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  • Homebrewed Watchtowers/Paths for Setting

    So, part of my current crossover game involves 4 NPCs, one of which is the current main antagonist, and all of them were mages. For a while, I had them as Acanthi, but it was vaguely unsatisfying. Now I have absolutely nothing against the current Paths (I like them quite a bit), but since I've always been a huge fan of homebrewing and creating my own settings, fluff and mechanics, I decided to make my own Paths and Watchtowers by rearranging the arcana and finding the common philosophy between them.

    What I'm looking for is mainly either A) errors I've committed (since I've read the Mage book but I've never played nor ran a Mage game before) and B) any unforeseen consequences of my arcana distribution. Of course, all comments are welcome.

    Drasus, Soothsayers on the Path of Change. Scions of the Watchtower of the Evershifting Peak in the Realm of Endless Journeys, the Kingdom of Will and Abode of Moirai.

    Ruling Arcana: Fate (gross) and Prime (subtle).
    Inferior Arcanum: Death.

    The land of the Evershifting Peak is always changing. Everything is laid bare for the mage to see. Truth is as real as any matter, and the chain of causality is inherently obvious, yet it keeps shifting before the mage's eyes. Sometimes the coin falls heads, sometimes it falls tails, and each consequence changes the rest of the chain, spawning different realities that merge in front of her eyes. All biomes can be found in the land of change, even some that don't exist in the Fallen World. They are always shifting one into another, even if the mage stays still, the land will change around her. The Watchtower of Will is brimming with magic. A Drasus feels powerful by the potential she holds. Everything is in her hands. She can change whatever she wishes.

    The Gross Arcanum of the Path explains the constant mutations in the land of change. Fate is the arcanum that changes causality and probability, that allows the mage to meddle with what is meant to be.
    The Subtle Arcanum of the Path explains the philosophical bent of the Drasus mage. Prime is the arcanum of Truth and magic itself. She has the power to change the world, to meddle with the magic of others and to unveil the truth of the world to Sleepers.
    The Inferior Arcanum of the Path explains that which the Drasus mage cannot accept. Death is the arcanum of endings and the afterlife. It is every Drasus mage's struggle to accept that there are things in the universe she cannot change. No mage fears or loathes death more than a Drasus.

    The Path of Change confronts the Lie of Immutability and Predetermination.

    Stereotypes:

    Katalos: "No matter how hard I try, some things just don't change."
    Therys: "You understand, but you operate on a whole different level of reality."
    Gares: "Sometimes I wonder if you have direction and purpose or if you just improve and rebuild for its own sake."
    Ravas: "Change without purpose. Even survival of the fittest is just a pyrrhic victory if it doesn't mean something."
    Mortals: "You're not shackled. There is hope."

    Katalos, Warlocks on the Path of Endings. Scions of the Watchtower of the Last Monolith, in the Realm of the Gray Necropolis, Kingdom of Serenity and Abode of Spectres.

    Ruling Arcana: Death (gross) and Time (subtle).
    Inferior Arcanum: Fate.

    The land of the Last Monolith is always decaying. It is a bleak place, yet filled with a strange peace. Buildings seem to be crumbling forever, and the shades of the dead can be seen finishing the tasks that bound them to the realm of the living. A feeling of inevitability fills the air. It feels like time and death will eventually claim all things, and that's okay. It's the way the universe works. All things will end, sooner or later, so be reassured in this fact and make the most out of your time. The Watchtower of Serenity feels like the last thing that will ever exist. Once everything else is gone, it will finally let go of itself and crumble into nothingness, its purpose fulfilled. Mages of Katalos find that they can tell time instinctively, and know exactly how much of it they've got left until their visit to the Supernal Realms ends.

    The Gross Arcanum of the Path explains the visible decay in the land of endings. Death is the arcanum that deals with ends, ghosts and the afterlife. However, in the land of the Last Monolith, Death takes on a serene, peaceful quality. A Katalos mage know that all things must pass.
    The Subtle Arcanum of the Path informs the philosophy of the Katalos mage. Eventually, everyone runs out of time. Everything ends. Everything fades away. Katalos mages are aware of this, and spend their time with purpose. All suffering ends, all tyrants die. Nothing can oppress the human spirit so long as it remembers that even the worst of evils must meet its ending.
    The Inferior Arcanum of the Path explains that which Katalos mages cannot accept. Fate is the arcanum of change and will, the subversion of causality and probability for the mage's own ends. To a Katalos mage, this is inconceivable. The idea that death can be defied, that something can be kept going beyond its time, is something they struggle with.

    The Path of Endings confronts the Lie of Suffering and Oppression.

    Stereotypes:

    Drasus: "You are fighting the fundamental forces of the universe. You ain't gonna win."
    Therys: "Don't believe the stories. You can't bargain with death."
    Gares: "You're trying to race against something that has all the time in the world to just wait you out."
    Ravas: "You get it. Live life to the fullest."
    Mortals: "Does it hurt you? Then end it."

    Therys, Shamans on the Path of Dreams. Scions of the Watchtower of the Shrouded Fortress, in the Realm of Eternal Mist, Kingdom of Bargains and Abode of Chimaeras.

    Ruling Arcana: Mind (gross) and Spirit (subtle).
    Inferior Arcanum: Matter.

    The land of the Shrouded Fortress is as fanciful as any dreamscape, but while it may change every so often, it does so following an internal logic. The land of dreams is mystical, almost intangible and deeply attuned to emotions and thoughts. A Therys mage finds that she can will her thoughts into physical form, if only temporarily. She also finds that she is a natural at making bargains with the spirits and daemons of the Shrouded Fortress. Eventually, the Therys mage understands the power that lies in the ephemeral things.

    The Gross Arcanum of the Path explains the way the land of dreams reacts to thoughts and emotions. Mind is the arcanum that teaches that there is power in the ephemeral, in the connection and communication between intelligent beings.
    The Subtle Arcanum of the Path informs the philosophy of the Therys mage. Spirit teaches mages to bargain with others, to understand the inner soul of inanimate objects, animals and even abstract concepts. It teaches the Therys mage that everything can be bargained with, and that everything has value.
    The Inferior Arcanum of the Path explains that which Therys mages cannot accept. Matter is the arcanum of the physical and concrete, of that which has substance and does not respond to emotions or thoughts. Therys mages have a hard time accounting for the limitations of the physical world, often forgetting that material things are far less accommodating than the Shadow or the Dreamlands.

    The Path of Dreams confronts the Lie of Physicalism and Materialism.

    Stereotypes:

    Drasus: "You have the right idea, but you're way too focused on the physical world."
    Katalos: "Yes, but have you tried talking to it?"
    Gares: "I know building stuff is cool and all, but did you know there are like, whole realms of other cool stuff out there?"
    Ravas: "See, the difference between you and the spirits is that while you're both wild, the spirits I can at least reason with."
    Mortals: "The Lie could not take your power. It just made sure you had no idea how to use it."

    Gares, Enchanters on the Path of Civilisation. Scions of the Watchtower of the First Citadel, in the Realm of the High City, the Kingdom of Yearning and Abode of Golems.

    Ruling Arcana: Matter (gross) and Space (subtle).
    Inferior Arcanum: Forces.

    The land of the First Citadel is an endless city, with architecture from all civilisations that have ever existed, from the times before history to the far future. There, the Gares mage sees the different materials used, sees the purpose of every atom, the meaning in every brick. She sees how every construction is a way for the human soul to reach for the Supernal, how every tower emulates the First Citadel, how every house echoes the body in which a mage protects and tends to her soul. She learns that humanity has created and built as a way to fight the Abyss, to see past the Lie. She learns that there is power in building something that will endure.

    The Gross Arcanum of the Path explains the way the land of civilisation reveals its Supernal truths to the mage. Matter is the arcanum of the physical, of the material things that have a myriad properties and uses. The Gares mage learns that the world is a palette for her to paint her magic.
    The Subtle Arcanum of the Path informs the philosophy of the Gares mage. Space is the arcanum of distance and location. The Gares mage sees the world in terms of placement. How does everything fit together? How far is she from reaching her goals? For the Gares mage, everything can be measured.
    The Inferior Arcanum of the Path explains that which Gares mages cannot accept. Forces is the arcanum of energy, of dangerous storms and unchecked wildness. It is anathema to the fragility of human endeavour. Humanity seeks to contain the terrible fury of nature, knowing that it can destroy even the mightiest construction with a sufficiently strong disaster. The Gares mage struggles to understand the role that nature's untamed forces occupy in the grand scheme of things.

    The Path of Civilisation confronts the Lie of Powerlessness and Impermanence.

    Stereotypes:

    Drasus: "Why does it need to have a purpose? What's wrong with improving something just to make it better?"
    Katalos: "It doesn't matter if it collapses later. I built it. It outlived me. That's all that matters."
    Therys: "The problem with all your realms is that they operate on dream logic. Thanks, but I think I'll stay where the coffee machine doesn't sass me."
    Ravas: "Get that ****ing fire and lightning bullshit out of my house or else."
    Mortals: "I can feel the yearning in you. You build for something, something you can't reach."

    Ravas, Witches on the Path of Nature. Scions of the Watchtower of the Stormswept Thorn in the Realm of the Wildlands, Kingdom of Abandon and Abode of Djinns.

    Ruling Arcana: Forces (gross) and Life (subtle).
    Inferior Arcanum: Mind.

    The land of the Stormswept Thorn is forest that gives way to jungle that gives way to desert, which ends on an ocean, then freezes over, gives way to tundra and then starts all over again. There is nothing but pure wildness in the land of the Watchtower of Abandon. Only the primal, unspoiled world as it used to be, as it should be. The Ravas mage understands the power of nature in its most intimate form. She feels empowered in a way that leaves her ecstatic with abandon. She is finally free, for the first time in her life. Power courses through her, her shape is hers to do with it as she wills. Nobody judges her, nobody dares to try and control her. Naked, crackling with lightning and turning her hands into claws, she is truly one with nature.

    The Gross Arcanum of the Path explains the way the land of nature shapes the magic of the Ravas mage. Forces is the arcanum of energy, the wildfire and the storms, the movements of the earth. The Ravas mage instinctively knows how to become a living channel for nature's fury.
    The Subtle Arcanum of the Path informs the philosophy of the Ravas mage. Life is the arcanum of all living things, from the lowliest microbe to the largest whale. The Ravas mage believes in the here and the now, in trusting her instincts, in following her passions, in giving in to life, no matter what form it takes.
    The Inferior Arcanum of the Path explains that which the Ravas mage cannot accept. Mind is the arcanum of thoughts, of communication and emotions. The Ravas mage struggles to control herself, to think before she acts, to second-guess herself.

    The Path of Nature confronts the Lie of Repression and Control.

    Stereotypes:

    Drasus: "Why do you have to change it? Why can't you enjoy it?"
    Katalos: "Well, nobody said you didn't know how to have a good time."
    Therys: "It's primal, but it doesn't feel alive. It's like an echo of the real thing."
    Gares: "You're scared of me. Good, I like it that way. Keep the **** away."
    Mortals: "The Lie is killing you, little by little. Cuts you off from the truths of the world, tells you to fear them. I can show you the truth. You just gotta leave everything you know behind."
    Last edited by ShadowKnight1224; 12-30-2015, 11:51 AM.


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  • #2
    As standard Fate is Subtle, Time is Gross. Unless you're changing these.

    I'm not 100% sure whether you've got Mind and Space around the right way either, but I can never remember with those two and I don't have the book nearby.

    Edit: Oh, Life is also usually Gross.
    2nd Edit: And Death is usually Subtle.
    Last edited by Michael Kenner; 12-22-2015, 03:47 AM.

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    • #3
      That's actually something I wanted an opinion on, because my understanding of gross/subtle is that any Arcanum can be gross or subtle depending on the configuration, and that the gross arcanum reflected the "visual" or "in your face" magic of the Path, while the subtle arcanum informed the underlining philosophy of the Path.

      Or at least that was my take on things when creating the Watchtowers.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by ShadowKnight1224 View Post
        That's actually something I wanted an opinion on, because my understanding of gross/subtle is that any Arcanum can be gross or subtle depending on the configuration, and that the gross arcanum reflected the "visual" or "in your face" magic of the Path, while the subtle arcanum informed the underlining philosophy of the Path.

        Or at least that was my take on things when creating the Watchtowers.
        Not really, at least not in my opinion.

        Imagine someone with Prime and Spirit as their two Arcana. Those are great Arcana but they're both distinctly otherworldly. Short of the occasional bonus to a dice-roll or creating objects out of tass they can't directly affect the real world.

        Now imagine someone with Matter and Forces as their two Arcana. Again, they're great Arcana but they're distinctly physical in nature. They really can't interact with anything beyond the physical world directly.

        Pairing up a Gross and Subtle gives each Mage a chance to have a foot in both worlds and keeps their abilities quite diverse.

        I absolutely adore those paths you've made thematically, but I do worry that their range of abilities may have problems that would be avoided by keeping to the original Gross/Subtle divide. It's not guaranteed, just making sure you have a gross and subtle pairing is a convenient short hand rather than carefully comparing every rote and considering possible creative thaumaturgy. I'll take a more detailed look at them though and see if this might cause problems with the ones that you've chosen.

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        • #5
          Oh.

          Well that's very inconvenient for me. I've grown rather attached to things how they are now.

          However, isn't it possible for a mage to begin play by having their starting dots in their Path's subtle arcanum and then pick up other subtle arcana as they gain XP? And likewise for gross? I think it might be okay to leave it up to the player to pick up other arcana if they feel their Path pushes them too much towards one way or another.


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          • #6
            Of course you can pick up other Arcana later. The distinction between Gross and Subtle is really more of a setting element than something with a strict and obvious game effect. The Gross Arcana interact with physical reality while the Subtle are about the more ephemeral (often literally) parts of the world. The Subtle Arcana are also the 5 parts of the soul (at least as mages understand the term). There is also the idea that the pairings are just two sides of the same coin, Forces just being the Fallen/material reflection of Prime, for instance.

            That being said, since there are no specific game effects (aside from some advanced stuff like Supernal Summoning) linked to them, I would just stick with your Paths and toss out the entire idea of Gross and Subtle Arcana. Your custom mages do not need that distinction, do they?


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            • #7
              Thanks for the explanation, I think I can repurpose the gross/subtle concept as a way of representing both how the magic looks/feels (especially in the Supernal Realm) and what the path is about, philosophically (since you're right, I don't need that distinction).


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              • #8
                Or given the way supernal realms work, in a given one a pair might work as gross or subtle depending on it's relative need in said realm. Drasus display of Fate could be considerably more gross than it's display of Prime.

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                • #9
                  These are really rather well done. It may not be correct, but the way you're using the subtle/gross thing is actually quite clever.

                  One thing I would say is that a few of them seem very close to variants on the existing Supernal realms. Only Gares seems entirely new.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ephsy View Post
                    Or given the way supernal realms work, in a given one a pair might work as gross or subtle depending on it's relative need in said realm. Drasus display of Fate could be considerably more gross than it's display of Prime.
                    That's the idea, yeah. Fate for the Drasus is the gross changes in probability and causality, to the point where, were 2e not getting rid of the distinction, it would qualify as vulgar.

                    Originally posted by Michael View Post
                    These are really rather well done. It may not be correct, but the way you're using the subtle/gross thing is actually quite clever.

                    One thing I would say is that a few of them seem very close to variants on the existing Supernal realms. Only Gares seems entirely new.
                    Thank you! I'm relieved to hear that.

                    I agree. Ravas, especially, does come off as the lovechild of the most irresponsible Obrimoi and Thyrsi. That said, I think it's still an interesting thought experiment. What would happen if you were to unshackle an Obrimos from their adherence to Law and command, and just focus on their raw power? What would happen if you stripped a Thyrsus's spirituality and replaced it with raw natural power? It's a completely different beast, even if it does remind you of an existing Path.


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                    • #11
                      I agree. Ravas, especially, does come off as the lovechild of the most irresponsible Obrimoi and Thyrsi. That said, I think it's still an interesting thought experiment. What would happen if you were to unshackle an Obrimos from their adherence to Law and command, and just focus on their raw power? What would happen if you stripped a Thyrsus's spirituality and replaced it with raw natural power? It's a completely different beast, even if it does remind you of an existing Path.
                      I don't know that it's a problem exactly. The Mage Chroniclers Guide had a hack for the setting where your realm defined which subtle arcana you got, while you chose the Gross arcana; so each realm had five sub-realms (or something like that). That's what Katalos and Ravas makes me think of.

                      By the way, where are the names from?


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Michael View Post

                        I don't know that it's a problem exactly. The Mage Chroniclers Guide had a hack for the setting where your realm defined which subtle arcana you got, while you chose the Gross arcana; so each realm had five sub-realms (or something like that). That's what Katalos and Ravas makes me think of.

                        By the way, where are the names from?

                        Oh that's interesting. I should give that book a read, then.

                        Drasus: Greek Drasis, meaning action (it's where we get the word "drastic").
                        Katalos: Greek
                        κατάληξις
                        (Katalhcis?), meaning endings.
                        Therys: From Therion, the name Greeks gave to the Wolf constellation. Veeeeery roundabout way of connecting spirits with the werewolf mythos.
                        Gares: From Old English "gar", meaning "spear" or "pointed weapon". Roundabout way of associating the Path with a manmade object that was also vaguely tower-shaped. Also reminiscent of the French word "garer", meaning "to give shelter" (interestingly, it derives from the old Frankish "waron", meaning "to keep watch").
                        Ravas: From the French/English ravage, which comes from the Latin rapere ("to seize"). A bit on the nose, but then again, that's the Ravas for you. Also interesting to note, other Rav- derivates involve ravine and the French ravir, which means "to turn suddenly." All of which fit the Ravas quite well.

                        Then, each of the paths has a different vowel+S termination to denote uniqueness. Also now that I look at my etymology, I feel I've been unfortunately Eurocentric in my choices. Hrm. Oh well, I'll just headcanon that those are the names of the Paths in Europe and America, and that Asia and Africa have their own names for them.
                        Last edited by ShadowKnight1224; 12-22-2015, 07:50 PM.


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                        • #13
                          Papa Bear wrote a homebrew where there are 25 Paths.


                          Let Him Speak.

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                          • #14
                            Oh thank you! Interestingly, there's only one overlap, the Death/Time realm, which also went for the theme of inevitability. That said, I feel like I went in a sufficiently different direction. Either way, that link is amazing and I very much like to see homebrew like that.


                            My homebrew hub.

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                            • #15
                              On a similar note, a user name Patkin on rpg.net produced this thread which includes a trio of Watchtowers refered to as the Erisian Triad, ironically including another Time/Death Watchtower.

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