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Stop-gap God-Machine mechanics for Mage

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  • Stop-gap God-Machine mechanics for Mage

    (Reposted from the old forum)

    The God-Machine Chronicle has arrived, and with it the Storytelling System Update. Mortals-only games have been enhanced, there's a new default setting for the nWoD to explore, and Vampire's Chronicle Book is on the way.

    But if you're in this forum, you'll have another game on your minds.

    As you might be aware, a Mage Chronicle Book is on the way in late 2014. Until then, though, you can still run Mage under the updated core rules. I have been for half a year now, and as promised in the various GMC spoiler threads here are my notes.

    First off, some ground rules:

    1) These notes are not spoilers for the Fallen World Chronicle. In fact, they outright contradict its outline in a few places.

    2) These are quick conversion notes, based around the idea of getting Mage to run as it is under the new rules. A full rebuild of Paradox to better fit Awakening's themes? Wisdom that isn't Integrity renamed with extra Breaking Points? Aimed spells that ignore defense? This isn't the place for them. House-rule away, start threads about ideas for more extensive reworks, please do, but not here.

    3) In light of the above, I'm erring on the side of leaving options open, rather than editorializing.

    I have provided some notes In blue that will hopefully explain some of the choices.

    Character Advancement and Arcane Experience

    Experiences costs for Mages are as follows:

    Attribute: 4 Experiences per dot
    Merit: 1 Experience per dot
    Skill Specialty: 1 Experience
    Skill: 2 Experiences per dot
    Ruling Arcanum: 3 Experiences per dot
    Common Arcanum: 4 Experiences per dot
    Inferior Arcanum: 5 Experiences per dot
    Wisdom: 2 Experiences per dot
    Gnosis: 5 Experiences per dot
    Rotes: 1 Experience per dot
    Willpower: 1 Experience per dot

    These are the current costs for Vampires, transplanted over to Mages. I have pitched Rotes here at the same level as in the corebook, where they cost the same as Merits, but I should note that I personally think that's still too expensive, and in my house game I have them as being one Experience per two dots.

    As well as their three Aspirations, Mages have up to three Obsessions, the supernatural mysteries they are currently working on understanding. Obsessions protect against social maneuvering in the same way as Aspirations, and whenever a Mage makes progress toward an Obsession she gains an Arcane Beat. Five Arcane Beats form an Arcane Experience, which can be spent on Gnosis.

    I encourage you to leave at least one Obsession slot "open" at the start of a Story so you can declare whatever supernatural mystery you come across as one.

    It's possible for the same event to grant a Beat and an Arcane Beat.

    Again, not the quick, simple, conversion, but I've been experimenting with using Obsessions to key modifiers off - I give a dice bonus to Mage Sight Scrutiny if the subject is one of your current Obsessions, for instance

    Extended Actions and Ritual Magic

    Unless they specifically say so, no Merit that modifies extended actions (such as Library and Good Time Management) works on ritual spells.

    The rest of the extended action rules - including modifying the base time per roll from that given by Gnosis if you get an exceptional success - *do* apply.

    Conditions gained from Dramatic Failure and Exceptional Success in spellcasting should reflect the mage's Path, Nimbus, or intended spell as appropriate. Look to Paradox Anomalies and Demesne rules for inspiration - I usually go for +2 or -2 to the spells from a Mage's Ruling Arcana, resolved when they successfully cast.

    Conditions arising from spellcasting give Mages Arcane Beats, not regular Beats, when resolved.

    Electing to make a failed spell a dramatic failure, though, still grants a normal Beat. The Condition you then get for having a Dramatic Failure is an Arcane Beat, however.

    Rules requiring you to spend Willpower to modify an Imago on the fly during a ritual still apply - so accepting partial success still needs you to spend Willpower.

    Mage Armor

    Mage armor spells differ depending on if they protect against Grappling or not. Grappling-defending armors work by supernally dodging attacks (one's even called Supernal Dodge). Armors that don't work against Grappling work by absorbing damage. GMC now handles the two sorts of armor differently, so;

    Grapple-applicable Mage Armor

    Arcanum Dots
    2 - +2 Defense
    3 - +3 Defense
    4 - +4 Defense
    5 - +5 Defense

    Grapple-vulnerable Mage Armor

    Arcanum Dots
    2 - 2/0 Armor
    3 - 3/1 Armor
    4 - 4/2 Armor
    5 - 5/2 Armor

    Mage armor doesn't penalise Speed or Defense, and stacks with mundane Armor. Armor Piercing goes through it as normal, but defense-boosts *do* apply against firearms. The two kinds of Mage Armor don't stack.

    I went for "keeping the defense-boosting armors as good as they were, and increasing the effectiveness of those that actually are Armoring". From what I've seen, though, almost everyone has an alternate take on Mage Armors. If we do get a Chronicle Book, this will be a hot topic.


    Handle Wisdom like Integrity, except for the following changes;

    Mages don't suffer Wisdom loss for witnessing supernatural events or horror *except* those originating with the Abyss.

    Breaking Points for Wisdom should focus on what the mage will do to achieve her goals. Replace the questions "what have you forgotten" and "what's the most traumatic thing that happened to you?" with "what scares you about magic?" and "what would you do to achieve your goals?"

    Suffering a Breaking Point because of magic doesn't make the modifier worse. Killing in self-defense is still -4

    Magical coercion -1 to -3, depending on severity
    Magically transforming someone against their will -2
    Creating a soul stone -1
    Exiling someone into the Shadow -2
    Causing a Possession -2
    Preventing an Awakening -4
    Stealing a soul -4
    Destroying a soul -5

    Yeah, I know it's ugly, and I wish we could do more now - Cover and Humanity are both far better-linking to their games. But, as the saying goes, it's a big job, and I'd like a freelancer to get paid to do it

    Soul Loss

    In addition to the effects listed in GMC, Mages lose a dot of Gnosis for every 24 hours without a soul. If she drops to 0 she becomes a Sleeper (including Disbelief) until she regains a soul. If the new soul isn't Awakened, she stabilises at Gnosis 1. If the soul was from a Mage (including her own, if it can be found and reattached), her full Gnosis returns immediately. If her Arcana dots break the limits imposed by Gnosis, excess dots are suppressed until she relearns enough Gnosis to use them. Ruling Arcana are suppressed *last*.

    Character Creation

    Wisdom starts at 7. You can no longer reduce starting Wisdom for Experience.

    Which is true for the other Integrity Stats as well. If you want more starting Experiences, just talk your Storyteller into giving you more.

    Mages receive TEN Merit dots, not seven, plus the free "High Speech" Merit they get if they're in an order. The mage template Unseen Senses power works *as though* they had every possible variant of the Unseen Senses Merit, but doesn't actually give them the Merit - it can't be removed by any Merit-nullifying powers that might come along, and they can't trade it in for XP.

    Supernatural creatures get ten Merit dots now - it's one of the most-overlooked spoilers for Blood & Smoke, but I know David Hill has said so somewhere on the Vampire forum already, so I'm comfy with saying it here.

    Character Conversion

    Re-create the player characters for the troupe as starting characters and then note how many Experiences it would take to raise them back to their pre-conversion states. Assume that half the Experiences "used" on Gnosis were Arcane Experiences. Once you know the *highest* level of Arcane and normal Experiences needed for a character, raise the other characters in the group to those levels.

    Because of the change to linear costs, this can really trip you up if you're not looking out for it. Two of my chronicle's characters had identical XP and AXP pre-GMC, and ended up with one being 15 Experiences lower and 4 Arcane Experiences higher after conversion, because he'd been buying a lot of mid-to-high-dot Arcana. He now has a lot more Merits.


    The Legacy Tithe is the first Beat you gain in a story.

    The first time your character interacts with a Legacy student with arcane links to her in a story, gain a Beat. if you have more than one student, you can get multiple Beats by interacting with each of them.

    The "pay once" alternative means of joining Legacies, such as soul stone copying or daimonomika, cost five Experiences. I strongly suggest you allow Arcane Experiences to be used on this.

    Legacy Beats could be Arcane if you so desired

    Dave Brookshaw

  • #2
    Spellcasting Considerations

    A quick run-through of Awakening's core magic rules to note changes reveals the following:

    Casting While Grappled: Grappled mages can cast spells on their initiative instead of taking part in the grapple contest - their opponent automatically "wins" the Turn and gets to pick a Grapple move. The dice penalties listed in Mage for using mudras while grappled still apply.

    Aimed Spells: Targets only get to apply defense if the spell description says so, but they *do* get to apply Armor. In compensation, they don't get to resist or contest the spell's effect.

    Direct-Damaging Spells: Spells that directly inflict injury have a weapon rating of 0B, 0L, or 0A (depending on the spell) plus the spell's Potency, so the amount of damage done is still Potency. Spells that enhance or create Weapon bonuses, however (like some Matter spells, or a Forces spell to increase the velocity of a swing, say) add +1 damage per two Potency. Spells and Attainments that apply an Arcanum Rating as damage apply the Arcanum Rating - 1.

    Which works out about the same level of effectiveness, in the end. Your bonuses will be lower, but Weapons need lower ratings in GMC after they went to autosuccesses.


    Dramatic Failures and Exceptional Successes on the Paradox roll don't apply Conditions.

    Or if they do, they apply them to the Abyss itself

    The Bedlam Paradox applies a Condition as though the mage had failed (for a mild Bedlam) or dramatically failed (for a severe bedlam) a Wisdom check, which is removed when the Paradox's Wisdom-determined duration is up. The character receives Beats as normal when he meets a Paradox-imposed Condition's Beat criteria.

    Spells Affecting The New Systems

    This isn't going to be an exact science, but in ballpark terms...


    Improving Impression (or worsening it between a target and a third party) is Mind 2
    Opening a door is Mind 3
    Opening all doors is Mind 4


    The existing spells to figure out an entity's ban also allow you to figure out a bane.
    Spirit 4 allows a Mage to affect a spirit as though the spell was a bane, but the spell is penalized by Rank.

    Death reskins most (ST's discretion as to which it doesn't) Spirit-affecting spells to work on Ghosts. There's a Death 2 version of Numinous Shield that works on Ghosts and their Numina.

    Summoning spells for Ghosts and Spirits create the Open Condition in the vicinity (or on an object or person if the mage desires) for the duration of the spell. The spells themselves note when they compel behaviour.

    (Or, if you wish to be a dick about it, you can opt to *not* create the Condition when you summon. Which means the creature you just forced to your presence starts bleeding Essence)

    Targeting an Angel, its Numina, rewriting the Pattern of someone claimed, etc, requires equal parts Prime and Spirit. Angels cannot be summoned. You can try to force one to act in a certain way, but angels are inflexible - if carrying out your wishes conflicts with carrying out the God-Machine's wishes, the Angel's programming wins and the spell has no effect.

    Or, put another way, God has rolled more successes than you on "angel brainwashing". Also, no creating members of another major template (by making angels Fall!) without Archmastery. Bad mages, go to back of class

    Similarly, Supernal magic can create or manipulate resonance and anchors (and there are several spells in the line to do both already), but can't sense or manipulate Infrastructure at all.

    Enhancing Abjuration is a Death 3 Prime 3 spell that adds successes to a mage's abjuration dice pools.

    If you have the correct Bane already, magically creating a warding rather than going through with the Presence + Occult roll is a Space 3, Spirit 2 spell.

    Dave Brookshaw


    • #3
      Alternatives and Experimental Mechanics

      Grappling Alternative: Mages who take part in the grapple contest and win may cast an instant spell instead of making a move"?
      In response to concerns about the spells that require grappling

      Damage From Spells Alternative: If you would prefer to treat spells as GMC-style weapons, reduce your casting dice pool by Arcana dots (so you just roll Gnosis for an improvised spell) and add weapon damage of Arcana dots in Bashing, Arcana dots -2 in Lethal, or 1A for Aggravated, depending on the spell used. So, a Master does 5B, 3L, or 1A with her spells.

      Dave Brookshaw


      • #4
        I'm gonna repeat that the rote cost is wrong. In vanilla mage, rotes cost a flat 2 exp per dot. No scaling. Therefore GMC rotes should cost 2 beats per dot.


        • #5
          That would be the first time something costs Beats instead of Experience. Rotes, and specially their cost are one of the things most difficult to port to GMC rules. Maybe a flat 1xp per Rote, so a 1 dot Rote cost the same as 5 dot one. On the other hand that maybe unfair. I would suggest 1 Beat per dot, or to not deviate too much from other costs, 1xp for 5 dots of Rotes.

          I'm So Meta Even This Acronym


          • #6
            Doesn't this solve itself just by following what Dave does in his home games? "2 rote points / 1 Exp"

            What I'm curious is: how has this worked so far for you, Dave?

            Historian ~

            I currently ST a... MtAW 2e campaign called "Axis Mundi - Si Vis Pacem"


            • #7
              No. No one is going to buy it for that much. Ever.


              • #8
                As the mechanics are now, they aren't worth buying at all except for some spells where you desperately need dice.

                Historian ~

                I currently ST a... MtAW 2e campaign called "Axis Mundi - Si Vis Pacem"


                • #9
                  I'd much rather see a system wherein you gain a free Rote whenever you buy up Arcana (much like how you get a free Gift whenever you buy up Renown in WtF, I think) and then maybe you get one when you up Gnosis as well. Because there'd have to be some crazy circumstances for me to spend XP -- or even Beats, probably -- when instead of getting a little better at a single spell, I can instead speed my way towards getting an entire new level of spells and throw Advanced spell factors on an entire level. Even at 2 Rote Points / 1 XP, I could get a four-dot Rote, or I could be 2/3rd of the way to [Ruling Arcana] 5.


                  • #10
                    In my experience, no one bought rotes before GmC, and no one buys them after it, for reasons of simple dice-pool comparison rather than cost, in truth. I run long chronicles, and rotes get less useful as you go aling rather than more. The way I emphasise legacies makes mage society hang together without the carrot of rote access. Don't worry, it is on my List.

                    Dave Brookshaw


                    • #11
                      There is a super huge advantage to rotes though, at least if you start investing in arcana outside your ruling ones. It removes the additional mana point cost for casting those spells, making rotes almost necessary if you want to be using a lot of spells from common arcana.


                      • #12
                        Or you could invest that xp in getting Hallows, Familiars or Artifacts and never, ever worry again about Mana. Is not an advantage when there are cheaper alternatives. And all that before you get into a Legacy, then even Hallows are over-rated.

                        I'm So Meta Even This Acronym


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Thorbes View Post
                          Or you could invest that xp in getting Hallows, Familiars or Artifacts and never, ever worry again about Mana. Is not an advantage when there are cheaper alternatives. And all that before you get into a Legacy, then even Hallows are over-rated.
                          You could just spend 8xp in prime if it's not your primary arcana and never worry about mana again.


                          • #14
                            You'll need at the very least 3 dots of Prime for that to be the case. It's still cheaper to go the Merits route.

                            I'm So Meta Even This Acronym


                            • #15
                              I am all for streamlining the system (and I trust the developers on this) - simpler, cleaner rules, possibly toning down the need for tables to check out rote factors/paradox etc. Here's my thoughts on how to make rotes more valuable.

                              There are three ways to cast spells.

                              Cantrips: AS for standard improvised casting; dicepool: Gnosis+Arcana or the like. It has all the flexibility as magic does now, with one caveat: it takes a bit longer. Either 10 rounds minus Gnosis (minimum one round), or (highest arcana x2) minus Gnosis. Same flexibility, but requires a small bit of time.

                              Rotes: The only magic that can be quick cast. Dicepool: attribute+skill+arcana. Possibly with a significant loss of paradox (maybe even no paradox). You learn these for the quick effects, the ones you will need, or for substantial rituals (see below).

                              Rituals: This is for the big high magick. They should take a while per roll - either like it is now or something like 10 hours minus gnosis (minimum one). Cantrips or rotes may be ritual cast, using the appropriate dice-pool: all successes go towards potency. Other rote factors (duration/targets/space etc) are allocated from a total of the mage's Gnosis. (i.e. The Life 4/Gnosis 5 Mage wants to turn the grass around his sanctum into venemous wheatgrass. He rolls his dicepool (rote or cantrip), takes five hours for the ritual, devoting all successes to Toxicity. He then divides his gnosis into the factors (2 to cover the area, three for a month long long effect.)

                              These are rough, but giving rotes the exclusive ability to be quick cast will up their power, make mages more diverse by their rote selection, and the shift to cantrips will emphasise the mage's need to prepare.

                              Edit: Sorry - wrong forum - this should have been in the "What you want for the..." forum. Blargh.

                              Last edited by hoodedclaw; 11-05-2013, 08:34 AM.