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The Duel Arcane (2E), but using the Chases system

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  • #16
    Hey wait just a minute. We already have an official case of the Chases system being used for magical stuff

    Lemme check up on Changeling 2E just a bit…


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    • #17
      One thing that I don't think is clear on the rules is: what exactly are the characters comparing? What is the purpose of the duel? Is it to show off enlightenment? Destructive capacity? Arcana Level? Competitions have more or less clear focus on which skills or set of skills the competitors are showing off, they demonstrate who's the best at something. It can even be a game, like many sports nowadays, but even those generally evolved from showing off abilities at other tasks. The goal may be to show off, humiliate, or just straight up harm an opponent in a "cavalier" manner.

      What is the purpose of the Duel Arcane outside beating your opponent? Because defining this may make for a clearer path at a more interesting depiction of the Duel. For now it seems to be a much generic dispute of "unspecified magical something".


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      • #18
        Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
        One thing that I don't think is clear on the rules is: what exactly are the characters comparing? What is the purpose of the duel? Is it to show off enlightenment? Destructive capacity? Arcana Level? Competitions have more or less clear focus on which skills or set of skills the competitors are showing off, they demonstrate who's the best at something. It can even be a game, like many sports nowadays, but even those generally evolved from showing off abilities at other tasks. The goal may be to show off, humiliate, or just straight up harm an opponent in a "cavalier" manner.

        What is the purpose of the Duel Arcane outside beating your opponent? Because defining this may make for a clearer path at a more interesting depiction of the Duel. For now it seems to be a much generic dispute of "unspecified magical something".
        I suppose you’re asking about the Duel itself, rather than just my permutation on it? I always thought it was placed to prevent and temper down lethal, private, and extended conflict.


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        • #19
          Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
          I suppose you’re asking about the Duel itself, rather than just my permutation on it? I always thought it was placed to prevent and temper down lethal, private, and extended conflict.
          The question is about both, the duel itself and your permutation. It is not why they chose to settle things through the duel, but what they're comparing through the duel.

          After all, they could just as easily have settled for a competition of Supernal Poetry, or the use of Magical Symbols to perform a rap battle.

          What abilities is this competition supposed to measure, from an in-character PoV?

          But again, this is not just about your system, do not feel obliged to answer or consider my ramblings.


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          • #20
            Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
            The question is about both, the duel itself and your permutation. It is not why they chose to settle things through the duel, but what they're comparing through the duel.

            After all, they could just as easily have settled for a competition of Supernal Poetry, or the use of Magical Symbols to perform a rap battle.

            What abilities is this competition supposed to measure, from an in-character PoV?
            Mastery of the Arcana and strength of Will, which could well manifest in either of those two other methods.

            The phrase "Duel Arcane" occurs nineteen times in the 2e corebook; nine of those are in the Index, Table of Contents, and Introduction. Of the remaining ten, five appear in the section on the Duel itself (one of which is section footer and another of which is the section title), two are in the descriptions of the Conditions winning and losing impose on the participants, and the last three are in the description of the spell that facilitates the Duel and in the section on Awakened society. To review:

            Described Gold Laws explicitly include among their number the right to be recognized for greater skill in the Arcana. The Precept of War, one of the commonplace Silver and/or Bronze Laws, sets rules of engagement for magical warfare and encourages the use of the Duel for disputes that cannot be resolved peacefully; its capacity to minimize mayhem and bloodshed is specifically cited as the reason for this. The section on Caucuses describes the Lex Magica and the Duel Arcane as Silver Ladder innovations, a shared Awakened society being one of the ongoing projects of the théarchs.

            Display of Power notes its role in mage society as the basis for the Duel Arcane, which it describes as two rival mages displaying what they could do to each other; the spell allows mages within its area to form Imagos visible to Active Mage Sight, and its other provided use-case is to show those Imagos to students without actually casting the spells in question.

            The section on the Duel Arcane immediately opens with an exhortation not to confuse the Duel with a couple of mages throwing magic at each other to the death, and specifically says that the goal of the Duel is to make one mage more right than the other and reduce the loser to nothing (or nearly there) by doing so. Attacking in the Duel is described as flexing your creative use of raw magic and showing the extent of your strength. The loser of the Duel loses most if not all of their Willpower and gains a particular sort of Condition, while the winner fully restores their Willpower and gains a different particular sort of Condition. Promises made to open Doors without landing an attack are upheld the same as sworn vows, and the stakes are likewise followed through on, this being a contest of wills calling on the power of Truth to resolve a conflict.

            The Defeated Condition makes a mage unable to use magic or spend Willpower to harm the one who defeated them and grants the victor the strongest level of commonly-encountered sympathy to them; they take a Beat whenever their loss leads to humiliation or abuse, and the Condition only goes away when the victor uses the heightened sympathy to injure or abuse them, barring the loser greatly humbling themselves in public at great personal cost.

            The Triumphant Condition lets a mage roll exceptional successes at a reduced threshold on Social rolls with anyone in Awakened society who knows they won the Duel, gives them a Beat every time they throw that victory in someone's face (no matter how inadvisable it is), and the Condition goes away once you fail one of those Social rolls.

            Taking action in the Duel removes Gnosis from the casting equation, prevents overReaching or using Yantras, and goes turn-by-turn, but otherwise necessitates the participants account for spell factors in the broad-strokes effects they're showing off with the Arcana; failing an attack roll means you have to use a different Arcanum; defending is an action taken in place of attacking, which turns the attack into a contested roll (i.e. it fails if you don't roll more successes than the defender). The dueling space is as big as the area covered by Display of Power, and Range and Scale matter to offensive and defensive maneuvers even if the body is technically secondary in a contest of wills.

            The takeaway is that the Duel Arcane serves the same purpose as a classical duel (i.e. it is a method of resolving irreconcilable differences that is palatable to polite society), it feeds the Awakened's egos (those Conditions are roughly as behavior-guiding and long-term as the ones you get for failing to retain Wisdom), and it works by having two mages pit the theoretical limits of their safe casting ability against each other in a space where that can be observed without blowing up the neighborhood or actually turning somebody into a toad.

            But again, this is not just about your system, do not feel obliged to answer or consider my ramblings.
            On the topic of this take on the system, a couple of my own concerns:

            1. I must confess I'm confused about why one would use the Chase system as a basis for a largely stationary pursuit; the "Other Kinds of Chases" section in the current iteration of the core rules suggests it as an alternative to Social Maneuvering, sure, but that whole section is talking about using the Chase mechanics for contests that fall outside the context of an action scene, which the Duel… isn't.

            2. There's a reason the other system built on the Chase rules, Hedge Navigation, has a starting goal of more than five successes, not least because it's there to encourage characters to raise their Wyrd and/or take on Goblin Debt. The published version of the Duel Arcane takes cues from Social Maneuvering and gives characters starting Doors equal to their Willpower, which, since you can't open more than one Door in a single roll, facilitates the back-and-forth of a wizards' duel that the Duel Arcane is made to emulate; the closest you get to opening multiple Doors at once is keeping up the momentum with a powerful attack.

            3. The published system's modifiers for Doors follow a trend where being more on-guard against your rival means you put up more of a fight, and losing costs you more Willpower; by the opposite token, familiarity means you lose less Willpower but make it easier for them to win against you. That's presently crammed into the "mentor or social superior" modifier in this take on the Duel, and while the published system is rather light on example subtractive modifiers, it at least draws consistently from a set of things that would make a character more or less likely to give their all in a magical contest of wills.
            Last edited by Satchel; 12-22-2021, 08:44 PM. Reason: Punctuation.


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            • #21
              Mmm. Yeah.

              I’m out of ideas, and scratching this one out from my queue. Anybody still interested, feel free to post here with your own take on the subject — we might as well have one recent-most thread open for it, right?

              Or, hey, does anybody have ideas for using the Chases system elsewhere in Mage? I’m drawing a blank there.

              As for me… hmm, maybe I’ll write up Shadow Chess together with the Keepers of the Covenant Legacy update/expansion, and/or Supernal Summoning via Social Maneuvering, and/or (simplified) Focused Mage Sight via Investigation. After work and duties IRL, of course. Decisions, decisions…


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              • #22
                The Duel Arcane in the core book is 100% a vessel for the Negotiate action, which is why the Attack and Defend actions are so simplistic you could figure out the optimal strategy before you even start. Using it to actually duel (i.e. compare magical mastery and might in a way that's fun and involving for the players) is beyond the scope of the system, but now that we know that we can see what's needed for it to work as a duelling system.
                For an antagonistic back-and-forth system to feel good, there needs to be enough complexity and potential for variety that it's not as predictable and gives the player meaningful choices to make. As such, I propose increasing the number of possible actions, as well as introducing effects that meaningfully changes the battlefield, so to speak.
                For the former, consider non-attack actions to buff/debuff, as well as varied attack options. Maybe one could extrapolate actions from the various Practices, such as Knowing/Unveiling giving you an advantage to your next action, Shielding naturally being the Defense action (meaning you can't defend yourself with Arcana at only one dot; mastering few Arcana should be more powerful than dabbling in many, imo), Perfecting being use to buff yourself, etc.
                For the latter, come up with a few personal and environmental Tilts that can be imposed by the actions mentioned. If you want different Arcana to matter, making certain Tilts exclusive to specific Arcana would be a natural way to go about it.
                And lastly, if the goal is to showcase your Imagos, then using Praxes or Rotes (as specific combinations of an Arcanum and a Practice, if using my suggestions above) should still grant advantages since your knowledge of them makes them much easier to form Imagos for. (I think the core book is pretty silent on that issue, so it would not be surprising if people have varied opinions about whether that's already possible or not. On one hand, it says you still form spells, but on the other it only uses a fraction of the actual spellcasting rules.)

                If it's purely for the creative/mental exercise, you could write Supernal Summoning as a Chase against the Abyss. It even has traces of it already. But practically speaking, it would probably be an unnecessarily complicated replacement for a system which already works well enough, imo.


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                • #23
                  Personally, I don't want the Duel Arcane to really be about comparing strengths as such. I still see the primary value of it as being the generally accepted dispute resolution mechanism in their society, I just think that should require it entailing a bit more tension and uncertainty and some slightly more involved decision making.

                  I also think that an issue with the Negotiate option is that, given the generally low threshold for opening a Door with an attack, the only reason to ever attempt it is if somebody has made a defence roll with a result you know is too high for you to overcome, which I think raises questions about what you could offer that would incentivise them to risk themselves. It seems like an option to take when you're already in the losing position, in which it looks unlikely to me to offer the possibility of turning the tables and seems to be a weird time to give up even more concessions. "You're probably going to have the dominant social position and a bit of magical protection from me for a while, would you like my car while you're at it?"


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                  • #24
                    Huh, maybe some days later I’ll make each ‘round’ a separate Chase. Hey, they already proposed the linking & chained Investigation thing as an option for Mage Sight…


                    MtAw Homebrew:
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                    New 2E Legacies, expanded

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