, your character understood the danger and hubris of his own ways and want to regain his Wisdom. What can he do for this?

    First of all, he needs to understand what he have done, and why that was unwise. If character doesn’t have that mindset, all his attempts to buy Wisdom back should automatically fail, because that is just attempt to manipulate system for benefit of the player, nothing more.

    Second, character should stop doing unwise stuff - on the level he is currently now and up to the level he wants to return to. If he have unwise projects or dealings going on - he must turn his back on those, immediately. Wisdom is about personal responsibility for your magic, but stopping other unwise mages, or at least refusing to deal with them would help as well.

    Third, character needs to try and make amends for his mistakes. That includes repairing damage he has done, or at least attempt to do so - in many cases damage is unrepairable, and mage just have to try and make do. Intruders must be banished, forest fires must be stopped, widows and orphans should be taken care of and destroyed buildings should be rebuilt. The more character does to avert his mistakes - the more Wisdom he can buy back.

    Once all three conditions are met, once per chronicle player can start procedure of regaining Wisdom. He can’t immediately spend available Arcane Experience to buy it back. Instead, he must specify level of Wisdom he wants to return to, and can allocate Arcane Beats he receive to special “Wisdom pool”. Once pool have enough Arcane Experience to buy Wisdom back, he can do it. Any Act of Hubris committed while regaining Wisdom on and under level of Wisdom mage wants to return to, instantly removes all accumulated Arcane Beats and places them back into “normal” pool, forcing player to start accumulating Arcane Beats again.

    Since Wisdom is something most of Order mages care about, mage who wants to reform and regain their Wisdom is usually supported and welcomed as soon as he makes real progress to that. Once character accumulated at least one Arcane Experience to buy Wisdom back, he gain +1 to social rolls with all mages who respect his efforts. Bonus increases to +2 once he actually buys back at least one dot of Wisdom, and remains with character until the end of chronicle.

    Wisdom loss Conditions
    Wisdom loss causes certain emotional reaction in Mage - instinctive reaction of soul on harming it. Mage can ignore consequences of his actions, rationalize them, see them as proof of his righteousness, hate himself for them, or lose himself in magic. Wisdom loss automatically gives one of the following Conditions - player chooses one of them as emotional reaction of his character. All Wisdom loss Conditions can be resolved by another Act of Hubris or buying a dot of Wisdom. Those resolutions don’t give any Beats (but Act of Hubris gives Arcane Beat as usual). If Condition gets resolved through it’s outlined resolution, character receives a Beat. If character failed his Wisdom loss roll dramatically, received Condition becomes Persistent, and only buying a dot of Wisdom will resolve it, but character don’t have to take additional Conditions after failing Wisdom loss rolls anymore.

    Determined: You feel determined. You are willing to do anything to achieve your goals, and it doesn’t matter who is going to get hurt, traumatised or killed. Only your will to power - will to achieve your goals - matter. Morality is for subhumans.
    Resolution: you ignore suffering and destruction resulting from your actions to achieve your goal.

    Righteous: End justifies the means. Your actions are in the right, and you did nothing wrong. Consequence don’t matter, as long as your intentions are pure. You are doing this for their own good - even if they cry and beg you to stop.
    Resolution: you rationalize suffering and destruction resulting from your actions, justifying them as "necessary evil."

    Rampant: suffering of others is a sign of your power. Magic is might, and makes right. You do not need to justify your actions - your actions justify themselves, and after all, justifications - for weaklings. You're above it. You are above it all.
    Resolution: you cause suffering and destruction to show your power.

    Self-hatred: you will redeem suffering of others with your own. You know that you did wrong, but you can’t accept the fact that you did wrong. You can’t forgive yourself. You deserve to suffer for your deed, and you will suffer. If nobody punishes you, you will punish yourself.
    Resolution: you destroy your life and torture yourself because of self-hatred.

    Temporary Madness: no suffering, no guilt, and no one who would feel it. There is pure magic and Supernal Truths flowing through you. You are a wire under high voltage. You kill someone who touches you, but there's no purpose in it - it's just your nature.
    Resolution: you cause suffering and destruction, because you can cast and it feels good.

    In Control: The world is yours to puppet. Why? Because you said it is, and because destiny is on your side. There is nothing beyond your control, no event you cannot shape to satisfy even the pettiest of your whims, and you see no reason why you should bother not spinning threads enough to bind the world onto the clearly obvious Way Things Are Meant To Be.
    Resolution: you cause suffering and destruction as result of your desire to be in control.

    Last edited by Dark Archon; 06-12-2021, 11:45 AM.


    • #3
      There's a particular matter that stands out to me.

      I feel as though a matter of making allowances for mages killing for the sake of defence is that mages have innumerable defensive options other than killing. I kind of read Signs of Sorcery noting that unknowing dupes in service to the Exarchs such as Sleepers inducted into Seer networks get more leniency as meaning that many a Lex Magica maintains that mages have a duty to retreat in the face of any kind of Sleeper aggression, because pretty much any Arcanum can grant highly effective forms of such with even just Ruling or Veiling spells (in this case, the "retreat" in question is not necessarily about enhancing one's own escape, it can also be about disabling the attacker's capacity to harm or pursue you non-harmfully).

      Killing in defence becomes a question of whether a target's continued existence on the whole is dangerous, rather then a necessity in the moment.

      I have approximate knowledge of many things.
      Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
        There's a particular matter that stands out to me.

        I feel as though a matter of making allowances for mages killing for the sake of defence is that mages have innumerable defensive options other than killing. I kind of read Signs of Sorcery noting that unknowing dupes in service to the Exarchs such as Sleepers inducted into Seer networks get more leniency as meaning that many a Lex Magica maintains that mages have a duty to retreat in the face of any kind of Sleeper aggression, because pretty much any Arcanum can grant highly effective forms of such with even just Ruling or Veiling spells (in this case, the "retreat" in question is not necessarily about enhancing one's own escape, it can also be about disabling the attacker's capacity to harm or pursue you non-harmfully).

        Killing in defence becomes a question of whether a target's continued existence on the whole is dangerous, rather then a necessity in the moment.
        First of all, you talk about Lex Magica, which may or may not correlate with Wisdom. Second, well, you don't defend yourself just against Sleepers. Wisdom doesn't discriminate here - sentience is what matters. If you kill sentient being with magic - that's not Wise, though severity of actual Act of Hubris may vary.


        • #5
          One thing I'd suggest is perhaps having the average Wisdom level for mages be higher. Like, in 1e where Wisdom was more a morality thing, it had the effect of implying that a lot of mages were kinda bad people. However because this is more about simple control of magic, I've found it more interesting to have NPCs be higher Wisdom, forcing them to jump through hoops to avoid Acts of Hubris.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Michael View Post
            One thing I'd suggest is perhaps having the average Wisdom level for mages be higher. Like, in 1e where Wisdom was more a morality thing, it had the effect of implying that a lot of mages were kinda bad people. However because this is more about simple control of magic, I've found it more interesting to have NPCs be higher Wisdom, forcing them to jump through hoops to avoid Acts of Hubris.
            That's more of a suggestion anyway. I imagine most Mages having around 5-6 Wisdom by this metric, since it's pretty easy to get here by being a stereotypical Mage. However, different ST could have a different opinion on this.


            • #7
              Relinquishing a spell unsafely with Advanced Duration (Enlightened if day-long, Understanding if week-long, Weathered if month-long, Falling if spell is year+ long or permanent).
              I would just note that unsafely relinquished spells do not invoke the Abyss - they use the same rules for spells changing their factors/reach, but can not cause paradox conditions. They just happen to use the same rules as paradox because it was already written.

              Not that this means it can't still be unwise. Just not Abyssal in nature.