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Limited Spheres

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  • Limited Spheres

    A recent thread was talking about how mages sometimes have trouble in crossover games because other supernatural types tend to get a lot of power up front while mages don't really start coming into their own until later on — at which point the frames turn and mages start dominating through sheer diversity. Put more simply, most gamelines feature powers that are fairly tightly focused, and thus highly effective from the get-go; whereas mages tend to go broad, at the cost of taking longer to get really good at things.

    So I'm wondering about the idea of more narrowly defined versions of the Spheres. This got me thinking about Wonder Spheres, from the Revised Sons of Ether Tradition Book: pay half cost for a Sphere that's restricted such that it can only be used to put Effects into Wonders.

    This lets you buy Spheres “on the cheap” at the price of not being able to do as much with them as with a standard Sphere. But if what you want to do with them falls within the bounds of the restrictions imposed, that's not a bad deal.

    So how could this concept be generalized? What other kinds of restrictions could be imposed to allow a mage to develop her Spheres more quickly? One possibility is the Specialties that every Sphere has: normally, you have to wait until the fourth for before you can choose a Specialty, which them lets you count 10s as double successes when the Specialty is in play. But another way to do it would be to define a kind of Limited Sphere that's restricted to just one Specialty. In addition to the potentially large restriction of not being able to do anything outside of that Specialty, you also don't get the usual benefits of a Specialty unless and until you've removed this restriction from the Sphere.

    This could be used for such things as a Fire Mage (Specialized Forces limited to the element of fire) or a Seer (Specialized Correspondence limited to Scrying). And so on.

    So this gives us two kinds of Limited Spheres: Wonder Spheres and Specialized Spheres. What other possibilities might there be?

    One final note: my inclinations would be to say that taking Prime as a Wonder Sphere implicitly still lets you use Prime to make Wonders, as per the Artifice Specialty of Prime. That is, the Wonder Sphere restriction isn't “you can only use the Sphere to determine what kind of Effects you can invest into a Wonder”; it's “you can only use the Sphere in relation to the rules for Wonders”. So Prime would still be usable to make, break, or repair Wonders; Spirit wouldn't just let you create ghostbusting gear, but would also let you make Fetishes; Correspondence would let you make Virtual Wonders as well as letting you create teleporters and scrying mirrors; and so on. And of course, every Wonder Sphere would let you make Trinkets of the appropriate type.

    Note that while I cited crossover as the inspiration for this thread, I'm not actually thinking in terms of crossover here. Rather, I'm thinking more along the lines of letting mages fine-tune what their Magick is capable of, instead of being forced to be generalists. It's fine to say that the Avatar might take exception to this and demand that the character generalize the Sphere before her next Seeking, or something to that effect, casting an in-game implication that broad is better than narrow; but that sort of thing should be a choice made by the Storyteller and the player, not an edict handed down from on high by the rules.

  • #2
    I am not sure if spheres are the issue so much as Arete. level 1-3 powers are pretty nice. I am not sure having twice as many for half the price would change that much.


    • #3
      Like I said, that's what inspired the thread; but it's not really what I'm interested in. On the former point, I like borrowing the idea from Awakening where you can study a Rote in order to get a larger dice pool when performing it; if the xp cost is low enough (“free” is too low for something with actual mechanical benefits), this can allow a mage to have larger dice pools for select important Effects.

      But again, that's a matter for another thread. I want to keep this one dealing with expanding on the Wonder Spheres notion to a breaker class of Limited Spheres.


      • #4
        The OP it's a bit misleading, if you don't intend to talk about the first paragraph's theme.

        More on-topic: Shamanic Spheres

        All of us at some point had to question: How it's that Dreamspeakers believe they're doing their magick trough summoning spirits, when one can see into the Umbra and see there aren't spirits interacting with the Shaman. This has various explanations and workarounds, but even then it never ceased to be a thing - to the point we had to suffer yet another reincarnation of the problem in HDYDT (Sphere Tax).

        We could use this idea to expand uppon that. I would say that the mage needs to either contact with the symbolically correct type of spirit for the effect, or have an appropriate Fetish, to cast an Effect with these cheaper Spheres.

        Now, if the spirit is capable of *doing* the effect by itself, then casting it would be a bit redundant. So, some could ask: why bother with Spheres then? - but here one needs to remember the most common spirits are very minor Gafflins that *can't* affect the material realm significatively. The shaman Spheres acting as a conduit, to allow these minor spirits to do stuff they wouldn't normally be cappable, I think, could be quite tematic.

        And minor spirits are easier to deal with than more migthy ones that could do everything by themselves. Even more, asking a spirit for some attention requires less negotiation than telling the spirit to actually do something out of it's normal tasks, and spend it's Essence doing it. It could even be regarded as the respectful thing to do by Umbrood that would be sympathetically tied with the effect anyway (it's not like fire spirits don't care when a "fireball happy" wizard starts big fires).
        Last edited by Aleph; 03-03-2021, 08:46 AM.


        • #5
          If there were a simple way of breaking down each level of a sphere into different practices like Awakening does (Knowing, Fraying, Perfecting, etc.) it might be possible to buy aspects of a Sphere piecemeal. I don't find that to be a system that naturally gels with Ascension but it is an option.

          Another potential Sphere specialty is that the Mage can use the Sphere, but only with an ultraspecific foci/tool. This can be represented by either the Wonder Sphere you already described or by a Rote Sphere letting the Mage take specific rotes of a higher level than he can cast. A lot of that second one would depend on how the ST is running rotes of course.

          Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink