Mage: The Ascension House Rules

The more we see,
the more we think we know.

—Porthos Fitz-Empress, The Fragile Path


This page contains all of the (many, many, many) changes made to run Mage: The Ascension using Mage: The Awakening’s ruleset.

Recent Changes
• 1/3: Added altered uses for Arcane Experiences to Character Advancement.
• 10/5: Moved over Mage Merits from the main Merits page to make more room. Apparently there is a limit on how much text a page can have.
• 4/23: Added Paths/Essences.
• 11/10: Finished posting Lucid Dreaming.
• 11/4: Added Madness and Environmental Alterations.
• 10/17: Expanded/added the following sections under Spellcasting/Casting Effects: Improvised Spells/Improvised Effects, Yantras/Semiotics, Praxes, Rotes, Withstanding Magic, Casting the Spell/Casting the Effect
• 10/17: Revised Attainments
• 10/15: Posted Denial Quiet Conditions
• 10/10: Posted Marauders
• 10/10: Posted most of chapter three
• 10/8: Posted chapter four

Chapter Three: Supernal Lore

Chapter Four: Magick


Odds and Ends

Chapter Three: Supernal Lore


Paths are replaced by Essences: the alignment of a mage’s Avatar with either Dynamism, Stasis, Entropy, or Balance. With the following exceptions, they function identically.

Ruling Sphere: When you select an Essence for your character, pick one of its three possible Ruling Spheres. A character’s second Ruling Sphere is determined by their Tradition. (Orphans receive no second Ruling Sphere until they join one of the Ascension War’s factions. Learning on one’s own has drawbacks.)

Inferior Sphere: When you select an Essence for your character, pick one of its three possible Inferior Spheres. If a character chooses their Essence’s Inferior Sphere as their Tradition’s Ruling Sphere, it “graduates” to being a Common Sphere.

Essence Ruling Spheres Inferior Spheres Resonance
Pattern Forces, Life, Matter Space, Spirit, Time Static
Primordial Prime, Space, Spirit Fate, Life, Mind Entropic
Protean Mind, Space, Time Matter, Prime, Spirit Dynamic
Questing Fate, Prime, Space Forces, Mind, Matter Any/None

Pattern: Pattern mages refine, improve and stabilize reality’s foundations. They play vital roles as teachers, organizers and archivists. Pattern mages often join existing Legacies and pass them on to multiple apprentices, perpetuating them across millennia. They prefer rational, structured thinking and often experience their Avatars as moments of lucidity and organized thought.
Ruling Spheres: Forces, Life, or Matter. Pattern mages excel at altering tangible phenomena.
Inferior Spheres: Space, Spirit, or Time. These Spheres represent change and nonlinearity, the ultimate transformation of Patterns into other forms.

Primordial: Primordial mages stand at the edge of reality’s underpinnings, where dark energies unravel and renew the Tapestry. They seek the origins of things and follow them to manifold endings: the last breaths of death and the cry of new powers erupting into the universe. Primordial mages excel at investigating and analyzing supernatural phenomena. Primordial sorcery interrogates spirits and ghosts, tracking them to secret places.
Ruling Spheres: Prime, Spirit, or Space. Primordial mages understand the deeper nature of the universe and magic that deals with the building blocks of creation.
Inferior Spheres: Fate, Life, or Mind. These Spheres follow Patterns from raw to refined states until they abandon their original natures.

Protean: Protean Avatars focus on raw creation. Protean mages often feel restless, compelled to move on instead of surrendering to routine. They might complain that their Avatars don’t let them stay put to benefit from their labors or maintain leadership roles. Mages prize their originality and innovative spirits, however, as Protean sorcerers often invent new Effects and Legacies.
Ruling Spheres: Mind, Space, or Time. Protean Avatars represent inspiration, movement, and progress.
Inferior Sphere: Matter, Prime, or Spirit. Spirits are after-effects, ephemeral images of mortal action remaining in the Umbra or Shadow. Prime is a less tangible form of creation, while Matter is resistant to change.

Questing: Questing Avatars balance the other Essences, seeking change through purpose. Questing mages describe the cycle of Creation with their heroes’ journeys and bind Awakened society into a cohesive whole. They seek new experiences and change like a Dynamic mage, unearth essential qualities like a Primordial sorcerer and weave them into grand works of Pattern: societies, Wonders and myths.
Ruling Spheres: Fate, Prime, or Space. Questing mages see existence as a series of journeys. They’re drawn to beginnings and destinations, literally so for Space and figuratively in Fate. All these journeys seek the truth, represented by Prime.
Inferior Sphere: Mind. Questing mages know themselves by their actions and are not prone to inner reflection, while Forces and Matter represent phenomena wholly divorced from the mage’s own Pattern.

Designer’s Notes: Primordial corresponds to Entropy and Pattern to Stasis. Dynamic was the odd man out, for some reason not using a different name when the other Essences did. So it got swapped to Protean. I’m also contemplating whether it would be better to shed the alt-names and just call them as they are.

Orders are replaced by Traditions, Conventions, and Crafts. A character’s allegiance determines their second Ruling Sphere and grants a free dot in one of their associated Skills (but cannot cause any one Skill to exceed five dots).

Tradition Ruling Sphere Associated Skills
Akashayana Mind Athletics, Brawl, Medicine
Celestial Chorus Prime Academics, Expression, Persuasion
Cult of Ecstasy Time Athletics, Empathy, Socialize
Dreamspeakers Spirit Expression, Occult, Survival
Euthanatos Fate Medicine, Stealth, Weaponry
Order of Hermes Forces Academics, Intimidation, Occult
Singularity Architects (formerly Virtual Adepts) Space Computer, Investigation, Science
Society of Ether Matter Academics, Crafts, Science
Verbena Life Animal Ken, Medicine, Survival
Hollow Ones Spirit Expression, Occult, Socialize

Convention Ruling Sphere Rote Skills
Iteration X Matter Computer, Crafts, Science
New World Order Mind Academics, Intimidation, Subterfuge
Progenitors Life Academics, Medicine, Science
Syndicate Fate Academics, Persuasion, Streetwise
Void Engineers Spirit Crafts, Science, Survival

Designer’s Notes: I may eventually determine Spheres and Rote Skills for individual Tradition factions, Technocratic Methodologies, Nephandic sects and the various Crafts, but that’s a ways off. And I don’t know how likely to even be relevant for this game anyways.

See the changes under the Semiotics section.

Arcanoi are called Spheres (for mystics) and Inspired Sciences (for Technocrats). Starting characters must assign two dots to their Ruling Spheres and cannot assign any dots to their Inferior Sphere. Beyond that, they may determine their starting Spheres as they please.

Belief makes the mage. Belief in something—gods, science, spirits, technology, one’s own place in the universe, perhaps simply the conviction that one’s Will is enough to move the world—is utterly essential if you want to change reality. Faithless folks cannot use True Magic, for such Arts and Sciences depend upon belief. That belief provides the core of focus: That lens through which a mage does what he does.

Designer’s Notes: Mage doesn’t explain this in a concise place anywhere, or at least not as concisely as it could. In brief:
Paradigm is a mage’s personal belief system that explains how (and possibly why) magick exists.
Practice is the tradition/discipline of magick that a mage employs: computer-based reality hacking, Hermetic alchemy, mad science, Vodoun, etc.
Instruments are the tools a mage uses to perform their magick: prayers and sacrifices, tarot cards and crystal balls, ray guns, wands and staffs, etc.

Each character in Mage begins play with a Focus made up of a Paradigm, a Practice, and at least seven Instruments that channel that belief through that Practice. As he or she progresses through the game, your character can choose to alter or discard Instruments, change Practices, modify one Practice to accommodate another one, and perhaps even eventually recognize that she doesn’t need the tools at all. Even then, however, your character believes in something. Without that conviction, she’s just another Sleepwalker, going through motions she doesn’t truly understand.

Certain mages never manage to separate the Instruments from those convictions. It takes a certain kind of worldview, especially in our era, to realize that you don’t need technology to accomplish miracles. When a mage’s belief in technology provides the Path to Enlightenment, that belief is almost impossible to shake, and most folks wouldn’t want to shake it, even if they could. There’s comfort in technology, after all, even if that technology involves books and bones, not computers and cars.

Working Without Focus: Because mages are vessels of Will, they can sometimes will things to happen without using Instruments or a Practice. Working through determination alone, a mage can suss her Focus and conjure Effects without channeling belief through Practice or Instruments. Working this way doesn’t happen without cost. As previously explained, the mage takes a -3 penalty on the Effect roll and must spend a point of Willpower for every Effect they cast. Essentially, that mage throws every ounce of self-conviction he has into the Effect, using Will alone to focus his intents. Because of their reliance upon scientific methods and tools, technomancers (and a few mystics who are extremely reliant on their chosen tools) cannot perform this trick at all unless and until they completely transcend the need for Instruments. A Virtual Adept might believe he’s got the will to hack Reality without gear, but until he accepts that concept as an integral part of his reality, he just can’t manage it. Such characters begin play with the Instrument Dependence persistent Condition.

Working With Unfamiliar Instruments: Every so often, a mage finds herself working outside her Paradigm. Maybe she’s learning a new Practice or adding new Instruments to the Practice she already employs—working with joss sticks and hell-money, for example, if her shamanic Path began in Kenya or Arizona. She might be using someone else’s laboratory or workshop, adopting desperate measures (like grabbing a Black Suit’s weapon during a firefight), or using Instruments and rituals that she hasn’t had time to familiarize herself with just yet. (“The drums don’t really speak to me until we’ve spent some quality time getting attuned to each other’s vibrations.”) In such situations, the mage is working with an unfamiliar Instrument or Practice… which is often better than using nothing at all, but it’s not as effective as their established bag of tricks.

In game terms, this unfamiliarity manifests as a penalty to the Effect roll until the mage has some time to adjust to the Instruments or rituals in question. At the earlier stages, a totally unfamiliar Instrument (like a jetpack ganked from some crazy Etherite) or ritual (like joining a Lakota fancy-dance when you normally focus through the Five Rhythms movement practice) imposes a -2 penalty. Later, when the mage has had some experience with the Instruments or Practice in question (she’s spent some time on the gun range with that blaster pistol or learned how to call the corners in her new Wiccan community) but has not yet fully adopted that Practice, the penalty drops to -1. In neither case does using the Instrument cost Willpower.

Changing Tools And Practices: Story-wise, a character can modify or alter his Practice and its associated Instruments by going through a major change of life. It’s fairly easy to modify your existing Practice—to, for example, go from being a primitivist Pagan to adding computers and modifying the Old Ways into a technopagan Practice. Radical conversions—say, going from Pagan witchcraft to Sunni Islam—are more difficult, demanding intense roleplaying and deep story arcs.

Each monumental Paradigm shifts have various game and story complications. Although a character does not lose Gnosis, he must return to at least seven Instruments (several of which may combine his old Practice with his new one). For several in-game months, he’ll be working at half of his previous Sphere levels too… after all, he’s learning an entirely new way of dealing with those principles, even if he does still understand them. Chapter Six of the M20 rulebook covers the details about that mage’s return to his previous levels of accomplishment; for now, just remember that your character is reorienting his deepest-held beliefs.

Growing Beyond The Tools: When it comes to moving beyond the Instruments of a given Practice, mystic mages have a major advantage over tech-based ones. Despite the occasionally cumbersome nature of cauldrons and rites, a mystic worldview is generally more flexible than a scientific one. The mystic may eventually recognize that magic flows from his Will and a connection to the universe at large; a scientist, however—even a crazy one—still remains convinced that her tools and theories provide the bridge between Will and Effect. Overcoming that conviction is sometimes possible, but it’s difficult to do.

In game terms, a mystic character can begin discarding the Instruments of her Practice when she reaches Gnosis 2. See Gnosis/Enlightenment for the rate at which characters no longer require Instruments to cast effects.

Without or without Instruments, belief forms the core of a mage’s Focus. Often referred to as Paradigm, that belief reflects the way a mage thinks about the world, her place in it, and the things she does in order to spin that world to suit her puses.

Beliefs and Paradigms aren’t quite the same thing, but they’re closely related to one another, especially with regards to a mage’s Focus. Belief tends to be a personal faith or creed, whereas Paradigm tends to reflect an intellectual framework for understanding such things. Each depends upon the other. It can be said fairly that Paradigm represents how you think the world works, and belief represents why you think it works that way.

The varieties of human belief are almost limitless. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every living person (and possibly every thinking entity) holds different beliefs. The things we believe come from so many factors—culture, experiences, memories, perceptions, meditations upon those other factors, and far more besides—that although we can make general statements about a belief, we can never truly know what another person believes, nor can anyone else truly share our unique Paradigm. We can come close in many respects, but except in the rare cases where a mage shares a lasting, total mind-body-soul connection to another entity, our beliefs still occupy different worlds.

See page 568 of the M20 core rulebook for a list of common Paradigms.

Practice means “to make” or “to do.” And so, a mage—guided by her beliefs—does her magic through a Practice. As the name suggests, a Practice is also practical, turning abstract ideas into useful activities.

When a mage makes things happen, she employs a Practice that serves her needs and beliefs. One mage might petition her gods, whereas another dons her business suit, applies subtle cosmetics, and goes off to work her Will at the shareholders’ meeting. In game terms, every mage has a Practice; in story terms, that Practice comes from that character’s culture, beliefs, and circumstances.

An appropriate Practice can also spell the difference between coincidental magic and vulgar magic. That said, Mage characters don’t choose their Practices based on in-game benefits. In Mage, as in real life, people often choose to believe inconvenient things and follow inconvenient Practices. Sure, that High Ritual magician knows he’s an anachronism in the postmodern world, channeling his Will through cumbersome rituals and theatrical Instruments. It’d be quicker and easier for him to simply use a computer like everybody else. For him, though, his Practice is a matter of pride. He’s not like everybody else, so his beliefs, Practices, and Instruments set him apart, defining him as extraordinary even when they seem somewhat inconvenient.

Page 572 of the M20 core rulebook presents a range of common Practices within Mage’s world. Each entry is exceedingly generalized, encompassing dozens—sometimes hundreds—of loosely related disciplines, different in many specifics though linked by several common elements and intentions. Each one, though, offers an overview of a Practice that you can choose for your character. If you like (and with the Storyteller’s okay), you might create your own Practice to suit your character. Just remember: every Practice meets a need. People craft new arts, sciences, and religions when the old ones don’t accomplish the things they needed to accomplish. If and when you come up with something new, ask yourself this: how does this Practice meet my character’s needs, beyond the ability to cast Effects? How does it turn his beliefs into actions? And what sorts of Instruments aim those actions toward a desirable goal?

The following Skills stand in for M20’s recommended Abilities for the sample Practices:

Alchemy Associated Skills: Crafts, Occult, Medicine, Science
The Art of Desire/Hypereconomics Associated Skills: Academics, Athletics, Expression, Intimidation, Persuasion, Politics, Socialize, Subterfuge
Chaos Magic Associated Skills: Computer, Expression, Medicine, Occult, Socialize, Streetwise
Craftwork Associated Skills: Academics, Computer, Crafts Occult, Science
Crazy Wisdom Associated Skills: Athletics, Expression, Medicine, Socialize, Survival
Cybernetics Associated Skills: Academics, Computer, Crafts Politics, Science
Dominion Associated Skills: Academics, Empathy, Expression, Intimidation, Persuasion, Politics, Science, Socialize
Faith Associated Skills: Academics, Empathy, Expression, Medicine, Occult
Gutter Magic Associated Skills: Animal Kinship, Expression, Firearms, Intimidation, Medicine, Streetwise, Survival, Science
High Ritual Magic Associated Skills: Academics, Computer, Crafts Expression, Investigation, Persuasion, Occult
Hypertech Associated Skills: Academics, Computer, Crafts Investigation, Medicine, Science
Malefica Associated Skills: Expression, Intimidation, Medicine, Occult, Persuasion, Weaponry
Martial Arts Associated Skills: Athletics, Brawl, Intimidation, Medicine, Occult, Socialize, Weaponry
Medicine Work Associated Skills: Academics, Athletics, Crafts Empathy, Expression, Medicine Occult, Science
Reality Hacking Associated Skills: Academics, Computer, Crafts Expression, Politics, Science, Subterfuge
Shamanism Associated Skills: Expression, Medicine, Occult, Streetwise, Survival
Vodoun Associated Skills: Athletics, Crafts Empathy, Expression, Intimidation, Medicine, Streetwise
Weird Science Associated Skills: Academics, Crafts Occult, Science
Witchraft Associated Skills: Academics, Animal Ken, Expression, Crafts Medicine, Occult
Yoga Associated Skills: Athletics, Expression, Medicine, Occult, Survival

Belief envisions, Practice inspires, and Instruments perform. All three elements allow a mage to focus Will and knowledge into Effects. And although any human activity can provide a tool for an imaginative mage—so long as that Instrument fits the mage’s beliefs and Practices—certain Instruments hold honored and popular places in magical Practices of all kinds.

As suggested by its root word instruere (“to prepare”), an Instrument is a tool or set of tools that prepares an act of magic or hypertech. That Instrument doesn’t have to be a physical object—it could be a dance, a song, a prayer or invocation, an intense glance, a scent, a formula, a gesture or word or handful of ash. The potential variations among such tools are more or less infinite. If an object or activity can be used to capture an intention and bring it into being, then that object or activity can be used as an Instrument.

Symbolic Power Of The Instruments: Many Instruments carry symbolic weight, granting them significance beyond their practical utilities. Sure, a sword can kill you, but the mystique of certain swords can cut deeper than the blade itself. There’s a huge symbolic difference between a katana and a butcher’s knife, and that difference often influences a person’s choice of Instruments. In game terms, such Instruments tug at Mythic Threads, adding their symbolic presence to the raw Will-power of the mage.

By extension of that symbolism, certain Instruments define certain groups: Etherites have their goggles; witches have their wands; agents of authority have their dark suits and mirrorshades, and all those trappings create a sense of group identity. For many people, this sense of identity bonds them to the group. Symbolic Instruments, then, can be like gang colors, offering a shout-out to your sect of choice.

Tools And Time: Instruments demand time and effort, and certain tools demand more time and/ or effort than others. A person who dances to focus his intentions can’t cast an Effect in a three-second turn; one who employs intense rituals may need an hour or longer, and an artisan-magus could prepare his effects for days or weeks before the magic manifests. That’s why so many Practices depend upon creating Wonders (as per the Merit of that name) or else employ quick-use Instruments: amulets, guns, enchanted blades, and the like. It takes time and effort to focus Will into magic. If you rush the process, things go poorly… resulting in Paradox, needing to cast Effects as instant actions, and other obstacles.

In game terms, then, some Instruments necessitate that mages create their Effects as rituals rather than instant actions. For that reason, your mage might want a wide selection of Instruments to choose from. Maybe he doesn’t have time to perform an elaborate hoop-dance right now… but that pouch of tobacco will serve as a quick offering for his totem spirit until he’s got the time to set things right. Mages who don’t have any Instruments that allow them to cast Effects in a quick pinch should take the following persistent Condition:

Inconvenient Instruments (Persistent)
Your character’s Instruments are especially cumbersome or time-consuming to employ. She cannot cast Effects as instant actions, only as rituals. She can partly overcome this limitation at Gnosis 2 when she divorces her first Sphere from reliance on Instruments, but the Spheres she hasn’t picked can still only be cast as rituals.
Resolution: Your character adopts new Instruments that don’t hinder her. This may well involve changing her entire Practice.
Beat: You are unable to immediately cast an Effect at an inconvenient time.
Remember, too, that mages don’t choose their Instruments based on convenience, but rather upon what they believe they need to do in order to alter reality. A mad scientist toils in her laboratory to create a portable transmutation ray, then carries that ray around with her, aims it, and turns it on before the effect starts changing things. It would be more convenient, in game terms, for her to simply glare at an enemy and turn him into a newt. Even if she has Life 5 on her character sheet, however, she wouldn’t do things that way because she’s a scientist, not a witch. Sure, she probably accepts that witches have power; that kind of power isn’t her style, though, and thus, it does not work for her.

Eventually, certain mages learn to be the Focus rather than to NEED the Focus. And at that point, they’re able to discard Instruments, as described earlier. Still, as M20 explains in sidebar about the one-inch punch on page 568, characters can’t ditch their Instruments just because they think it’s possible to do so. Magic is an extension of the mage, and Instruments direct that mage’s beliefs and bring his magic into being.

Types of Instruments: See Tools/Instruments for the mechanics of Instruments in play.

Example Instruments: See page 588 of the M20 core rulebook for a comprehensive list of sample Instruments characters can pick from.

Experiences: As Praxes, Legacy Attainments, and spending Willpower to relinquish spells do not exist under our house rules, Arcane Experiences may also be spent on Supernatural Merits. (Recall that mages, due to having a major supernatural template, cannot buy some Merits available to mortal characters such as Psychic Merits.)

Ruling Spheres cost three Experiences per dot. Common Spheres cost four Experiences per dot. Inferior Spheres cost five Experiences per dot.

Technocrats refer to Gnosis as Enlightenment.

Instruments: Mages in Ascension can’t just will Effects into existence. They must structure their desires within belief systems—Paradigms—that make magic possible. Until a mage comes into her power, she must cast Effects using the tools and procedures her Paradigm demands. These are called Instruments. Instruments can take as many forms as there are Paradigms: a Hermetic wizard might use traditional wands or staffs, while a Singularity Architect hacker could work their magick through a high-end laptop or smartphone. Mystic mages can cast Effects without Instruments, but doing so is difficult: the mage takes a -3 penalty on the roll and must spend a point of Willpower for every Effect they create. Technostic mages (such as the Society of Ether, Singularity Architect, and all members of the Technocracy), and a few mystics whose are particularly reliant on props and ceremonies, cannot cast Effects at all without Instruments and receive the Instrument Dependence Condition during character creation.

Instrument Dependence (Persistent)
Your character’s Paradigm is extremely formal or close-minded. She cannot cast Effects without access to her Instruments.
Possible Sources: Wu Lung, Society of Ether, Singularity Architect, extremely formal Hermetics, all Technocrats.
Resolution: You adopt a more flexible Paradigm or attain Gnosis 6. Technocrats must attain Enlightenment 10.
Beat: You are unable to cast an Effect at an inconvenient time.
At Gnosis 2, mystic mages realize that magick comes from internal excellence, not from external props, and can begin to discard the Instruments of their Practices. At that point, the mage no longer needs to use Instruments to cast Effects from a single Sphere. From then onward, she may “free” one additional Sphere per dot of Gnosis—three at Gnois 3, four at Gnosis 4, and so forth. By Gnosis 10, she can use tools but no longer needs to do so.

Technomancers (and a few more close-minded mystics), by definition, find it difficult to do that—they do, after all, see “via technology.” A mystically oriented technomancer cannot discard instruments until Gnosis 6. From then on, however, she realizes that her understanding transcends her need for technology, and she can free two Spheres per dot in Gnosis instead of one.

Members of the Technocracy, thanks to their thorough indoctrination, cannot transcend the need for Instruments at all. Those rare Technocrats to achieve Enlightenment 10 assume that they, their instruments, and their approach to science are all one integrated whole. Technocratic oracles are essentially ghosts in the Machine: human consciousness incarnated in technology.

The following table indicates how many Spheres characters must use Instruments to cast Effects from:

Gnosis Spheres (Mystic) Spheres (Technomancer) Spheres (Technocrat)
1 9 9 9
2 8 9 9
3 7 9 9
4 6 9 9
5 5 9 9
6 4 8 9
7 3 6 9
8 2 4 9
9 1 2 9
10 0 0 0

Mana is called Quintessence.

Improvising: Casting improvised Effects does not cost a point of Quintessence.

Pattern Restoration: Healing a point of bashing damage costs two points of Quintessence.

Designer’s Notes: This was weird. Lethal damage should be costlier to heal than bashing.

Gaining Quintessence

Hallows are called Nodes.

Lucidity replaces Wisdom as MtA’s Morality trait. It represents a mage’s ability to distinguish between the Consensus and their own Paradigm. High-Lucidity mages are intelligible, able to comprehend other points of view, and can easily blend in among Sleeper society (though whether they choose to be and do those things is another matter). Low-Lucidity mages are archetypical mad wizards who grow increasingly trapped in their own Paradigms, disregardful of social norms, and divorced from the Consensus. Eventually, they fall and become Marauders.

Roll results for Lucidity rolls are as follows:

Botch: Your character not only loses a dot of Lucidity from her complete disregard for the world around her, but she advances two stages of Quiet (none to moderate, mild to severe). If she already suffers from moderate Quiet, she advances to severe Quiet and a hobgoblin manifests. If she already suffers from severe Quiet, she instead loses two dots of Lucidity, and a hobgoblin manifests.

Failure: Your character loses a dot of Lucidity, as she fails to see the consequences and ripples from her actions. She advances one stage of Quiet (none to mild, mild to moderate, moderate to severe). If she already suffers from severe Quiet, a hobgoblin manifests.

Success: No changes.

Exceptional Success: Your character’s Lucidity is reinforced by examining the risk and consequences of her actions. Take an additional Arcane Beat from the epiphany. She also regresses one stage of Quiet (severe to moderate, moderate to mild, mild to none).

Lucidity uses the following Acts of Hubris. The GM should use these examples as guidelines for other instances when a mage ignores the Consensus in favor of heir own vision of reality.

Lucidity 9-10, Enlightened (5 dice)
• Acting on your Paradigm in trivially hurtful ways (ie, mocking another mage for following different beliefs).
• Using magick to accomplish something you could do through mundane methods with little or no risk (ie, boiling tea with Forces).
• Altering another being’s Pattern with magick in harmless but non-consensual ways (ie, making someone fall asleep).
• Casting vulgar magick.
• Accumulating more than 5 Paradox dice.
• Spending more than a day in the Penumbra.

Lucidity 7-8, Understanding (4 dice)
• Inflicting temporary harm on another being’s pattern with magick (injuring someone, forcing a person to relive a painful memory, etc.).
• Allowing a Sleeper to witness obvious magick.
• Using magick for petty ends (minor theft, embarrassing or inconveniencing someone, misdemeanor-worthy offenses).
• Accumulating more than 10 Paradox dice.
• Spending more than a week in the Penumbra, a day in the Near Umbra, or visiting the Deep Umbra.

Lucidity 5-6, Typical (3 dice)
• Inflicting long-term or significant harm on another being’s Pattern with magick (crippling or beating someone into a coma, forcing someone to make an Integrity or Lucidity roll, etc.).
• Allowing several Sleepers to witness obvious magick.
• Using magick for selfish ends (arson, grand larceny, rape, felony-worthy offenses).
• Accumulating more than 15 Paradox dice.
• Spending more than a month in the Penumbra, a week in the Near Umbra, or a day in the Deep Umbra.
• Moderate mental trauma (physical brain damage, kidnapped, expected death of a loved one, etc.).

Lucidity 3-4, Unstable (2 dice)
• Killing another being or otherwise inflicting grievous and irrevocable harm on their Pattern with magick (turning a man into a pig, driving someone permanently insane, etc.)
• Allowing a large group of Sleepers to witness obvious magick.
• Accumulating more than 20 Paradox dice.
• Spending more than three months in the Penumbra, a month in the Near Umbra, or a week in the Deep Umbra.
• Severe mental trauma (raped, tortured, unexpected death of a loved one, etc.)

Lucidity 1-2, Near-Mad (1 die)
• Committing mass murder or similar atrocities with magick.
• Destroying an Avatar.
• Preventing an Avatar from Awakening.
• Allowing a whole crowd (or more) of Sleepers to witness obvious magick.
• Spending more than three months in the Near Umbra or a month in the Deep Umbra.
• Unspeakable mental trauma (tortured by Nephandi, witness a Malfean’s or archdemon’s true form, etc.).

Lucidity 0, Mad One:
• A character with no Lucidity becomes a Marauder and an NPC under control of the GM.

Trauma: For the most part, Lucidity assumes that a mage’s degree of disconnection from reality is a result of their own actions and choices. However, there are numerous factors beyond a willworker’s control that can damage (or completely destroy) their mental well-being. Botched Mind Sphere rolls; extended torture or Social Conditioning; devastating personal loss; massive Mind Sphere attacks (that inflict lethal damage equal to the character’s Health or worse); physical brain damage or witnessing unspeakable horrors (mundane or supernatural) can all provoke rolls to see if a character loses Lucidity and enters Quiet. Mages are by nature more inured to the World of Darkness’ terrors than ordinary mortals, but there are still no end of things that can destroy their sanity.

Sidebar: Nephandi and Lucidity
All Nephandi have Lucidity scores of 0. These corrupt mages are walking avatars of Oblivion and are completely unable to relate to the world outside of their nihilistic Paradigms. Nephandi are exempt from ever making Lucidity rolls and cannot become Marauders—they’ve already hit rock bottom.
It is some small mercy that mages cannot become Nephandi simply by dropping to Lucidity 0. The only way for a character to join the Fallen is by knowingly entering a Caul of their own free will. Assuming the mage survives the experience, the new Nephandus’ Lucidity score immediately drops to 0 and the person they once were is forever lost.
Most mages consider such a fate worse than death. To those deranged willworkers hovering on the brink of total insanity, however, striking a devil’s bargain with the Nephandi is one way to avoid becoming a Marauder. Given the instinctive loathing that even the Mad Ones exhibit towards the Fallen, however, few mages consider such damnation a preferable alternative.

When mages hit certain points in their hubris,
they can turn their madness outwards, manifesting an external snag in reality in order to accept the new un-reality in their head as real.

Whenever a mage loses Lucidity from an Act of Hubris, he can choose to accept a persistent Paradox Condition. He thereafter becomes immune to losing Lucidity from that Act of Hubris. If he ever resolves the Paradox Condition, this protection fades with it. Greater Acts of Hubris require the mage to accept more crippling Paradox Conditions, as shown below:

Lucidity Act of Hubris Paradox Condition
8-10 Minor
5-7 Significant
3-4 Severe
1-2 Drastic

Mages depend upon clear minds in order to do what they do. And yet—in another layer of paradox—they also inhabit a state of metaphysical insanity in which they choose to deny the reality that everyone else accepts. The Awakening is a sort of madness in which a person can no longer see or accept what passes for reality among most other people. And so, a mage occasionally loses track of reality altogether, drifting or plunging into the state often known as Quiet.

Essentially a state of disassociation and disconnection, Quiet sets a mage adrift from any reality except her own. At its lower levels, this leads to irrational actions and momentary delusions. At the higher end of the spectrum, this Wizard’s Twilight manifests those delusions in forms that other people can see, or else it drops the mage into a prison of her own mind’s making. At the extreme end of such disconnection, the mage becomes a Marauder, essentially oblivious to the world outside her head.

As with Resonance, Quiet often depends upon a mage’s actions. A stiff-necked, intolerant character is more likely to gravitate toward Denial, whereas a libertine drifts into Madness and a hot-tempered killer falls to Morbidity. People often view Quiet as a single sort of malady; as the Types of Quiet section shows, however, metaphysical un-sanity follows the choices made while sane. Like magic, Quiet is an extension of the mage. From the chronicle’s standpoint, then, your character will probably get the breakdown she deserves.

Baseline Reality: What is crazy by a mage’s standards, anyway? After all, when your entire existence is based around denying and remaking the reality that other people take for granted, aren’t you crazy by default? Yes and no, which is why Quiet is so dangerous for the Awakened. Psychologists and philosophers often refer to baseline reality—that is, the level of reality that’s generally acceptable to a person or society. The Consensus, for example, presents a massive baseline reality. Around that baseline reality, though, everyone’s got a bit of wiggle room: one person may believe in angels, another in the Old Gods, and a third in nothing at all. All three people, however, accept a baseline reality in which objects fall down, the sun rises in the east, and certain temperatures freeze or boil things.

Mages use their beliefs and practices to alter baseline reality. Even then, however, they still maintain their own frame of reference. A Hermetic wizard might invoke angels to cause a typhoon, but he accepts that his friends are his friends, that his sword is a sword, and that there isn’t a fat little naked version of himself sitting on his shoulder belching Macc Lads songs in his ear. However, if he does start seeing that fat little naked version of himself, or believing that his friends are conspiring against him, or perceiving his rune-encrusted sword as a singing waffle iron, then that wizard is beginning to go crazy. His baseline reality has shifted into the Twilight Zone.

For all that talk about crazy wisdom, a smart mage keeps an eye on his sanity. The power of flexibility carries the price of vigilance. Each practitioner of mystic or Enlightened Arts has a responsibility the world at large: Don’t make your practice, goes one saying, everybody else’s problem. Such vigilance also explains why so many mages gather into groups—allies can provide sanity checks—and why solitary mages often go batshit insane.

In game and story terms, Quiet occurs when the mage’s normal perspective and perceptions about what is and is not real shift toward irrational levels. Even by the standards of his sect and paradigm, that person’s baseline reality enters hazardous terrain. As many real-life mystics see it, madness is that place where your perceptions and behavior make you a danger to yourself and everyone around you. Each mage has a different baseline reality, and some of them get pretty eccentric. When eccentricity becomes delusion and potential violence, however, most Awakened folks would agree that that a person’s going insane. And for beings with the power to mold Reality, insanity’s a truly awful thing.

Storytelling Quiet: Game-wise, an episode of Quiet is best handled as a story arc within the ongoing chronicle:

• The Storyteller makes some plans, based around a particular character’s personality and actions, and decides how this particular case of Quiet will manifest.

• Selecting from among the types and symptoms of Quiet described below, he determines the early effects of the Quiet insanity.

• When the character fails a Lucidity roll, or the Storyteller spends Paradox Reach incurred through the Mind Sphere, the Storyteller begins slipping notes to the player, describing the delusions or suggesting irrational acts.

• Instead of, or in addition to, the notes, the Storyteller might start introducing weird objects or characters (the hobgoblins) into the story, as if they’re perfectly normal parts of the tale.

• And, of course, if the mage fails further Lucidity rolls, the Quiet grows deeper and more irrational… possibly turning her into a Marauder if the madness goes too far.

Most players enjoy a chance to go crazy and will probably take an episode of Quiet and run with it to delightfully demented extremes. Just remember: Insanity is not cute or fun. We can’t emphasize that enough. Quiet should be an unnerving and potentially ruinous experience.

The onset of insanity can be gradual or sudden, depending on the circumstances of the afflicted person. Most often, though, it begins with subtle quirks of perception and behavior, rising (or falling) steadily into a deeper sense of dislocation from the reality shared by everybody else.

In game terms, Quiet follows three levels, starting with the sort of minor quirks that anyone could have, but then progressing, or regressing, toward dangerous irrationality. Each one imposes its own persistent Condition.

Levels Of Quiet: The crazier you get, the crazier you act. In game terms, Quiet ranges from minor afflictions (mild) to pronounced afflictions (moderate) to total dementia (severe). At a level more extreme than that, the character goes irrevocably insane and becomes one of the Marauders—a permanent convert to the reality in her head.

Mild Quiet: Concealable quirks and delusions; mage perceives things that no one else can see, starts denying the experiences of other people, and begins to behave irrationally even by Awakened standards.

Moderate Quiet: Mage’s senses backfire, creating blindness (real or conceptual), vivid hallucinations, and erratic—perhaps dangerous—behavior. Hobgoblins might appear, manifesting the mage’s delusions in ways that other people can perceive.

Severe Quiet: Mage either gets trapped in a mindscape of his own design or else behaves so irrationally that he becomes a danger to himself and everyone nearby.

Marauder: Marauders essentially exist in states of permanent (and even more severe) Quiet. A player character who goes Marauder should be essentially dead to the player, reverting to the Storyteller as a supporting character in the ongoing chronicle. Although a Storyteller might choose to allow Marauder player characters, such characters can easily destroy a game.

Rising Out Of Quiet: A character who’s aware of her declining mental state (in game terms, has committed an action under Quiet’s influence that granted an Arcane Beat) can try to shake off the delusions or irrational behavior. To do so, the character spends a point of Willpower and rolls Resolve + Composure. This roll takes a -1 penalty if the Quiet is mild, -3 if the Quiet is moderate, and -5 if the Quiet is severe.

Dramatic Failure: The mage’s delusions persist and manifest as a hobgoblin (see below).

Failure: The mage’s delusions persist.

Success: The mage manages to assert her will over her delusions. Although the madness isn’t gone, she keeps a clear head and gets through the next few moments intact. Game-wise, the effects of Quiet are suppressed until the start of the next scene.

Exceptional Success: As success, and the mage so totally rejects her delusions that she regains the spent Willpower point.

Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options: With a lot of effort and Willpower, it’s possible for a mage to will herself sane. There are several ways to resolve Quiet Conditions:

• The mage raises her Lucidity score by spending the necessary Arcane Experiences. This completely removes all levels of Quiet. Raising Lucidity, however, should only be permitted after the mage has undertaken meaningful effort to act in a sane manner and use her magick responsibly (or at least, within the framework established by her Paradigm). This can become a dramatic story element, especially if the character’s in the middle of some existential or external crisis that forces her to sort her shit out fast before ongoing events make things worse.

• The mage achieves an exceptional success on an Act of Hubris roll. This reduces her Quiet by one step—severe to moderate, moderate to mild, and mild to none.

• The mage uses a Demesne to purge herself of mental afflictions. See the Demesne Merit description for further details.

• Other characters can try to help a mage recover from Quiet; doing so, however, typically involves some powerful roleplaying, a few Social or Mental-based rolls, and an extended roll in which the healing character uses Mind 4 / Prime 4 to drive out the madness within the suffering mage’s mind. As a base guideline, assume that the Effect costs Quintessence and can reduce the mage’s Quiet by one level per casting. The particulars of such curing efforts are left to the individual players and Storytellers. Whatever it takes, however, the cure should not be easy. After all, if fixing Quiet were easy, no mage would fear this madness, and yet, all sensible mages do.

• Pattern Scouring, it should be noted, cannot be used to resolve Quiet Conditions.

Although sometimes considered a peculiar strain of Paradox, Quiet is, in many ways, its own beast—a symptom of dissociation from the Consensus to which any mage, regardless of affiliation, remains vulnerable. It’s the flipside of that godlike power to rework reality, the place where no reality exists except the one you perceive. Mages recognize several different types of insanity:

Mistakenly known as Clarity in Mage Revised (there’s nothing clear-headed about it), Denial shuts out things the mage does not want to recognize. A common malady among Sleepers as well as the Awakened, this delusion categorically denies things, people, or circumstances that a person refuses to accept. Essentially, you don’t believe in it, therefore it cannot possibly exist.

Denial has another awful feature too: A person—mage or otherwise—in a state of denial often acts out the things she denies. The jealous lover cheats on her spouse; the bully-hater bullies people; the religious fanatic murders innocents because they weren’t holy enough. “What you repress,” the saying goes, “you express.” As a result, a Black Suit who denies the existence of witchcraft might find himself practicing witchcraft as a joke, or worse, doing so without even recognizing the things he’s doing as witchcraft (“That’s ridiculous—you’re the one who’s crazy.”). This sort of shadow-projection is less a matter of hypocrisy than of delusion—the insane person literally does not see what he’s doing. Such delusions are bad enough when Sleepers have them. Backed up by the metaphysical power of a mage, though, they can have fearsome effects on that person’s world.

Denial Quiet robs a mage of clear perceptions. She won’t see things that are there, all the while insisting upon things that are not. Often associated with the Technocracy (who don’t use magic—oh no, perish the thought!), this form of Quiet can strike any type of mage. A Celestial Chorister could hate people in the name of love; a Weaver could command demons in the name of Allah; an Akashic could become a harmonious monster. When Nephandi tempters cast their webs, they love to inspire Denial-type Quiets… and, because Denial blocks out what the mage doesn’t want to see, such weapons become their most effective shields as well. (“Nope, no Nephandi here—not one! Believe me, if there were, I’d know…”)

Denial, Mild (Persistent)
At the lower end of the spectrum, Denial manifests as a stubborn refusal to perceive stuff that’s obvious to everybody else. No, there is NOT a dragon sitting in the middle of Main Street; no, Islam is NOT a real religion; no, magick does NOT exist—that’s just a bunch of Superstitionist nonsense propagated by Reality Deviants, and the sooner we purge it from the Earth, the happier everyone will be.
The GM should choose a single delusion the character adheres to. When the character wants to resist it, she can do so as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Resolution: Your character wills herself sane as detailed under “Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options.”
Arcane Beat: You adhere to your delusional belief at an inconvenient time.

Denial, Moderate (Persistent)
As Denial grows stronger, it begins to manifest as literal blindness or deafness to circumstances… or worse, blindness/ deafness to anything but a twisted version of them: why did you call me a fat pig?; no, you never told me that Master Porthos is dead; I HEARD you planning to kill me and sell my body off for spare parts. Delusions block out or pervert the reality experienced by everyone around the mage, and things that were once annoying quirks of behavior can become frightening and dangerous.
The GM should choose a single delusion the character adheres to. Whenever something occurs that would contradict the delusion, the GM can impose a sensory-depriving Condition such as Blind or Deaf on the character. This blindness/deafness is selective and only affects the portions of reality the mage cannot will herself to perceive. This Condition does not resolve normally, but fades when the source of the delusion disappears. The character can also force the Condition to immediately resolve as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Resolution: Your character wills herself sane as detailed under “Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options.”
Arcane Beat: You adhere to your delusional belief at an inconvenient time, or fulfill the normal criteria to resolve Blind or Deaf.

Denial, severe (Persistent)
At the highest level of Quiet, Denial can reshape the world in that mage’s immediate vicinity. People might lose their voices in her presence, blurt out things they would never have said under their own power, or even disappear until the mage leaves the room. This explains the weird reality warps that often follow a Marauder attack: blanked hard drives, fuzzy photos or videos, people who swear that nothing odd just happened even as the fire trucks arrive at the scene of mass destruction. The mage’s delusion becomes part of localized reality, externalizing her refusal to accept certain things into the temporary disappearance of those things from the reality around her.
The GM should choose a single delusion the character adheres to. Whenever something occurs that would contradict the delusion, an environmental alteration manifests. The character can still try to resist her delusion as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet”, but its effects may not be so easily banished. A dramatic failure on the Resolve + Composure roll to rise out of Quiet grants the environmental alteration an additional number of Reach equal to (11 – mage’s Lucidity) instead of summoning a hobgoblin.
Resolution: Your character wills herself sane as detailed under “Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options.”
Arcane Beat: You fail a roll due to the environmental alteration, or the environmental alteration causes some other difficulty or inconvenience.

The most infamous and common form of Quiet, Madness showers the afflicted mage with mood swings and delusions. Often associated with the Marauders and other clearly demented willworkers, such hallucinatory perceptions and volatile behaviors start out as little quirks but then swell to sanity-rupturing proportions.

Sometimes known as Dementia, Madness turns you into a prisoner of your own mind. Senses feed you incorrect perceptions; things and people who are not there appear as solid as you are; surges of emotion or calm drag you along emotional roller coasters, with often inappropriate results (making fart jokes at a funeral, grabbing your teenage son’s crotch). And while the dotty old wizard might seem amusing in theory, the maniac who has the power to turn people inside out without even realizing what he’s done is a terrifying figure indeed.

Although it can manifest in subtle ways—sounds or scents without a source, strange fluctuations of color or proportion—madness has ultimately unsubtle consequences. The mage can try to keep things together for a while, and he may even successfully wave off or ignore the early manifestations of delusion. When the hallucinations become too strong, however… or, still worse, start running around as self-willed hobgoblins… that’s when the Quiet becomes too powerful to ignore. The mage himself might still think he’s sane, but his version of sanity looks pretty cracked to everybody else.

Madness (Mild)
Madness often starts as tiny ripples of unreality or distortion. Did I just hear the phone ring? Did someone call my name? Who’s smoking in here—I thought I was alone? In many cases, the symptoms begin as extensions of the mage’s tools and Practice: great ‘shrooms, man… hey, when do they wear OFF? Hmmmm… I thought I had dispelled that ghost… Beyond that, Madness might set in as sudden mood swings or implacable obsessions, unquenchable urges or hyperfocused monomania. And because such things aren’t uncommon among the Awakened, Madness only gets worse from there…
Once per chapter, the GM may inflict one of the following bouts of madness upon the character. Each one lasts for a scene:
Hallucinations: The character suffers from a non-visual hallucination, such as a sound or smell. Onlookers may buy into the delusion (“Did you hear someone knocking at the door?”) or think the mage is acting strangely, but they aren’t likely to immediately suspect she’s insane. The character can attempt to disbelieve the hallucination by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Mood Swings: The character overreacts to upsetting and other emotionally charged experiences, though her behavior is still normal within the context of the situation. She might start a fight with a significant other who cancels a planned dinner, but she won’t end the relationship. The character can react normally to the situation by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Obsessions: The mage becomes fixated with pursuing her Obsessions. She must spend Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet” if she wants to turn down an opportunity to pursue her Obsession that doesn’t risk her life or endanger an important obligation.
Resolution: Your character wills herself sane as detailed under “Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options”.
Arcane Beat: Your episode of madness causes a problem or inconvenience for you.

Madness (Moderate)
By the time Dementia becomes obvious, the mage has already hit a downward slide. Obsessions, aberrant behavior, hair-trigger passions, and vivid hallucinations take hold. Objects, impressions, or images manifest: graffiti, phantom phone calls, floating spiders in the air. Meanwhile, the afflicted character behaves erratically, reacting to things from a deluded impression of reality.
Three times per chapter, the GM may inflict one of the following bouts of madness upon the character. Each one lasts for a scene:
Hallucinations: The character suffers from full-on visual hallucinations, seeing and reacting to things that aren’t actually there. This is classic schizophrenia, and onlookers can easily recognize the madness for what it is. The character can attempt to disbelieve the hallucinations by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Mood Swings: The character wildly overreacts to upsetting and other emotionally charged circumstances. Her behavior is decidedly abnormal for the situation, though doesn’t yet violate basic social mores. She might break up with a significant other for canceling a planned dinner, but wouldn’t physically attack him. The character can react normally to the situation by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Obsessions: The mage becomes fixated with pursuing her Obsessions. She must spend Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet” if she wants to turn down an opportunity to pursue her Obsession that doesn’t risk her life.
Resolution: Your character wills herself sane as detailed under “Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options”.
Arcane Beat: Your episode of madness causes a problem or inconvenience for you.

Madness (Severe)
Madness attains its most frightening degree: wild visions that other people start to see, violent behavior, hazardous fixations, or total catatonia. The mage might suffer from metaphysical autism, withdrawing from her surroundings even while apparently awake. She’ll chant nonsense, shit her drawers, and tangle Reality in the strands of her personal insanity. Eventually, the mage either detaches herself from baseline reality and falls into a mindscape, or else becomes a raving lunatic with the powers of a god. Either way, she could easily morph into a Marauder and be lost for good.
Every scene, the character must roll their Lucidity as a dice pool at -3. On a failure, the GM may inflict one of the following bouts of madness upon the character. Each one lasts for a scene:
Environmental Alteration: An environmental alteration warps the mage’s surroundings. See Environmental Alterations, below, for further information. The character can will her madness not to physically manifest by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Hallucinations: The mage’s delusions take on a life of their own, causing a hobgoblin to appear. See Hobgoblins, below, for further information.
Mood Swings: The character reacts insanely to upsetting and other emotionally charged circumstances, such as physically attacking her significant other for canceling a planned dinner. The character can react normally to the situation by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet.”
Obsessions: The mage must constantly look for ways to pursue her Obsession, no matter the danger or consequences she might face. She can suppress her fixation for a scene by spending Willpower as detailed under “Rising Out of Quiet”.
Whenever the character would take an Arcane Beat from this Condition, roll her Lucidity as a dice pool. On a failure, she enters a mindscape and takes another Arcane Beat. See Mindscapes, below, for further information.
Resolution: Your character wills herself sane as detailed under “Curing Quiet? Some Dramatic Options”.
Arcane Beat: Your episode of madness causes a problem or inconvenience for you.

Work in progress

Mages remake reality to suit their desires… and so, when those mages go insane, their insanity affects Reality as well. Beyond the behavior changes and internal delusions that characterize a Quiet, the following manifestations change the world around a demented mage, reflecting often-subconscious applications of magic.

Little minds aren’t the only kind of minds that suffer from hobgoblins. That term also refers to the self-willed hallucinations that take shape and direction from the mind of an insane mage. Rooted in the fears, conflicts, and memories of an afflicted willworker, a hobgoblin embodies things that the mage in question would rather deny.

Game-wise, a hobgoblin comes into play when a player either botches a roll to wish away the madness, or reaches a level of Quiet where that character’s delusions attain recognizable form. The mage takes an Arcane Beat when this occurs. A hobgoblin can appear as anything: a smear of paint, a cry of pain, a religious tract that shows up tucked inside every book on the mage’s shelf, the vision of an old enemy or lover, a TV broadcast no one else can see, a song that plays over and over in her head, a stranger shouting on the corner, a car that speeds toward the mage in traffic… the possibilities are limited only by the mage’s backstory and the Storyteller’s imagination. Many hobgoblins manifest as doppelgangers: evil twins (or perhaps good ones) whose deeds embarrass the mage in question. Others appear as lost children, crusading reporters, tearful relatives, or other personifications of guilt or irritation.

A typical hobgoblin lasts for (11 – Lucidity) days, though some can last much longer than that; if the hobgoblin becomes a character, it uses the rules systems for Horrors (see p. 140 of the Chronicles of Darkness core rulebook) and has potency dots equal to the mage’s Gnosis. The Storyteller can also have multiple, weaker hobgoblins appear instead of a single stronger one, as indicated on the below chart. Although only a finite number of hobgoblins can manifest at once, there’s really no upper limit to how many can stick around to bedevil a mage…

Number of Hobgoblins Potency Dots
1 Mage’s Gnosis
2 Mage’s Gnosis – 1
3 Mage’s Gnosis – 2
4 Mage’s Gnosis – 3
Every +1 (Number of hobgoblins – 1)

A truly powerful Quiet can spread outward from the mage’s mind to alter the landscape and living beings nearby. As noted earlier in this section, things can shift without conscious effort on the mage’s part: weather patterns could manifest, the ground might tremble, music might play, and people could be rendered silent. A crowd of people could turn, temporarily, into zombies or birds. Packs of rats, dogs, or naked toddlers might manifest out of thin air to chase the mage down the street. Such alterations come only from mages with great powers and potent madness. When they appear, however, these manifestations can be pretty fucking weird. Mages responsible for such such Fortean phenomena are halfway to Maraudertown on a greased-tracks bullet train.

In game terms, treat environmental alterations as Paradox External Anomalies, with Reach equal to (11 – mage’s Lucidity). Whenever the mage fails a Lucidity roll or takes an Arcane Beat from a Quiet Condition in the active presence of an alteration, roll (11 – Lucidity) as a dice pool; every success adds one additional Reach to the alteration. On a dramatic failure, automatically add (11 – Lucidity) Reach to the alteration.

Work in progress

No changes. Mages often refer to Long-Term Nimbus and Immediate Nimbus as Resonance.

In Mage: The Awakening, truth is objective: all magic stems from a single source and everything that obfuscates it composes the Lie. In Mage: The Ascension, truth is subjective, and magick stems from the force of a mage’s personal beliefs. High Speech consequently does not exist, as there is no single ur-tongue that Technocrats, Dreamspeakers, Hermetics, and Wu Lung all consider equally significant under their respective belief systems. This hasn’t stopped scholars from postulating as to the existence of a hypothetical Adamic or Enochian first language, but the nature of subjective reality makes the point largely moot. If such a tongue did exist, mages would interpret it differently through the lenses of their Paradigms, and the form in which they understood it would mean something else to other mages: in effect, a separate language.

See the section on Yantras/Semiotics for how High Speech’s removal functions mechanically.

This power is trimmed and doesn’t exist.

Awakening and Ascension are both games about playing wizards in a horror/dark urban fantasy setting, but they’re still very distinct, arguably even more so than Masquerade and Requiem are. Mages in Awakening are truth-seekers and mystery-solvers who want to transcend the Lie of the material world. Mages in Ascension are dogmatists fighting an ideological war to sway mankind’s beliefs and reshape reality. They aren’t interested in solving mysteries so much as they are in imposing their own view of how things should be upon the world. Individual mages have (lots of) options to be good at playing detective, if that’s their shtick, but as an entire gamesplat they don’t need a mystery-solving power when that isn’t their focus.

Designer’s Notes: Also, at five pages long, Mage Sight is a stupidly complex power. I have no interest in devoting the requisite time and effort to understanding its full intricacies, as either a player or a GM. Especially as a GM, I have no interest in adjudicating its (mis-)use during play when players who’ve only read it once ask constant questions about how it works, get details wrong, or simply don’t bother using it at all. Mage’s game mechanics are already complex enough.

Supernal entities (and the Supernal Realms) do not exist in the Classic World of Darkness. The Umbra’s infinitely varied Umbrood provide more than enough critters for a would-be summoner to call upon.

Additionally, WF/B&B already utilize general summoning rules that allow any character (mage or not) to call forth Umbrood into the world without needing True Magick, making the summoning rules for Awakening conceptually and mechanically redundant. Mages can either use the non-magickal (but Paradox-free) summoning rites available to everyone, or can use Spheres to come up with their own custom-tailored summoning Effects, the same as they would any other magickal effect. They don’t need their own special non-Sphere-based summoning rules that non-Awakened folks can’t use.

There are a number of reasons why a mage might use True Magick to summon Umbrood despite the risk of Paradox. While un-Awakened mortal occultists believe their summoning rites channel real power, mages know better: such rites simply alert nearby ephemeral entities as to the summoner’s presence and create attractive conditions for them to manifest across the Gauntlet under. These rites do not actually bring the entity into the world under their own power, but rely on the entitity itself to do so. Consequently, they can only “summon” Umbrood that are currently in the Penumbra. True Magick, however, can summon Umbrood from anywhere in the Tapestry, take a fraction of the time to perform, call forth multiple entities, summon entities against their will, and accomplish any other feat the caster desires. As ever, the only limit on a mage’s willworking is their imagination… and willingness to face Paradox.

Soul stones do not exist in Mage: The Ascension.

Demesnes as described in Mage: The Awakening do not exist. Demesnes exist in Mage: The Ascension as something completely different. See the Demesne Merit description for further details.

Social Merits

Merit Name Prerequisites Description
Chantry/Construct - Mystic or Technocratic stronghold.
Devotees - Group of dedicated believers.
[[Familiar/Companion]] - Non-human helper with special abilities.
Mentor - An elder mage who advises and supports the character.
Requisitions Technocrat Access to Technocratic hardware.
Sanctum/Laboratory - A special place to work your arts.
Status (Mages) - The character’s standing and respect in Awakened society.
Status (Amalgam/Cabal) - Membership in a Technocratic amalgam or mystic cabal.
[[Status (Convention/Craft/Sect/Tradition)]] - The character’s standing and respect in her Convention, Craft, Sect, or Tradition.
[[Status (Nephandi/Nine Traditions/Technocracy)]] - The character’s standing and respect among the Nephandi, Council of Nine Traditions, or Technocratic Union.

Merit Name Prerequisites Description
Ars Vulgaris - Casting vulgar magick in front of Sleepers doesn’t phase you.
Protean Psyche - Shapeshifting doesn’t phase you.

Merit Name Prerequisites Description
Enhancement Technomancer Cybernetic or biotech improvements to your body.

Supernatural Merits

Merit Name Prerequisites Description
Blessing - Strange powers gave you an uncanny gift.
Fountainhead - You are a living Node and produce your own Quintessence.
Immunity - Complete protection from a single peril.
Legend - A potent archetype connected to you.
Manifest Avatar - You can see and interact with your Avatar on a regular basis.
Natural Vessel - The capacity to store additional Quintessence.
Node - A place of power that produces Quintessence.
Sanctum/Laboratory - Special place to work your arts.
Wonder - A Talisman, Fetish, or Device that contains its own reality-bending power.

Mental Merits

Ars Vulgaris (•••)

Prerequisite: Lucidity 5 or lower

Effect: You have little respect for reality and perform vulgar magick without batting an eye. You do not have to make Lucidity rolls for casting vulgar magick in the presence of Sleepers, though you still accumulate Paradox as normal. This Merit is much respected by some of the Order of Hermes.

Chantry/Construct (• to •••••)

Effect: In the hazardous world of the Awakened, it’s always a good idea to have some like-minded associates and a stronghold with some fair security. Since the Golden Age of Wizardry, such places have been called Covenants: centers where a group of allied mages stake out territory, consolidate resources, and agreed to assist and defend one another when need be. In later years, the Order of Reason adopted that idea and built the Technocratic Union around that principle. By the 20th century, Tradition mages call those places Chantries, the Union calls them Constructs, and other mages call them by whatever sounds like a culturally appropriate name (temple, lodge, mosque, etc.).

In game terms, a Chantry or Construct is a base of operations. A character with this Merit belongs to such a base and has certain benefits from, and responsibilities to, the group that maintains that base. Most Technocratic agents belong to a Construct by default—that’s just how the Union operates. Mystic mages have a more of a choice about such things, but many of them belong to Chantries as a matter of practicality. There is strength in numbers, after all.

A mage’s position in a Chantry depends on their Status. Because beginning player characters aren’t assumed to have more than a dot or two of Status (at the most), a character with this Merit likely begins as a low-ranking member of an established stronghold. She gets the benefit of a belonging to a group of older and more experienced peers (who are probably Storyteller-run characters), but starts off at the bottom of the pecking order too. The elders have her doing errands and chores around the Chantry, and she lacks political clout within the group. Growing beyond that stage is one of the keys to a young mage’s journey.

A Chantry or Construct can take whatever form seems appropriate. One might be a rural woodland grove; another could be an abandoned movie theater; a third may be a secluded mad laboratory; and a fourth sets up shop in an office building, Viking longhouse, law firm, or machine shop. Low-level Chantries and Constructs have a few mundane resources—some magical wards, a security system, perhaps a handful of un-Awakened aides, communication services, and so forth. At the Mystic Chantry level, the place can get a few paranormal trappings: scrying pools, portals to Horizon Realms, spirit guardians, that sort of thing. Strongholds and Power Centers have extensive mundane and magical / hypertech resources; such places demand huge investments of time, power, labor, and materials. A Power Center likely doesn’t even exist in the material world, but a Horizon Realm of its own in the Umbra.

Merit Dots Description
x No place to call home.
Membership in a tiny Squat.
•• Membership in a small Sanctuary.
••• Membership in an average Chantry or Construct.
•••• Membership in a Stronghold.
••••• Membership in a Power Center.

Devotees (• to •••••)

Effect: Any mage with charisma can have friends; Devotees, however, go beyond mere friendship. These cultists trust and revere your character so deeply that, when gathered and directed, they can lend their beliefs to her rituals.

The nature of your character’s Devotees isn’t important. She might be a religious figure with a congregation, an artist with especially devoted fans, a professor whose students literally revere her, or any other similar arrangement. What matters is the belief: Your character’s Devotees accept her as someone who works wonders, and they want to be part of that magic, and so they are.

For every dot in this Merit, add a +1 bonus to spellcasting rolls for ritual spells that the Devotees are present to assist and lend their common belief towards. Such rituals can involve either mystic Arts or technomagick, so long as everyone participates. In most cases, all characters involved must occupy the same physical space during the ritual; a potential exception could be made for a networked group linked by Mind magic or conference technology (a LAN party, video conference, and so forth). Again, though, the helpers must hold absolute conviction and be free—at least for the moment—from outside distractions.

Devotees are typical Sleepers: Not especially skillful or accomplished beyond their utter faith in you. More powerful helpers are Allies, Retainers, part of a Cult, or other major characters. These people, though, have some vital reason to believe in what your character does. On her end, then, she must fulfill their trust. If she wants their trust, then at least appear to be the person they expect her to be. If their faith wavers, then she loses this Merit’s benefits and the Experience is refunded per Sanctity of Merits.

It’s possible to have more Devotees than the numbers listed here, of course—a popular evangelist might have a flock that numbers in the hundreds. After a certain point, though, they can help your character only so much. The five-dot rank in this Merit offers the maximum benefit for Devotees.

Merit Dots Description
x No Devotes.
Tiny number of Devotees: 3-7 people. Add a +1 bonus the dice pool of a ritual cast with that group’s assistance.
•• Small number of Devotees: 8-12 people. Add a +2 bonus to rituals cast when that group is gathered.
••• Moderate number of Devotees: 13-17 people. Add a +3 bonus to rituals cast in the presence of the whole group.
•••• Large number of Devotees: 18-22 people. Add a +4 bonus to rituals cast with that group behind them.
••••• Huge number of Devotees, between 23-30 people. Add a +5 bonus to rituals cast when the entire cult has gathered.

Designer’s Notes: This Merit was called Cult under MtAs’s original rules. I think it’s a more appropriate name, but Cult is taken for something else under CofD rules. C’est la vie.

Mentor (• to •••••)

Effect: An “elder” mage has taken an interest in you and provides training, guidance, and occasional assistance. Note that said elder might be your own age or even younger, said training could consist of dropping you off rooftops, said guidance may involve more Yodaisms than a Karate Kid marathon, and said assistance could boil down to whacking you in the head just after you read that passage in the flesh-bound grimoire. This Merit’s rating reflects how helpful your mentor is for you, above and beyond her personal power. After all, a Hermetic Grand Master isn’t much good for her students if she refuses to do anything other than let them sleep on her floor.

The mentor/ student bond tends to be one of the most influential experiences of a mage’s life. In many cases, the mentor notices some interesting talent in a currently un-Awakened Sleepwalker, initiates the prospective student, and then nurtures and guides that spark as it bursts into full Awakening. This is especially the case with Technocrats, who often get recruited soon before or just after they attain Enlightenment, or else get converted from their previous Reality Deviant careers by an effective Technocratic operative.

Mentors have their own agendas, of course, and those goals aren’t always obvious. Plenty of mages get their first taste of Awakened society from mentors who are distant, abusive, manipulative, uncaring, ineffective, or downright insane. Others, of course, learn from elders who turn out to be loving, caring, insightful, and wise. It really depends on the nature of your mage’s personality, backstory, and affiliation. Technocratic mentors are often (though not always) cold and efficient, whereas mystics can be eccentric, aloof, or any combination of wizardly traits you can imagine.

Game-wise, a Mentor provides some social lubricant, magical or technological training, occasional resources, and perhaps interventions or assistance if your mage really needs help. In return, she’ll expect a certain amount of respect, obedience, and help around the workshop. A student’s behavior, good or bad, reflects upon his mentor, so it’s not wise to abuse this relationship. Especially for a young and inexperienced mage, an angry mentor can be a terrible thing.

As with Allies and Familiar, this Merit represents Storyteller characters with their own Merits, personalities, motivations, and relationships to the world at large. Your Storyteller can (and should) have a blast playing up such characters, running agendas that often remain obscure to the students in their path. Remember the various games being run by elders throughout the Harry Potter saga—games in which the pupils rarely understood what was really going on. Mentors give nothing for nothing; if one has taken a guiding interest in your mage, there’s always something more than simple kindness or duty involved.

Merit Dots Description
x No mentor worth mentioning.
Mentor is an Apprentice (Traditions), Agent (Technocracy), or experienced Nephandus (Nephandi).
•• Mentor is a Disciple (Traditions), experienced Agent (Technocracy), or Adsinistratus (Nephandi).
••• Mentor is an Adept (Traditions), Supervisor (Technocracy), or experienced Adsinistratus (Nephandi).
•••• Mentor is a Master (Traditions), experienced Supervisor (Technocracy), or Prelatus (Nephandi).
••••• Mentor is an Archmage (Traditions), Manager/High Scientist (Technocracy), or Gilledian (Nephandi).
••••• • Mentor is an unfathomably powerful Archmage (Traditions), Old Master (Technocracy), or Gilledian (Nephandi).
••••• •• Mentor is an Oracle (Traditions), Control or the collective Old Masters (Technocracy), or Aswadim (Nephandi).

Sanctum/Laboratory (• to •••••)

Effect: You have a place where you can get away from it all—said “all” being the consensual reality that hinders your Arts and Enlightened Sciences. This place still exists on the Earthly plane, and it’s subject to Paradox… but not as severely. Your Lab or Sanctum is a place of power and privacy, set to fulfill your needs and allow you to hone your skills in relative safety.

A Sanctum can range from a small herb-garden with wards set against intruders and trees planted to screen the place off from casual viewing to small laboratories filled with gleaming scientific gear. Martial arts studios, yoga lofts, sacred groves, basement dens, band practice spaces, penthouse suites, photography studios, tiny shrines on remote mountaintops—the Sanctum or Lab is whatever you want it to be. Essentially, a mage or group secures the place, dedicates it to reflect their needs and wishes, and sets the reality of that space to suit the owners’ purposes. A Progenitor lab might gleam under sterile lights, polished surfaces of steel and glass ready to advance the call of Science. A ritual clearing might nestle in amongst thick forests, old runes cut into trees and stones artfully arranged to emphasize the mystic nature of the place. You might have a blood-spattered basement with chairs of human bones; a bookstore that’s open only at night; a stone tower deep in the wilderness—whatever suits your fancy (and your available resources) is within the grasp of this Merit. In game terms, a Sanctum provides several benefits:

• A relatively private space to conduct experiments, meditate, practice your arts, and so on. Again, this privacy is relative; Technocratic operatives rarely have such places to themselves. Unless a group or individual is extremely wealthy and connected, a Technocratic Laboratory is actually owned and managed by the Union, not by the operatives themselves. Thus, your superiors have their eyes on you even within your sanctuary, and its privacy is more of a courtesy than an absolute.

• A stock of materials you can use—herbs, cauldrons, diagrams, elaborate glyphs carved into the floors, martial arts practice weapons, chemistry arrays, telescopes, microscopes, and so on. This stock depends upon the Merit rating and allows you constant access to whatever it is (within reason) that you need.

• A Sanctum’s specially prepared ritual space (or a Lab’s experimental space) reduces the difficulty of rituals or experiments performed in that area. That reduction depends on the Merit’s dot rating, as shown below.

• A cloaking effect safeguards the place’s location. Essentially, the Sanctum/Laboratory has an Arcane/Cloaking rating based on its Merit dots. You could consider this effect a result of protection wards, concealment fields, an aura of ordinariness, and so on. As long as they stay within the protected area, characters enjoy the protection of this Arcane effect too. (A character who already has the Arcane/Cloaking Merit gets whichever Arcane rating is highest—the rating of the Sanctum or the rating of her Arcane dots—not a combination of both.)

• All Effects cast within the Sanctum are considered coincidental magick, so long as those Effects follow the definition of reality within that sanctuary. Cloning would be coincidental within an Iteration X or Progenitor lab; spirit-summoning would be coincidental on a shaman’s sacred ground; a witch could conjure imps or heal gaping wounds within his Sanctum; but the Black Suit busting down the door would find himself at a distinct disadvantage there because…

• The Effects of rival mages are considered vulgar in your space. That Man in Black’s procedures go against the prevailing reality within that witch’s sanctuary, whereas the witch’s spells run counter to the established reality of a NWO Construct. Rivals who use the same style of magick would be considered equally at home in a Sanctum – two Verbenae, for example, who despise one another but who employ the same paradigms and tools would both be considered coincidental within the same sanctum; an Etherite, however, would find that her weird science is vulgar within that witch’s sacred ground, even if she was allied with one of the rival Verbenae.

• Mystic Sanctums have an additional benefit over technological Laboratories: the Gauntlet rating is one dot lower in a place that’s been dedicated to magick than it is in a similar place than has not been so dedicated. The Gauntlet in a technomagickal Laboratory, on the other hand—like those used by the Society of Ether or Virtual Adepts—is one level higher than it would be otherwise. And a Technocracy Laboratory has a Gauntlet rating of 5 except with regards to Dimensional Science (Spirit) procedures, whose Effects are considered coincidental in an appropriate Technocratic Lab.

Regardless of its nature, this space must be specially prepared by the group or mage who uses it, with constant maintenance (no less than once per month) to keep the space attuned to the people who use it. A Sanctum can be no larger than 500 square feet, and most of them are much smaller than that… typically a room or two. Because this is personal space, it’s often wise to limit the people coming and going throughout your Sanctum. Too much traffic can render a Sanctuary mundane, as far as reality’s Consensus is concerned.

Merit Dots Description
X No Sanctum: You have no secret place of power.
Small Sanctum: A small apartment or 1-2 rooms with a tiny stock of goods.
•• Medium Sanctum: A large apartment or small family home. It holds a small stock of goods.
••• Large Sanctum: A large house, church, or warehouse in which you practice magick. It contains a decent stock of goods.
•••• Huge Sanctum: A mansion, solitary keep, one to several skyscraper floors, or small wood hosts your magick. It has a fine stock of materials.
••••• Extravagant Sanctum: A sprawling estate, skyscraper, vast network of catacombs, a castle or faerie forest… and it all works as you desire. It offers an excellent stock of materials.

Sanctum and Resources: A Sanctum is “merely” a place in which a mage can freely use their magick. Dots in Sanctum do not confer amenities or legal ownership of the space; a character with Sanctum 4 who wants a luxury penthouse Sanctum still needs dots in Resources or some other applicable Social Merit.

Technocratic Laboratories: As mentioned, a Laboratory set up within an established Construct belongs to the Union; it may be shared, monitored, spied on or seized with little or no warning. The benefits of the Laboratory’s Cloaking does not affect a Technocrat’s superiors—Control always knows where they are.

A wealthy operative (or amalgam) may spend an extra Merit dot to set up a Laboratory outside an established Construct. Doing so, however, could be considered unmutual. Bribes and favors are always a good idea if you want to keep your Laboratory secure. In personally owned Laboratories, the Cloaking effect protects against all intrusions, even Technocratic ones.

Status (Awakened) (• to •••••+)

Status (Cabal/Amalgam) (• to •••••+)

Effect: You belong to a mystic cabal or Technocratic amalgam of mutually allied magi. The history of the cabal might extend a hundred years before you were born, but so long as you hold membership, you enjoy the support of its members and the use of any shared resources it holds. You also add your dots in this Merit to Social rolls against the cabal’s members and any other individuals over whom the cabal holds authority or sway.

Merit Dots Description
An inexperienced cabal consisting of Initiates and maybe one Apprentice. Many of them have been accepted as full members of the Traditions.
•• A cabal of promising young magi, mostly Apprentices. Most of them are members of the Traditions in good standing.
••• A cabal of seasoned players. At least several experienced Disciples are in the cabal, and the cabal itself is a factor in local Awakened politics. Chantries in smaller cities might be led by a three-dot cabal.
•••• A cabal of influential magi. There are several Adepts with significant resources and experiences, and the cabal itself is well-known among local Tradition magi. Chantries in medium to large cities are often led by four-dot cabals.
••••• A cabal to be reckoned with. It includes several Masters with vast magical resources and knowledge. The cabal is well-known among regional Tradition magi. Chantries in huge or especially mystically significant cities such as London or New York are usually led by five-dot cabals.
••••• • A cabal of immense power. It consists almost exclusively of Masters and might even be led by an Archmaster. Cabals of such might are almost never found on Earth, and prefer to dwell in the oldest and grandest of Umbral chantries (such as Horizon or Doissetep).

For an addition of one dot to the Merit’s cost, you are the cabal’s leader and its magi look to you for guidance and direction. Increase your bonus to Social rolls against the cabal’s members by one. For one fewer dot, you are a junior or probational member of the cabal, and less respected by its proven members. Decrease the bonus to Social rolls by one.

A cabal generally has four to ten magi and expects each member to pull their weight. Starting mage characters are unlikely to belong to a significantly more powerful cabal unless they are an apprentice or blood relative to one of the cabal’s existing members (who might also be their Mentor), and they would almost certainly spend one Merit dot fewer to be a less respected member.

Chantry and Cabals: There is some overlap at the lower dot ratings of both these Merits: a tiny chantry is unlikely to be home to more than one cabal. Characters should only buy both Merits if their chantry is large enough to hold more than one cabal.

Blessing (• to •••••)

Effect: Someone out there has left its mark on you. That mark is usually beneficial, but it comes with uncanny side effects. Maybe you always find a few extra bucks when you need them but get stuck with the check when you grab some drinks with the girls. Perhaps you’re lucky in lust but can’t find a lasting partnership. This Merit gives you a minor perk at the cost of a related quirk.

In game terms, Blessings gives you a single, minor, story-based benefit. This benefit seems to come from an element in your character history, one that’s tied into the beliefs that focus your magic. An Akashic, for example, could consider herself blessed by the wind-god Fei Lian because she’s always cooled by a faint breeze; a Sister of Hippolyta never gets lost (a blessing of Athena), whereas a one-eyed Syndicate boss with an unsettling sense of physical and energetic androgyny also seems to know little things no one should know about. (No one actually calls the boss Odin, but that picture of two ravens on the boss’s wall hints at a certain familiarity).

At the same time, this benefit seems a little weird. Why’s there a breeze blowing inside this locked apartment? How’d you know your way through this maze? Is that boss “him”… or “her”… or… um, I think I’ll just call them “Boss.” This sense of oddness could be considered a constant bit of Resonance, a wink from your patron god, a quirk of localized reality-streams, or whatever else seems appropriate. The obvious explanation is that it’s a sign of the figure who blessed you, but that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the real world, does it?

Like the Dream, Legend, Past Life, and Totem Merits, Blessings ties your mage into forces greater than himself. Although those forces, in your mage’s mind, appear to stem from his deeply-held beliefs (and thus might be a latent form of uncontrolled magic), they remain ultimately mysterious. Odin won’t be showing up at that boss’s door saying, “Hey, guess who made you androgynous,” though certain story-based quirks might make the answer obvious to someone familiar with Norse mythology. (The raven picture, the one eye, the way crows always fly past when the boss goes for a walk, that sort of thing.) The character might not admit that he or she believes in the Blessing (“Old Viking gods? Ridiculous!”), but there’s a lingering connection that runs deeper than anyone suspects. (The boss still recalls that Norse mythology book from third grade rather fondly).

In game terms, choose one non-combat, story-based ability that blesses your character with an unusual talent. The higher the rating, the more useful that talent becomes. Contrary to the original Blessings entry in Guide to the Traditions, this talent is NOT chosen from among Sphere Effects, Merits, or Conditions; instead, it’s a minor twist of fate that influences the character’s life in story terms—see the examples below. (That Blessings Merit—an open-ended set of superpowers with conflicting causes, effects and systems—has been revised for this edition.) Your Blessings talent must follow certain guidelines:

• It’s based in the character’s beliefs about the world—in short, his magical paradigm.

• It’s tied into your mage’s personal history, probably somewhere in her childhood.

• It’s connected to a potent supernatural / mythic / paranormal figure of some kind—a god, a hero, an archetype, a Fae queen—whose favor fits your character concept.

• It does not influence combat, except perhaps in a roundabout way (your knives remain sharp, you always have one bullet left in the chamber, your punches have movie-like sound effects, and so forth).

• It does not influence magic casting rolls either. Although a Blessing may influence the character’s choice of Spheres and should be tied into his focus, it will not grant a bonus on Gnosis rolls when casting spells.

• It’s not an obvious display of inhuman or impossible phenomena (no flight, iron skin, fiery hands, and so forth) and might have a rational, scientific explanation.

• It has a corresponding weird quirk, also story-based, with effects that follow or mirror the Blessing (the odd breeze, one eye and an affinity for ravens, a tendency to always scramble directions even though you never get lost, etc.).

• If the character breaks faith with her apparent patron—say, by a grave insult or religious conversion—then the Blessing disappears (gods hate ingratitude) and the Experience is refunded per Sanctity of Merits.

These Blessings share a clear connection to the figure who apparently favors your character: a man blessed by Pan always goes home with the best-looking woman (or man) in the club, even though he’s kinda hairy and has a powerful smell; the woman blessed by Allah has a knack for improvised poetry, yet never writes any of it down; that chick blessed by the Lady of the Lake always carries sharp knives, and she really enjoys swimming; that guy nicknamed “Lucifer”? Well, he’s not actually a devil or anything, but he seems to be able to talk folks into anything, and doesn’t his skin seem a little red?

Blessings are not infallible. Whenever a dice roll would be applicable to the object of the Blessing, the character is consider to achieve automatic successes equal to their Blessing Merit dots. If this is not enough, the character can make a normal dice roll with a bonus equal to the Blessing Merit dots. Again, a Blessing does not affect combat actions or magic-casting rolls, so it does not alter such rolls.

This Merit fits well with Destiny, Legend, Past Life, and most especially Totem. The Storyteller has the final say about the Blessing’s effects and manifestations and may veto a Blessing that doesn’t fit her chronicle, seems too powerful, or tilts the game too far in that character’s favor.

Merit Dots Description
x No figure favors you.
Life gives you small favors: your clothes always look clean and pressed, your kitchen never gets filthy, you find dollar bills on the ground, etc.
•• Little things go your way: you always find a parking space, win small amounts whenever you play the lottery, score someone’s phone number whenever you ask for it, etc.
••• You possess a strange affinity for certain things: everything you buy outlasts the warranty by 10 years, your cooking always tastes good, you never get lost or lose your keys, etc.
•••• Your knack gets downright uncanny: everyone you dislike moves away within a week, your suggestions always sound reasonable, you score with whomever appeals to you, etc.
••••• A major blessing follows you: you know secrets no one should be able to know about, your wallet and bank account are always full, no one ever finds out when you screw something up (unless you tell them).

Fountainhead (••• to ••••• ••)

Prerequisite: Cannot have Upturned Cup

Effect: Quintessence flows through all patterns of life, but your character’s Pattern is home to a virtual torrent of it, making her a living Node. Quintessence accumulates in your character’s Pattern at the rate of (dots in this Merit – 2) points per day or game session, usually in a specific organ such as the heart, gallbladder, or brain, which converts it to Tass. Only your character can naturally benefit from this Quintessence and it takes a Life 3/Prime 2 Effect to remove usable Tass from her body without harming her. Unfortunately, there will be those who don’t worry about harming her.

If your character dies, all of her unspent Quintessence is released and flows for one turn per Gnosis dot, randomly coalescing into patterns of lesser forces and elemental gases, before stopping forever. During this time a mage with at least Life 2/Prime 2 can try to incorporate the Fountain into his own Pattern. To do so he must roll successes equal to your character’s Gnosis dots plus his own as an extended action before the flow stops. If he succeeds gains the Fountainhead Merit. If he fails, he takes one point of aggravated damage per rolled success as the raw quintessence burns his body from within. If he botches, he triggers a Paradox backlash with a number of extra dice equal to your character’s Gnosis dots.

Your character also has a bonus equal to (Fountainhead dots – 2) on rolls to step sideways, since her mere presence weakens the local Gauntlet.

Characters with this Merit frequently have other Physical or Supernatural Merits reflective of their vitality and affinity for quintessence like Unaging, Fast Healing, or Natural Vessel. Your dots in Arcane, however, cannot exceed (8 – dots in Fountainhead), as your character’s wellspring of energy makes her Pattern shine line a beacon.

Drawback: Mages often war over Nodes. Hostile or unscrupulous Awakened may seek to kidnap your character and use her as a living battery—or kill her and claim the Fountainhead for themselves. Furthermore, Effects that detect or manipulate Nodes can affect your character.

Immunity (2 to 16 dots)

Effect: There is one peril to which your character is completely immune, even to the magical versions. Perhaps like Mithridates, your character slowly built up an immunity to all poisons, even those concocted by Euthanaos mages. Perhaps he had an accident in the lab and now all metal phases harmlessly through his body, even magic swords and comic-book allows—or it bounces off his chest. Perhaps it still cuts, but the wounds don’t bleed and they seal up immediately.

However, this invulnerability is only to the particular thing, not to any secondary or tertiary effects—a wolf spirit may have blessed your character so that he is unscathed by the teeth and claws of wolves, even werewolves, but that does nothing to stop the werewolf’s silver sword or even the damage when the werewolf pounds your character’s head into a wall. Likewise, even if metal doesn’t exist for your character, it does for his lab coat, and a bullet’s going to pack quite a wallop before it shreds the cloth. And even if the faeries at your christening said no mortal man could ever harm you, that proviso doesn’t apply to vampires, or the magic that mortal man might command, or even—for that matter—his 1957 Chevy Bel Aire.

Your charachter might be immune to all physical harm, save one thing, like beheading incineration or being stabbed through the heart with a dagger thrice blessed by three separate Popes; or he might be immune to all things save in one spot, like Achilles’ heel or Siegfried’s shoulder. However, this will not prevent him from being turned into a rutabaga, having his soul stolen, being sealed in Lucite, or sent into orbit, though his body (if not his sanity) will withstand all these things. He’ll merely be an invulnerable soulless rutabaga orbiting the earth in a Lucite block while his enemies look for a third Pope to bless a dagger.

Immunities vary in price, depending on their lethality and their frequency, much as Vulnerabilities do. You must buy each Immunity separately, although the Storyteller may allow a number of similar Immunities (basilisks, snakes, toadstools, iocaine powder) to be packaged as one more common immunity. Total immunity continues to go up in price depending on the size of the chink in your armor.

Merit Dots Description
2 dots A minor nuisance (poison oak, common cold_ or a very rare threat (basilisks, the Ebola virus).
4 dots A major threat (disease, hunger, supernatural evil gook), or a moderately rare threat (poisons, extreme heat or cold, raw magic Levin bolts, death spells).
6 dots A terminal threat (asphyxiation, drowning), or a common threat (fire, metals).
10 dots Invulnerable to all physical threats, but with one tiny weak spot (Siegfried’s shoulder, Achilles’ heel, the spot where the third eye would go), or one rare bane (silver bullets, mistletoe, deadly nightshade); one common bane in one large spot (edged weapons vs. the neck, i.e. beheading), or one common bane in a specific circumstance (a gun fired by a woman). Or immune to all physical threats save those which inflict aggravated damage, or immune to all physical threats save oneself—can be strangled with a rope made of own hair, mentally commanded to gnaw own arm off or destroyed with own Phylactery. Alternately, the mage is invulnerable until Phylactery is destroyed of Phylactery is invulnerable until mage is destroyed.
12 dots Invulnerable to all physical threats but with one very rare bane (the bite of an Egyptian asp, nuclear radiation, a specific ritual cast by a master mage), one rare bane in a tiny spot (a stake of twisted rose briars through the heart), or one rare bane in a very specific set of circumstances (poisoned with belladonna by a beautiful woman).
14 dots Invulnerable to all physical threats, but with the bane being an extreme rarity (a dagger thrice blessed by three Popes, the elixir of eighty evil essences), or one very rare bane in a highly specific set of circumstances (dragged through the streets of Baghdad by wild horses during the month of Ramadan).
16 dots Invulnerable to all physical threats except one unique bane (the Holy Lance of Longinus, the Sword of Roland) or invulnerable until Phylactery destroyed, requiring an equally unique bane.

This Merit is often taken in conjunction with the Vulnerability persistent Condition, especially if the Vulnerability is something common and not usually deadly, such as water.

Objects, especially Phylacteries, may also have Immunity to physical perils, but Storytellers should impose some limit on size so min-maxers will not use this Merit to create invulnerable dreadnoughts and impenetrable fortresses. The larger the object, the less of it can be invulnerable. You can have an indestructible moped, but your ‘57 Chevy won’t have puncture-proof tires, and you Winnebago of Doom can have the tires blow out and the rest of it remains unscathed. Likewise, your cozy witch’s cottage will just need to be recharged after the Technocracy attack, but your mansion will be gutted with nothing left but smoke-blackened walls. However, you can have the last laugh by making your Phylactery your Sanctum (or other personal residence), and making the one way to defeat your Sanctum’s Immunity being your own death. That way, if your enemies ever sneak into the heart of your abode and kill you, they get to deal with the Sanctum collapsing on their heads—a common side staple of sorcerous fiction.

Manifest Avatar (••)

Effect: For most mages, the Avatar remains a mysterious figure, goading them from the sidelines and appearing primarily within a Seeking or during other moments of intense stress. For you, however, the Avatar is a vibrant presence in your life, as appears as manifestly real to you as anyone else. Essentially a full character in its own right, this manifested Avatar interacts with you on a near-daily basis.

Only a mage can see, hear, and interact with their Avatar on a physical level. The Avatar isn’t even an ephemeral entity, as it only exists within the mage’s head (or perhaps soul), and effects that detect ghosts or spirits do not register its presence. However, the Avatar is bound to the same approximate area as the mage, and is powerless to physically affect other characters or objects. The Avatar’s main use is providing guidance and advice that furthers the mage’s personal development and mastery of magick.

Again, the Manifested Avatar is a Storyteller character, with agendas and behavioral quirks that confound both the mage and his player. Although that Avatar has its mage’s best interests at heart, it might play the role of a rival, lover, best friend, or nemesis… quite possibly all of them at once.

Other Merits and Conditions: Manifest Avatar can be paired with several Merits and Conditions to give it a physical form that other characters can interact with. Unless otherwise noted, the Avatar’s guise is never too vulgar or bizarre for the Consensus to endure—a cloaked, whispering figure, perhaps, but not a screeching, tentacled monstrosity. The Avatar may come and go from the material world as it pleases, bound only by the physical laws with which it chooses to be bound. The physical (and even incorporeal) Avatar’s shell can be injured or killed, but that in itself does not kill the Avatar—merely its body, which reforms after (11 – Gnosis) days or game sessions, whichever is less.

Guide: In conjunction with the Guide Merit, the Avatar becomes an ephemeral entity. In twilight form, the Avatar can appear as outlandish or as ordinary as it desires. If the Avatar appears to ordinary mortals, it might do so as an online presence, a ghostly figure, odd sounds, or other similar phenomena. As with any other Guide, the Storyteller should decide the Avatar’s Attributes and Numina (Chronicles of Darkness pp.125), as well as its bane. Unlike other ephemeral entities, the Avatar has no ban—its state as an Avatar already rigidly defines its behavior to a degree beyond any ghost’s or spirit’s. The Avatar can manifest in the material world, remain invisible in Twilight, or retreat to the mage’s soul and remove itself entirely from reality as it pleases.

Phylactery: An Avatar paired with the Phylactery Persistent Condition is immune to physical harm, but manifested permanently, which means it can be kidnapped, transformed, and so on. If your Phylactery is stolen, the Avatar is lost until the Phylactery is recovered. Storytellers should note that an Avatar doesn’t have to say it’s an Avatar, and just because an Avatar is invested into a Phylactery doesn’t mean that everything that Phylactery tells you is a pronouncement from your Avatar. A Singularity Architect may have his laptop as a Phylactery for his Manifest Avatar, but his laptop’s warnings to update his antivirus software may still be nothing more significant than that.

A Phylactery can be a person as well as an object. A Phylactery can be paired with mortal Merits and Conditions such as Allies, Mentor, Retainer, or Ward, in which case the Avatar is permanently manifested in a human being (or even an Animal Companion), who may or may not be aware of their connection to you. Even if you have invested your Avatar into your best friend, however, that doesn’t mean that everything (or anything) he says are pronouncements from your personal spirit guide. Such only happens to be the case if you take Manifest Avatar. Even then, why should your Avatar tell you he’s anyone except your best friend?

Supernatural Companion: In conjunction with the Supernatural Companion Merit, the Avatar becomes a physical being that everyone can see, hear, and feel. Treat the Avatar’s statistics as a Horror (Chronicles of Darkness pp.142) with Potency dots equal to the Supernatural Companion dots and no Merits. The manifested Avatar’s exact traits depend upon the physical form of its incarnation. An equine or lupine Avatar, for instance, will have different Attributes than an Avatar that manifests as a crow, shadow, mirror, or child.

Your Avatar rarely advertises what it is to people besides you. In the first edition Cult of Ecstasy Tradition Book, for example, Cassie deals with a Manifest Avatar named Aria who never reveals herself to be anything other than a wild child who looks disturbingly like an alternate-reality version of Cassie and knows things no one else should know about Cassie’s past, present, future, and inner self. (For details, see that book, pp. 5-45.) Unless either the mage or the Avatar announces its true identity, other characters don’t usually think that your manifested Avatar is anything other than what it appears to be. Mages or Night-Folk who can see auras or souls might catch on, but ordinary mortals likely remain clueless.

Natural Vessel (• to •••••)

Effect: Your character’s Pattern is particularly well suited for storing quintessence. He may store one extra point of Quintessence for each dot you invest into this Merit. Characters cannot take this Merit along with the Upturned Cup persistent Condition.

Node (• to •••••)

Effect: In a world where magic seems scarce, your character has access to a miracle: A Node where she can meditate to restore her inner Quintessence or gather solid-energy Tass in various forms. She may have to fight to keep this place to herself, though—werewolves, spirits, and rival mages are always looking to add such places to their collections. The Node might not be obvious as a magical site; most of them are not. To those who understand such things, though, Nodes stand out as beacons of energy desired by mystics and Technocrats alike.

In the grand tradition of religions and empires everywhere, Nodes tend to get converted to suit the purposes of the groups that claim them. The Technocracy sends in teams to sanitize mystic Nodes and then builds strongholds, labs, or power stations on top of the previous installation. Mystic mages consecrate such territories in their own ways, building temples over glens, churches over wells, and shopping malls or computer labs over the holy ground once honored by a rival group. In short, Nodes present one of the nastier fronts of the Ascension War. Even allied mages, like Celestial Choristers and Verbena, are not above repurposing one another’s sacred spaces… all for the greater good, of course.

Nodes have Resonance that comes from the type of energy that formed them. The Tass from a given site carries that Resonance with it too, and the form that Tass takes will follow the nature of the Node. A Node forged by a battle might radiate fury and sadness, incarnated as blood, bones, and ash; a fountain of hope feels refreshing and clean, with pure water Tass; but a Frankensteinesque laboratory feels Gothic and foreboding, with lightning bolt Quintessence arcing between generators and captured in batteries, as Tass, for later use. The Gauntlet tends to thin out around mystic Nodes, but it thickens in Technocratic ones unless you’re using Dimensional Science procedures instead of spirit magick.

As a Merit, this Node represents a location that’s held by your character and perhaps a few friends. The Node produces one point of Quintessence per dot in the Merit per day. Quintessence that is not harvested congeals quickly into tass. Left to its devices, the Hallow can store three times its dot rating in tass before it becomes “dormant” and stops producing Quintessence until all of the tass is harvested. As with Sanctum and Safe Place, a Node can be shared between a cabal.

Werewolves think of Nodes as caerns: sacred spaces blessed by their primal moon-goddess. Driven by religious fervor, they tend to claim Nodes for themselves when they can. Although such creatures avoid the cold factories of Technocratic power, a mage or cabal with a mystic Node could have some large, furry visitors wishing to discuss a real-estate transaction.

Merit Dots Description
x No place of power.
A tiny site of minor significance.
•• A small trickle of metaphysical energy.
••• A steady flow of Quintessence.
•••• A pulse of energy, plus generous quantities of materialized Tass.
••••• A powerful wellspring of energetic abundance.

Nodes with ratings in excess of five (and as high as ten) exist: these are legendary sites such as Stonehenge, Auschwitz, the Kaaba of Mecca, and so on. These Nodes have such powerful Resonance that even Sleepers unconsciously recognize their significance. The few that remain secret are protected by powerful forces indeed.

Chapter Four: Magick

See the Magick page for revisions to the spellcasting rules.

Magick, it’s been said, is a double-bladed instrument. That fine metaphysical scalpel reshapes Reality to a mage’s desires, but it cuts the hand that wields it, too. Paradox is the cost of doing business with Reality – the scourge of Awakened vanity that reminds each mage of his true place in Creation.

Poetry aside, Paradox limits a mage’s ability to work their Will without consequences. Story-wise, it smacks a proud magus off their throne in various unpleasant ways: burns, prisons, manifestations, entities, and worse. Game-wise, Paradox forces each player to be subtle and imaginative. Vulgar magick is a sure road to the Paradox Effect, and although coincidence can earn a backlash too, a mage is better off playing things safe… or as safe as things can get in the World of Darkness. See see pp. 56-57 of Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition for more information about the metaphysical nature of Paradox.

Paradox in Ascension and Awakening: Paradox in Awakening inflicts frequent but light consequences and twists Effects from their intended course. Paradox in Ascension builds without apparent effect before backlashing with larger injury or unpredictable warping of reality. Ascension’s Paradox is a pervasive force, a cosmic Pattern that reweaves and tightens itself according to collective human will. When magick violates the Consensus, a willworker’s desires and beliefs clash with that Pattern and release violent energies. They form flaws, spirits, scouring harm and even realms of existence, all for the sake of punishing the mage for assaulting the established order.

Paradox in Awakening is an event that occurs whenever a mage utilizes vulgar magick. Paradox in Ascension is a force that punishes mages for their hubris, and GMs are encouraged to play Paradox with a sense of irony and poetic justice, tailoring its punishments to fit the nature of a mage’s “crime” against reality.

Generated by acts of magick, Paradox energies build up inside a mage’s Pattern. Eventually, those energies bleed off naturally, manifest in strange Paradox Conditions, or else explode with devastating results.

Paradox backlash is unavoidable, but there are several ways mages can mitigate its consequences, or at least control when it strikes:

Staving Off Disaster: Generally, a mage can feel a Paradox backlash coming. The built-up energies within their frame tingle beneath their skin, vibrate in their bones, or beat inside their head like an impending migraine headache. When a backlash threatens to cut loose (in game terms, when the Storyteller rolls the dice), that mage can “will it not to happen… YET.” The player spends a point of Quintessence and rolls (11 – Lucidity) dice; they gain one additional Paradox die per success, but the original backlash (and any further backlash they would trigger from the extra Paradox) hovers until the end of that scene.

From that point onward, the mage is on borrowed time. Until the backlash strikes, whenever the mage would gain further Paradox dice, they gain either the normal number of dice or (11 – Lucidity) dice, whichever is more. The mage can spend additional Quintessence to delay the backlash for another scene (and theoretically up to any number of scenes), but whenever they do, they risk gaining additional Paradox dice as before. The Storyteller could invent some especially poetic horror for the coming punishment, but the mage has an opportunity to put their affairs in order (possibly forever…) as the cataclysmic energies continue to build… and build… and BUILD inside them…

Nullifying Paradox: A rare but precious ability available only to masters of Prime allows a mage to wipe out Paradox with the energies of Creation. Story-wise, the magus invests some personal Quintessence (possibly adding a bit more energy from external sources too) into a symbol or Periapt keyed to a magickal working or consecrated to their body and personal Resonance. (See the Prime Sphere entry for details about consecration.) When Paradox energies gather around them, they release that stored up Quintessence, and the Prime force cancels out the Paradox energies.

Game-wise, the player pools their Quintessence, then uses a Prime ••••• Effect to channel that Quintessence and nullify the Paradox dice on a one-for-two basis (for example, spending 2 Quintessence nullifies four Paradox dice). Any remaining Paradox energies have their usual effect or remain in the mage’s Paradox Pool until some later event. If the Quintessence dispels all the Paradox, then that Paradox is gone until the mage gains some more… as they inevitably will.

Shedding Paradox: There are several ways for mages to shed Paradox without suffering backlash.

Bleed-Off: Under normal circumstances, mages tend to generate small amounts of Paradox and then bleed them off simply as a matter of course. If a character has only to one to five dice in their Paradox Pool at a given time, then those energies simply fade back into the world at large at a rate of one die per game session or in-character day, whichever comes first. The mage does not gain this benefit during days or game sessions when they accumulate further Paradox.

Cold Turkey: A mage with six to 10 Paradox dice can go “cold turkey” and withdraw from reality-altering practices entirely. So long as they cast no magick of any kind, the mage loses one Paradox die per game session or in-character day, whichever comes first. If the mage only has one to five Paradox dice, they shed Paradox at the rate of two dice per single game session or in-character day.

Designer’s Note: These rates are faster than the ones given in Ascension. I’ve found, in practice, that IC days can take OOC months to play through in online games. “One game session” counts as one OOC week over our medium of play, resetting every Sunday.
Purification: A prerequisite in almost every mystick discipline, purification helps a mage center themselves, slough off Resonance and approach a ritual with clarity and devotion. To purify themselves, a mage should retire from all companionship and perform some sort of cleansing ritual to attune themselves to the universe and the self. Celestial Choristers might engage in prayer and fasting as they attune themselves to creation and divinity. Dreamspeakers can go on vision quests in the wilderness. Modern-minded Traditions such as the Singularity Architects, on the other hand, might just take a long shower and listen to some meditation tapes. Technocrats are an exception to the rule on no human contact—such behavior is highly unmutual—and can instead submit to extended processing and indoctrination sessions. Other cleansing or centering rituals can include bathing, trance, meditation, athletic or mnemonic exercises, mathematical calculations, poetry composition, and the like.

Purification removes one Paradox die per game session or in-character day, whichever comes first. The mage cannot cast any magick or do anything else but attend to basic needs during this time; otherwise, they lose any benefit from the purification ritual and their Paradox Pool returns to its previous total. Mages with 16 or more Paradox dice cannot benefit from purification. Something has got to give before they can seek inner peace.

Whenever a mage botches an Effect roll, earns five or more Paradox dice in a single stroke, or accumulates more than 20 dice in their Paradox Pool, the Storyteller rolls for a backlash.

Dice Pool: Every die in the mage’s Paradox pool

Roll Results

Dramatic Failure: The mage does not suffer a Paradox backlash and harmlessly discharges all of the Paradox dice in their pool.

Failure: The mage does not suffer a Paradox. None of their Paradox dice discharge, however, and will bedevil the mage at a later time.

Success: A Paradox backlash occurs. On the positive side, this means the mage’s Paradox Pool decreases as they discharge a number of dice equal to the Storyteller’s rolled successes. On the negative side, a backlash hurts, and grants the Storyteller one Paradox Reach per die discharged. The mage takes an Arcane Beat.

Exceptional Success: A catastrophic Paradox backlash occurs. The mage takes an additional Arcane Beat and the Storyteller can choose from one of the following options:

• Retroactively grant the rote quality to the backlash roll, re-rolling all failures (though any additional successes still discharge Paradox dice).
• The mage does not discharge any of their Paradox dice despite the backlash.
• The mage’s Effect warps. The Storyteller can assign an additional number of Effect Factors equal to (11 – mage’s Lucidity) in any categories of their choice: these are never beneficial to the mage.
• The mage faces a breaking point at their current Lucidity level.

Storytellers can spend Paradox Reach in any of the following ways:

Reach Spent Paradox Anomaly
1 Reach Burn (1 lethal damage). Further Reach may be spent to increase the Burn’s damage by 1 point / Reach.
1 Reach Explosion. Further Reach may be spent to upgrade the explosion’s size by 1 / Reach.
1 Reach Create an Environmental Tilt. Further reach may be spent to upgrade the Tilt’s penalties by 1 / Reach.
1 Reach Impose a Trivial Paradox Condition on the mage. Further Reach may be spent to upgrade the Conditition’s severity by 1 / Reach.
1 Reach Extend the duration of a Paradox Condition afflicting the mage by one factor (scene to day, day to week, week to month, month to permanent).
3 Reach Burn (1 aggravated damage). Further Reach may be spent to increase the Burn’s damage by 1 point / 3 Reach.
4 Reach Summon a Paradox Spirit of Rank 3. Further Reach may increase the Rank of the spirit by 1 / Reach, up to a maximum of Rank 5.
6 Reach Banish the mage to a Paradox Realm.

Burn: A simple yet terrible consequence of Paradox energies, the Burn manifests as intense pain at the lower levels, rising to literally explosive levels at the high end of the spectrum. Essentially a searing physical backlash, the Burn manifests as (re)opened wounds, dizzying pains, sudden headaches, brands across the mage’s skin (often in cryptic symbols or glyphs), rashes, scabs, welts, and other agonizing and often debilitating afflictions. At the highest end of the backlash scale, the Burn literally incinerates a mage from the inside out, strikes him down with thunderbolts, shatters him into pieces, or else detonates him in a screaming flash of discharged Paradox. Externally worn armor does not apply against damage inflicted by Burn, because it comes from inside, not outside, that mage’s Pattern. Other methods, however, could help in that regard—cybernetics, Life Sphere magick, and so forth. So long as the protection is a part of the mage’s actual body, not something that can be put on or taken off, it might help them deal with the Burn. Burn is particularly likely strike magi who misuse their magick for violent ends.

Explosion: This Paradox Reach must be used alongside Burn. Larger Burns radiate outward like explosions, inflicting damage upon the mage’s surroundings equal to the Burn’s damage. The area affected uses the same scale as Effects Factors do: 1 Reach affects a room-sized area, 2 Reach affects an apartment, 3 Reach affects a house, etc. Characters who are caught in the blast radius besides the mage can roll Dexterity + Wits: every success reduces the damage they take by one point.

When the air suddenly turns cold, when grasses wither and water turns to ice, Paradox has tilted the world around the mage. Such “witchwalks” have given rise to much historic folklore—milk sours, bells ring, and footprints disappear as the mage passes by. At smaller expenditures of Reach, Paradox Environmental Tilts are small, local, and tied to the mage’s affinity Sphere. With larger amounts of Reach, though, such distortions of reality can be really dramatic: earthquakes, bursts of light, blizzards in the middle of summer, rains of frogs or blood, etc. All such environmental Tilts last for a single scene.

Manifestations of the “you are what you do” principle, Paradox Conditions twist reality around a reality-twisting mage. In game terms, Paradox Conditions make a mage’s life more difficult. Minor Conditions create small disturbances, whereas Severe and Drastic Conditions spawn increasingly absurd distortions of reality. Strange as they might be, Paradox Conditions echo the effects of the magick that spawned them: a swaggering fire-wizard finds themselves leaving sooty footprints or scorching everything they touch; a time-skewing trickster makes clocks run backwards, scrambles the temporal perceptions of their companions, and could even age in reverse; the mind-shattering Agent of Authority could make people tremble with their mere presence—a useful but ultimately alienating Condition; and the witch who curses or heals too freely might impose the opposite effect—blessing their enemies and injuring their friends—despite their best intentions. Paradox displays a fine sense of irony of the non-Morissette variety, and the GM is encouraged to hone a sense of delicious irony as well.

Causes of Paradox Conditions: Dramatic failures on Paradox-incurring Effects cause a Paradox backlash instead of imposing a Paradox Condition (see the “Paradox” section). Exceptional successes on a Paradox backlash roll cause more Paradox dice to be rolled instead of imposing a Paradox Condition. Failing to fully contain a Paradox may or may not impose a Paradox Condition, depending on how the GM chooses to spend Reach.

Lapsing Durations Paradox Condition durations are changed to the following. Use whichever duration elapses soonest to determine how long a Condition lasts. GMs may also spend Reach to extend a Paradox Condition’s duration beyond what is typical for a mage’s Lucidity.

Lucidity Minor Significant Severe Drastic
9-10 One Scene One Hour/Two Scenes One Day/One Chapter One Week/Two Chapters
7-8 One Hour/Two Scenes One Day/One Chapter One Week/Two Chapters Two Weeks/One Story
5-6 One Day/One Chapter One Week/Two Chapters Two Weeks/One Story One Month/Two Stories
3-4 One Week/Two Chapters Two Weeks/One Story One Month/Two Stories One Year/One Chronicle
1-2 Two Weeks/One Story One Month/Two Stories One Year/One Chronicle Permanent

Lapsed Conditions: When a Paradox Condition would lapse, it does so without ill effect, but does not count as having resolved (and so does not grant an Arcane Beat).

Resolving Paradox Conditions: Mages who are in tune with Consensual reality and able to see beyond their own paradigms (in game terms, have high Lucidity scores) do not have to wait long for most accumulated Paradox to wear off. Mages who are less enlightened or who simply can’t afford to wait out Paradox have two ways they can actively resolve Paradox Conditions.

Backlash: A mage can spend three points of Quintessence to release the pent-up energies in their Pattern and trigger an immediate Paradox backlash. This is dangerous, and if the mage chooses to contain rather than release the Paradox, the original Paradox Condition may end up getting even worse. The Paradox roll gains a bonus based on several factors.

Dice Bonus Condition
+1 Minor Paradox Condition
+2 Significant Paradox Condition
+4 Severe Paradox Condition
+6 Drastic Paradox Condition
+2 Every previous time the mage has tried to remove the same Paradox Condition

If the Paradox roll results in a dramatic failure, the Quintessence is wasted, and the mage cannot try again to remove the Paradox Condition through backlash. Additionally, the mage does not regain a point of Willpower, and any further Paradox rolls made in the same scene still gain a cumulative +1 bonus.

If the Paradox roll fails, the Quintessence is wasted, and mage cannot try again for an amount of time equal to the duration it would take for the next-most severe Paradox Condition to lapse. For example, a mage with Lucidity 6 who tries to remove a Drastic Paradox Condition (duration one week) cannot try again until one day passes (the duration of a Severe Paradox Condition).

If the Paradox roll succeeds, roll the mage’s Lucidity as a dice pool.

Dramatic Failure: The Paradox Condition does not resolve and the mage regains all of the Paradox dice that would have been discharged by the backlash.
Failure: The Paradox Condition does not resolve.
Success: The Paradox Condition resolves.
Exceptional Success: The Paradox Condition resolves and the mage regains the spent Quintessence.

Acts of Wisdom: Paradox occurs when a mage presumes that reality should conform to their will, but is unable to reconcile that vision of reality with the local Consensus. If the mage undertakes a symbolic action to humble themselves and heal the damage caused by their errant magick, the Paradox Condition resolves. Minor Paradox Conditions should pose a small inconvenience to resolve in this way, while Drastic Conditions may take considerable sacrifice and effort. This can be a bitter pill to swallow for many mages. Some may simply be arrogant enough to consider such “penance” beneath them, while higher-minded willworkers may genuinely believe their actions were done for a greater good and see nothing to make up for.

Persistent Paradox Conditions: When a Paradox Condition would normally lapse, a mage’s player can take an Arcane Beat to make it persistent. The Condition can thereafter only be resolved by performing an act of wisdom. This grants some benefits: beyond a source of further Arcane Beats, Paradox Conditions can inure a mage’s mind to acts of hubris (see the "Lucidity” section above).

Types of Paradox Conditions: Paradox Conditions increase in severity, from minor inconveniences to gross distortions of body and surroundings. At the higher levels, a mage cannot appear among the Masses without being recognized as some sort of aberration. People with such Paradox Conditions either retreat beyond the Gauntlet for their own safety or withdraw into near-solitude, their lives potentially forever altered by the powers they tried to command in their hubris.

Minor Conditions: Short-lived distortions of body or circumstance haunt the mage for a brief time before fading away… unless, of course, the mage continues to garner Paradox, at which point the Minor Condition may last longer or become a Significant Condition (depending on how the GM chooses to spend Reach). Minor Paradox Conditions are annoying, but fairly easy to cover up or explain away to Sleepers.

Significant Conditions: Significant Conditions cause seriously inconvenient changes to a mage’s Pattern. Significant Conditions usually fall into one of two categories: changes that are obvious to onlookers but still explainable as natural phenomena, or changes that are undeniably supernatural but still possible to hide. However the mage tries to conceal the Paradox, doing so is troublesome and impedes their ability to move among Sleeper society.

Severe Conditions: Awful Paradox energies warp the mage’s body and circumstances, turning them into a walking billboard for reality flux. Severe Paradox Conditions are nigh-impossible to conceal and the mage cannot show themselves among the Masses without tragic results. Many of them are also highly painful or inconvenient to deal with in their own rights, and even fellow Awakened are likely to look askance at such a Paradox-ridden mage.

Drastic Conditons: By this level, the Paradox energies have distorted a mage’s Pattern so badly that they may never recover their old, normal self. Lovecraft would need to invent new adjectives for the impression they present. Drastic Conditions don’t just make it impossible for a mage to function among Sleeper society—they can kill or permanently cripple the mage outright. Such otherworldly abominations frequently exist either beyond the Gauntlet or in the most remote corners of Earth they can find.

Most Paradox Conditions fade in time. Even the supposedly permanent ones can ease with the passing of months or years, assuming that the mage does not, in the meantime, acquire more Paradox. Once a given Condition has latched itself onto a mage’s Pattern, however, it tends to become the focus of her Paradox. Subsequent Paradox energies gravitate toward that Condition and, rather than spawning new ones, enhance the present Condition. Horns become larger and more prominent; warm or cold skin becomes too hot or cold to touch; fluctuations of time or space distort the localized reality so badly that the mage travels within a personal vortex of oddity. Game-wise, the initial Condition moves further up the severity scale, keeping its initial form but becoming even more impairing or grotesque. This severity scale runs as follows:

Quiet and Paradox
Under the original Storyteller rules, mages possess no “morality stat” and Quiet is one possible malady that can afflict them because of Paradox. Under the Storytelling rules, Quiet is a result of failed Lucidity rolls. Paradox Conditions are physical phenomena that warp and distort a mage’s Pattern, while Quiet and Lucidity quantify a mage’s sanity.
The one exception to this rule is Paradox incurred through the Mind Sphere, which can induce Quiet (and a host of other mental maladies) on careless mages. As always with Paradox, the punishment fits the crime.
GMs are not just encouraged to devise their own Paradox Conditions: it is essential that they do so in order to accurately portray Paradox as an instrument of poetic justice and as a direct consequence of a mage’s magick. When coming up with Paradox Conditions, a good rule of thumb is that:

• Minor Paradox Conditions are annoying but largely harmless. They impose trivial complications or game penalties and are easy to conceal.
• Significant Paradox Conditions are inconvenient. They impose moderate complications or game penalties and are possible but inconvenient to conceal.
• Severe Paradox Conditions are dangerous. They impose considerable complications or game penalties and are impossible to conceal.
• Drastic Paradox Conditions are not only impossible to conceal, but can kill, cripple, or otherwise constantly bedevil every aspect of a character’s life.

There can be variance within these categories. A Severe Paradox Condition that strikes a mage deaf and dumb, for instance, may not be immediately apparent to onlookers, but still makes it impossible for the mage to function among Sleeper society as they did before.

Some sample Paradox Conditions are as follows:

Achromatic Vision
Your character is color-blind. Their actual vision is unimpaired, but they can only perceive their surroundings in shades of black, white, and gray. This imposes a -1 penalty on sight-based Perception rolls.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Fail a roll due to this Condition. Being unable to distinguish colors poses some other difficulty or inconvenience.

Offensive Odor
Your character smells like rotten eggs, cheap cologne, spoiled milk, or something else vaguely unpleasant. This imposes a -1 penalty on Persuasion, Socialize, and Subterfuge rolls.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Fail a roll due to this Condition.

Stops Time
All timepieces in your character’s presence automatically stop. They can be reset once your character leaves, but will not function in their presence.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: A difficulty or inconvenience arises.

Other Minor Paradox Conditions:
• Hair changes color.
• Uncontrollable sneezing fit.
• Vision blurs or sound dampens.
• Clothes wrinkle, change color, or fall apart.
• The mage’s digital techbikigy all malfunctions at once.
• Skin chills or grows uncomfortably warm.
• Breezes blow or air stills.
• Develop a speech stutter.
• Odd smells—ranging from the pleasant to the nauseating—waft from the mage’s general direction.
• Hear or speak words in reverse, like an odd metaphysical dyslexia, or witness minor hallucinations among their various senses. (Some Ecstatic mages speculate that psychoactive delusions might be Minor Paradox Conditions in action.)
• Dull or stabbing pains afflict their joints, or sudden surges of weariness or manic energy take hold.
• Attract a minor (Rank 1) spirit’s annoyance.
• Become near-sighted or far-sighted.
• Involuntarily spend a point of Quintessence on something.
• Forget the events of the past five minutes.
• Whatever surface the character is standing on becomes slippery, causing them to fall.
• Catch a nasty cold.

Your character’s metabolism is incredibly fast. They take two points of bashing damage during any scene in which they don’t eat something. This damage cannot be healed until they consume more food.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Take damage from not eating. Encounter some other difficulty or inconvenience.

Your character’s presence disrupts technology. Whenever she gets near a device that uses radio waves (older televisions, radios, cell phones), it automatically loses reception. Televisions lose picture and viewers see only “snow,” while cell phones drop calls and radios crackle and warble. Technology-based Wonders are entitled to a contested Gnosis roll to see if they lose functionality in your character’s vicinity, but automatically become useless and inert when personally handled by her.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash or performs an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Ruin an electronic device at an inconvenient time.

Mental Chameleon (Significant)
Your character involuntarily adopts the personality and mannerisms of anyone with whom they spend more than a minute of contact. If they do so, roll Resolve + Composure contested by the other character’s Presence + Manipulation. On a failure, your character adopts their mindset and replaces their Virtue and Vice (or Nature and Demeanor, or other equivalent anchor) with the other character’s. Any time your character has an opportunity to indulge their new Virtue or Vice but does not do so, they lose a point of Willpower. At the GM’s discretion, other possible actions that would be especially in-character for the mimicry’s subject may also prompt this.
This Paradox Condition is particularly common for mages who mis-use the Mind Sphere.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Acting like someone else causes a difficulty or inconvenience.

Other Significant Paradox Conditions:
• Small horns sprout from head.
• Hands curl into claws or gnarled appendages.
• Footprints briefly smoke or leave scorch marks on a cat.
• Suffer excruciating migraines or incapacitating nausea.
• Radiate intense cold or heat.
• Enter Quiet. (Mind Sphere only.)
• Touch causes nonsentient organic matter to grow at an alarming rate.
• Can only speak gibberish.
• Common physical substance, such as metal or wood, passes through the mage as if incorporeal.
• Can only ingest grass, battery acid, dollar bills, or similar bizarre substance.
• Objects in the mage’s possession gravitate to their left. Their watch appears on their left hand, their wallet in their left pocket, etc. More significantly, any effect they cast will manifest several yards to the left of where they target it.
• Touch causes objects to grow brittle and rotten.
• Cannot knowingly speak any lies or falsehoods.
• Electrical devices within five yards fail to function.
• Gain an inconvenient Condition such as Mute, Disabled, or Panic Disorder.

Magick Magnet
Your character is a magnet for magic: any Effect cast in their vicinity targets them in addition to its normal target. This does not count towards the mage’s Effect factors.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: You are targeted by a harmful magickal effect.

Mental Chameleaon (Severe)
As Mental Chameleon (Significant), but whenever the character would spend Willpower to ignore their compulsion to act like the subject of their mimicry, they must also succeed on a Resolve + Composure roll (with a variable penalty depending on how in-character the action is for the person they’re mimicking). On a failure, the Willpower point is wasted, and the character acts as the subject of their mimicry would. This can be incredibly dangerous if the mage inadvertently finds themselves adopting the persona of a Marauder, Nephandus, or similar individual.
Resolution: As Mental Chameleon.
Arcane Beat: As Mental Chameleon.

Nauseous Presence
Your character’s presence causes people within their vicinity to double over with debilitating nausea. They might be preceded by clouds of disease-carrying flies, carry an inexplicable airborne virus, or simply smell ungodly awful, but anyone in the same room as your character must succeed on a Stamina + Resolve roll penalized by their Gnosis dots or gain the Sickened Tilt for as long as your character remains in the area. Taking hostile action against your character immediately ends the Tilt, so their enemies remain unaffected by it.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Making people sick causes a problem or inconvenience.

• Other Severe Paradox Conditions:*
• Facial features turn into a smooth, shapeless mass.
• Arms transform into tentacles or boneless flaps of skin.
• Useless wings jut from shoulders.
• Shrink to several inches in height.
• Water burns like acid, causing lethal damage.
• Swap bodies with anyone physically touched.
• Suffer a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder.
• Constantly vomit flies.
• Skin grows stony warts or other obviously inhuman projections.
• Float several inches off the ground. The mage must pull themselves along walls and furniture to get anywhere.
• Lose all function in arms or legs.
• Cause all proximate cloth items to writhe uncontrollably and strangle bystanders.

Black Luck
Everything that could go wrong for the character goes wrong. They trip and hit their head in the shower. Flicking on a lightswitch causes an electrical overload. Their breakfast gives them food poisoning. Things only get worse when the character leaves home, and such misfortune isn’t limited to physical injury: they might run into some police who mistake them for a wanted criminal, spill coffee over their boss at work, or “happen” to run into an old enemy if they pass through a location that enemy could conceivably be present. Such episodes of misfortune only strike in a significant way once per scene, but the character is still likely to find that miserable enough.
If the character confines themselves to an isolated space where few obvious things can go wrong (such as a completely bare and empty room), they can forestall fate by spending a Willpower point and making a successful meditiation roll. Such protection expires, however, if the character leaves the space or undertakes any action that requires a dice roll, and must be renewed after one day in any case. This form of Paradox most frequently afflicts mages who mis-use the Fate Sphere.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Something bad happens to you.

Midas Touch
Anything touched by your character turns to gold, causing (Gnosis) points of aggravated damage per turn of contact. Killed creatures transform into golden statues. Objects do not actually suffer “real” damage, but transform into gold once their Structure would be reduced to 0.
Variations: The character’s touch causes things to freeze or catch fire.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Inadvertently harm something (or someone) by touching them.

Reversed Gravity
Gravity affects your character in reverse, causing them to constantly “fall up.” Opening the refrigerator door or typing on a computer is as difficult as if those objects were bolted to the ceiling (and if moved, they must constantly be held “down” since gravity still affects them normally). This makes almost every aspect of day-to-day living extremely inconvenient. Venturing outdoors, however, can be a death sentence: if nothing arrests the character’s “fall,” they will eventually plummet through the earth’s atmosphere and into space.
Resolution: Trigger a Paradox backlash. Perform an act of wisdom.
Arcane Beat: Take damage from “falling.” Your reversed gravitational pull causes some other difficulty or inconvenience.

Other Drastic Paradox Conditions:
• Transform into something obviously inhuman: solid crystal, a wisp of smoke, or completely different biological organism (ape, fish, tree, etc.)
• Shrink to microscopic size.
• Body turns inside out, organs on the outside, flesh on the inside. The mage remains impossibly alive in a state of sublime agony.
• Suffer total amnesia.
• Sleepers feel an inexplicable murderous compulsion to attack the mage on sight.
• Age dramatically backwards or forwards in time.
• Fall into an unwakeable coma plagued by nightmarish Seekings: failure causes insanity.
• Uncontrollably fire off magickal attacks at self and others.
• Suffer recurrent potentially fatal epileptic seizures.
• All non-buoyant matter reacts to the mage like liquid: they can “drown” on sidewalks (or in their own home) without a life preserver.
• Lose touch with Avatar and be unable to perform any magick.

As fearsome as the Burn can be, Paradox Spirits—a.k.a. Paradox Manifestations or Entities—may be the most horrific backlash effects. Ranging from near-mindless phenomena to legendary figures, these reality police become judges, juries, and occasional executioners for errant willworkers and their aberrant ways.

These entities rarely manifest for minor violations of the Consensus. A backlash of 4 or more Reach, however, might draw the attention of such a creature. The smaller ones seem to manifest and then disperse on a per-offense basis. Larger backlashes tend to summon more formidable spirits—self-willed beings whose appearance and behavior have become infamous enough to echo through Awakened myths: Farandwee. Wrinkle. The Man. Known long ago as Scourgelings, such entities are immune to Spirit Sphere magicks lower than Rank 5, unless those magicks inflict damage… and even then, the nastier Paradox Manifestations have an uncanny talent for shrugging off such attacks.

Appendix I of Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition features several Paradox Spirits and offers inspiration for more original creations. Because such spirits are sometimes thought to manifest a mage’s conscious or subconscious, an inventive Storyteller can create their own Paradox Spirits, based upon the characters in their game. Regardless of their origins, such entities tend to have individual calling cards: certain types of magick that draw their attention, certain punishments they inflict, and certain behaviors they follow when they appear. Some dish out nasty, Condition-like impediments, others attack the offending mage in combat, and many pull the offender into a Paradox Realm tailored to suit that spirit’s personality. In the old days (that is, in Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade), such beings were even known to aid a mage in need. The modern variety, however, seem as ruthless and unforgiving as the forces of nature that spawn them.

Like any other kind of tapestry, the Tapestry of Earthly Creation occasionally tears. When it does, those rips in Reality become Paradox Realms: pocket worlds where the normal laws of Earth and the Otherworlds no longer apply.

According to some sources, such Realms occupy a parallel existence with Earth’s Penumbra, vibrating at a different metaphysical frequency. Other sources plant Paradox Realms far beyond the Horizon, floating like weird little soap bubbles through Etherspace. As with so many other manifestations of Paradox, a Storyteller should decide the truth for himself, then keep it secret from the players. In story terms, Paradox Realms present an eternal mystery that still intrudes with disturbing frequency into the adventures of a mage.

Game-wise, a Paradox Realm could be a solitary hole in existence, a prison managed by a Paradox Spirit, or a Realm that’s expansive enough to accommodate dozens or even hundreds of characters. The shape and form of each given Realm are unique and often echo the principles of a particular Sphere. Even this tendency, though, is not a hard-and-fast rule. If you want to craft a Paradox Realm in which the mage meets, or becomes, every person she has ever harmed, then let that Realm become their prison.

Escaping Paradox Realms: That said, each Realm should also have an escape; if one of your players, after all, gets his mage dropped into an inescapable Paradox Realm, that character would wind up scrapped unless you and the player wanted to stage an entire solo chronicle within the Realm.

Every Paradox Realm, then, has a way out… but it shouldn’t be easy, and that escape should be measured not by mystic might but by solving problems without the use of magick. The magus must recognize his mistake, make amends if possible, repent his hubris and forsake his magick. Given the stubbornness of some willworkers, this can take a long while….

Reality Among the Realms: A trip to a Paradox Realm can become an Otherworldly adventure in which the usual rules of reality become puzzles fit for a wizard or philosopher. Chapter Nine’s section about Magick in the Otherworlds contains suggestions for the odd, reality-warping effects a Paradox Realm might have on the usual rules. (See pp. 483-485 of Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition.) As general guidelines, however, a Storyteller might decide to use the following tendencies for the set of reality within a particular type of Paradox Realm:

• Fate Realms either accelerate decay to horrific extremes, or hold the pristine quality of CGI illusions, and might seem incredibly random or painfully predestined.

• Forces Realms throw around the elemental energies associated with this Sphere. Storms abound; shadows and light move in capricious ways; Earthly physics run in reverse—water flows uphill or objects fall up unless otherwise restrained. Forces-based magick either causes great upheavals or has exactly the opposite of its intended effect.

• Life-based Paradox Realms feature biological fluctuations or endless levels of mutation and genesis. Living things might self-generate in midair, out of nothing, or dissolve into new and shocking forms. The mage himself could be turned into a chaotic biomass, growing limbs, shifting in size and shape, or otherwise being rendered helpless in the endless flow of life.

• Matter Realms jumble the apparent solidity of material forms into endless fluctuations or unpredictable altered states. Solids become liquids; liquids condense into solids; both become vapors. Colors and mass become irrelevant or else attain such stability that no force imaginable can change them.

• Mind Paradoxes trap a mage in their own mind, alone with their worst fears, memories, confusions, and neuroses. The Realm becomes a form of Seeking (as described in Chapter Seven, pp. 367-369 of Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition), based not around the advance of magick but rather upon the avoidance of it.

• Prime-based Paradox Realms pulse with the essence of pure, unfiltered energy. Ultimately indescribable in words, such regions become endurance tests of overwhelming sensations and vitality.

• Space-based Realms tend to skew perspective and distance. It’s almost impossible to judge spatial relationships in such places; an object that seems far away might be close enough to stub your toe against, but a person who appears to be within reach actually stands a fair distance away.

• Spirit Realms are, essentially, miniscule Dream Realms into which the mage is cast and then sealed away.

• Time Paradoxes confront the visitor with temporal loops, recursive events, dilated time flows, split-screen realities, and Groundhog Day-type scenarios in which the mage must either reenact previous sins or deal with a timeline in which they never existed, amidst otherwise familiar locations and circumstances.

In short, the Storyteller is encouraged to let their creativity off the chain when dealing with a Paradox Realm. That said, they’re also advised to construct such Realms in advance, then drop them into a story at an appropriate time, rather than try to make them up off the top of their head. A Paradox Realm works best when it suits the overall flavor of the tale and the characters within it.

Perhaps the most devastating form of Paradox doesn’t strike mages down at all. Instead, it degrades the things they hold sacred: the creations they shape with their Arts, the beasts that embody wonder, the magnificent technologies they strive so hard to perfect. Unbelief is the crushing weight of the Consensus, squeezing the life out of miracles and denying the products of a better world.

Although mystic mages feel the effects of Unbelief most keenly, Technocrats suffer from those effects as well. It’s Unbelief, after all, that causes bodies to reject cybernetics, restricts flight to the most awkward sorts of contraptions, and forbids the full enjoyment of economic ideals. Certain willworkers refer to Unbelief as “the Shit Factor”—the idea that the Masses cannot accept anything unless it’s shitty. When Agent Smith in The Matrix described the flaw-ridden world created by the machines, he was referring to Unbelief. Normal people, supposedly, cannot accept a reality filled with wonders. It has to be a mess in order for them to accept it as real. And so, dragons and clones and HIT Marks must be disguised or hidden when they appear within Earthly reality. Otherwise, they soon die from the effects of Unbelief.

The Shit Factor seems to work most powerfully in cities… and might, in fact, be the primary reason why the ideal of cities keeps crashing and burning in the realities of urban decay. Rural areas and open wilderness appear to have less weight and more potential for marvelous things. Even so, Unbelief stifles the uncanny marvels of bygone legendry, literally dissolving things that “cannot be” soon after they appear. Perhaps the Mythic Threads sustain certain creatures—vampires, ghosts, and the like—but dragons and aliens quickly disappear without a trace. Ultimately, Unbelief is the damning expression of the mortal status quo: that which should not exist cannot exist.

At the end of a scene in which a Sleeper witnesses obvious magick, roll her Integrity as a dice pool, Withstood by the Effect’s dots, the Gnosis of a Wonder, the Rank of a bygone, or a number set by the Storyteller for other magical phenomena. If multiple Sleepers are present, roll the Integrity of the highest Sleeper, and apply the 9-Again quality. A large group grants the Integrity roll the 8-Again quality,
and a full crowd grants the Integrity roll the rote quality.

Dramatic Failure: The phenomenon is unaffected, and the Sleeper suffers a breaking point against Integrity.

Failure: The phenomenon is unaffected.

Success: If the roll achieves successes beyond the phenomenon’s Withstand rating:
• Effects:_ Each success reduces one Effect factor by a level, primary factor last, to a minimum of the lowest level of Effect factor table. If all factors have been reduced to minimum, any further success destroys the Effect.
Bygones: The entity suffers lethal damage equal to successes.
Wonders: The Wonder is suppressed, ceasing to function until no Sleepers have been present for the roll’s successes in days.
Enhancements: The Enhancement is suppressed, ceasing to function for the remainder of the scene. The character with the Enhancement suffers lethal damage equal to successes.

Exceptional Success: As above, and also;
• Effects:_ One Reach effect incorporated into the Effect is removed.
Bygones: The damage inflicted is aggravated.
Wonders: The Wonder loses a number of Gnosis dots equal to (successes – 4). A Wonder reduced to 0 Gnosis is permanently destroyed.
Enhancements: The Enhancement is destroyed, and the invested Experiences refunded per Sanctity of Merits. The damage inflicted is aggravated.

This is from Mage’s core rulebook and worth reprinting for new Mage players:

It’s a common question: Why do we need Paradox? Why can’t my mage just sling fireballs down Main Street, like in D&D?

Actually, your character can sling fireballs down Main Street. It’s just gonna cost them dearly.

Seriously, though, it’s because Mage isn’t D&D. If mages could just fling fireballs down the street without consequences, then Mage’s setting would look nothing like our world. For all of its obvious exaggerations and fantasy elements, Mage is set in a satirical version of the world we know. And a world where people throw fire from their fingertips on a whim would have developed in radically different ways than our world has. Sure, if your Storyteller wants to run Mage in a high-fantasy style, they can disregard Paradox and let mages do whatever they want. Thing is, that world is going to change in some serious ways if things like that start happening… and if they’ve happened like that all along, the world of Mage wouldn’t be anything that seems familiar to us. (Although it might look a lot like Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade…)

On a more serious level, magic(k), as it is understood in the real world, outside the realm of high-fantasy media, does not operate without consequences. D&D is a war game wrapped up in Tolkien drag. It’s fun, but it’s nothing like real magic at all. If you look at real-life metaphysical practices, however, you’ll see that all of them place major limitations on the things magic can accomplish… and that all of them have consequences for using it. Discarding that element would also involve discarding an essential element of authenticity. And although Mage is a game set in a fictional cosmos, we strive to keep the essence of its magic authentic, even though the practices and practitioners have been heavily fictionalized.

Beyond all of those factors, you also have several core themes of Mage: courage, imagination, hope, struggle, sacrifice, progress, consequences, and interconnectedness. None of those themes would be supported—and most, if not all, of them would be undercut—if magick were a quick and easy thing that every hero could just DO. The theme of Paradox enhances the other elements of Mage. If that doesn’t work for you, then you’re probably playing the wrong game.

Most Attainments are removed. The majority can simply be replicated through Effects, a few are purchasable as Merits, and a handful are feats that any mage can accomplish without dots in the requisite Spheres.

Designer’s Notes: Attainments don’t have a place in Mage: The Ascension. Conceptually, many of them are obviously magickal, but can’t incur Paradox because they technically aren’t Effects. That’s dumb. Or rather, is at odds with the nature of consensual reality assumed by Ascension’s cosmology. Striding naked through a blizzard without harm (Environmental Immunity), surviving a gunshot while just as disrobed (Mage Armor, Matter) and corroding steel with a touch (Durability Control) are all vulgar feats that should incur Paradox.
Mechanically, many Attainments are no longer necessary because my other house rules make it easier for mages to cast Effects on the fly.
Finally, I dislike them. They remind of the random-bags-of-tricks domain abilities clerics get in Pathfinder. In Pathfinder those were kinda neat. In WoD, I prefer fewer laundry lists of powers. Mage’s magic system is already incredibly open-ended.

This is something all mages can do. Unchanged.

Death: Eyes of the Dead
This is an Effect.

Fate: Conditional Duration
Any mage with Fate 1 can incorporate conditional durations into Effects.

Forces: Precise Force
This is an Effect.

Life: Improved Pattern Restoration
This isn’t an Effect, because there already are healing Effects. Mages who want to heal more damage should just use real healing Effects instead of Pattern Restoration.
It also works as a two-dot Merit.

Matter: Permanence

Mind: Mind’s Eye
This is an Effect.

Prime: Universal Counterspell
This is an Effect. Or rather, Prime can be used to counterspell any other Effect of an equal or lower Sphere rating.

Space: Sympathetic Range
This is something all mages can do. Woe to the mage whose rival obtains a sample of his hair.

Spirit: Spirit Eyes
This is an Effect.

Time: Temporal Sympathy
This is an Effect. Or rather, this is Time integrated into another Effect.

Mage Armor
These are all Effects. Trinkets can also accomplish the same effect.

Targeted Summoning
Snipped. Supernal entities don’t exist in Ascension.

Death: Inviolate Soul
This is an Effect.

Fate: Unbound Fate
This is an Effect.

Forces: Environmental Immunity
This is an Effect.

Life: Body Autonomy
This is an Effect.

Matter: Durability Control
This is an Effect.

Mind: Intuitive Leap
This is an Effect.

Prime: Imbue Item
This is a Merit.

Space: Everywhere

Spirit: Honorary Rank.
This is a Merit. Every dot grant the character one honorary Rank. The character must have as many dots in the Spirit Sphere as the Merit dots to be purchased.

Create Rote
Snipped. Rotes don’t exist in Ascension.

Odds and Ends

The following rules draw on the mechanics for lucid dreaming presented in Mage: The Awakening, Changeling: The Lost, and Dancers in Dusk. The goal is to have a single system for dreaming usable across all gamelines.

Dream Bastions: When most mortals (and many immortals) fall asleep, their soul enters the Hedge (alternately referred to as the Dream Zone, the Dreaming, and the Maya by non-changelings) and literally grows among the thorns into a Dream Bastion. When the dreamer awakens, these bastions wither away and dissolve into the glamour that fuels the magic of the Hedge. This is not always the case, however, and there are much more permanent Dream Bastions, usually formed of collective dreams, that can be visited by oniric travelers (as detailed in the Book of Worlds). Characters with the Demesne Merit also have permanent Dream Bastions to call their own.

Types of Dreamers: Dreamers can be divided into three categories.

Non-Lucid Dreamers: Non-lucid dreamers are not conscious of the fact they are dreaming, have no power to influence their dreams, and frequently forget them upon awakening. Most mortals are non-lucid dreamers, but so too are most supernatural beings.

Lucid Dreamers: Lucid dreamers are characters with the Lucid Dreamer Merit. They are fully aware when they are dreaming and can exert power over the characters, narrative, and environment of their dreams. They cannot, however, perform supernatural feats of any kind within their dreams. Most lucid dreamers are mortals, but supernatural creatures without any inherent power over dreams can also possess the Lucid Dreamer Merit.

Oneiromancers: Oneiromancers are lucid dreamers who have the power to alter dreams through supernatural means, such as as a mage Effect, vampiric Discipline, werewolf Gift, and so on. These powers can accomplish impossible feats such as witnessing or altering the dreams of other individuals. Even when the oneiromancer is not actively using the power, they are still considered to be lucid dreamers.

Vampires: Vampires with Auspex 5 are oneiromancers. A few other obscure Disciplines, Devotions, and Blood Sorcery rites can grant them oneiric powers, but by and large, the Kindred are not experts on dream manipulation. They only truly dream during torpor.

Mages: Mages with Mind 2 are oneiromancers. As highly cerebral beings prone to extended self-reflection (or self-absorption…), mages are probably the foremost oneiromancers after changelings.

Werewolves: Werewolves with the Dream Hunter Gift are oneiromancers. It is far more common, however, for werewolves to physically enter the Maya by Stepping Sideways.

Changelings: Changelings are the unparalleled masters of dream manipulation and have numerous innate powers to alter dreams at their disposal. All changelings are oneiromancers.

Wan Kuei: Wan Kuei with the Dragon Tears Discipline are oneiromancers.

Wraiths: Wraiths with the Phantasm Arcanos are oneiromancers. Although the Restless don’t sleep, they are no strangers to ambiguous states of consciousness or realities that operate on metaphysical laws.

Other Supernaturals: To come.

Mortals: A rare few mortal psychics and hedge magicians possess Supernatural Merits that let them manipulate dreams, making them oneiromancers.

While dreams rarely have an obvious rhyme or reason to them, the Storyteller can choose to use specific types of dreams that have an additional effect upon the dreamer. Oneiromancers consider these dreams quite significant when they occur naturally and pay particular attention when they or a dreamer they are visiting has one. If the oneiromancer observes a dream without disrupting it, it affects her just as if she were the dreamer.

Memory Dreams: Many people experience a variety of memory dreams, subconscious recollections of things that happened during their waking hours. Which memories the subconscious squirrels away to dredge up during REM sleep can likewise tell something about the dreamer. Often such dreams aren’t faithful recollections, but are colored by the associations the dreamer has with the dream, what emotions they experience in remembering the dream and other similar personality “tints.” Sometimes the dreamer himself isn’t aware of why he continually remembers a certain event from his childhood, or why a specific hallway from his high school years recurs even in dreams that aren’t about old alma mater. Many oneiromancers can discover the reasons behind the recurring dreams through careful exploration of the dream itself.

Memory dreams are the most common type of dream and have no game effect. They’re just the subonscious mind sorting through the day’s events.

Nightmares: What wish fulfillment dreams are to hopes and desires, nightmares are to insecurities and fears. Most dreamers experience the occasional nightmare — a dream that contains imagery, experiences or memories that provoke a fear response. Such dreams are quite terrifying and, in the case of recurring nightmares, can actually contribute to poor health and psychological stress. Nightmares are intensely personal. What creates great fear in one person may simply be an odd dream for another. Therefore, the kinds of nightmares a character experiences tells much about what he fears, hates or generally has negative associations with. Similar to many dreams, however, nightmares can be tremendously symbolic: what appears to be simply a strange dream about clowns and playgrounds may actually be symbolic associations with being abused as a child to the dreamer.

Nightmares impose the Shaken Condition pertaining to the subject of the nightmare.

Prophetic Dreams: The Wyrd touches all things, running through the fabric of dreams as surely as it runs through the furthest mad reaches of Arcadia. In the Wyrd, the past and the future merge, and fate looms. Therefore, it is no surprise that dreams sometimes contain glimpses of the future. Some oneiromancers believe that many dreams are prophetic, reflecting the future in the same way that many divination methods do: as something that absolutely will occur if events continue based on the exact moment in time when the divinatory process is used. Of course, free will is the biggest source of those changes in events, and so they are hints at best. Still, prophetic dreams are quite common among those touched by the Wyrd, and many changelings (and mages) experience them.

Prophetic dreams grant the Inspired Condition pertaining to the future fate they hint at. If an oneiromancer makes any changes whatsoever to the dream through the use of
oneiromancy, the dream ceases to actually function as a prophetic dream and does not grant the Inspired Condition. Many oneiromancers consider it terribly unlucky to alter genuinely prophetic dreams.

Recurring Dreams: What kind of recurring dreams might a character have? The kinds of recurring dreams that a character has can say something about that character’s personality or psyche. For some reason, some concept—portrayed symbolically in dreams, of course—has its hooks in the sleeping mind, which dwells on that concept. Sometimes, this is simply a reflection of the character’s own interests, neuroses or stressful life situations, but sometimes, there are other factors at work.

If the dreamer isn’t already suffering the Obsession Condition, they gain it pertaining to the subject of the dream.

Wish Fulfillment: The human subconscious is, in many ways, the source of such human experiences as hopes and desires, whether sublimated or open. Therefore, it is no surprise that many dreams feature some kind of wish fulfillment, allowing the dreamer to experience her fondest wishes. Making love with someone she is infatuated with, the opportunity to get back at someone who has hurt her, the chance to reunite with a loved one who died while they were quarreling—most people experience some sort of wish fulfillment dream occasionally. The meanings behind those dreams are often obvious, but sometimes the wish fulfillment is expressed in symbolic terms: dreams of flight may represent freedom from a constricting or binding situation, while dreams of being pregnant may represent a creative urge unfulfilled.

Wish fulfillment dreams always leave the dreamer feeling more refreshed and fulfilled than normal. Dreamers gain an extra point of Willpower from their rest.

Personal Dreams: It’s easy for a lucid dreamer or oneiromancer to enter their own dreams: all they have to do is fall asleep. This takes no dice roll. Characters who want to go to sleep when they aren’t tired can do so with a successful meditation roll.

Changelings: When a changeling falls asleep in the Hedge a Bastion grows up around them, protecting them wherever they are. However, when a changeling is in the mortal world they have a choice. They may choose to dream, enter the Gate of Horn, and by doing so fade from the mortal world entirely. Unensorcelled who witness the process gain the Shaken Condition. Alternatively, a changeling may choose the Gate of Ivory and reject the opportunity to dream at all. She sleeps and remains present in the mortal world but the sleep is not restful and she does not regain any Willpower from it. Upon waking, the changeling returns to the Hedge or mortal world where they originally fell asleep unless they leave via the Contract of Dreamsteps or some other supernatural interference occurs.

Mages: Mind 1 Effects can bypass the need for meditation and allow a mage to instantly fall asleep. It takes a Mind 2 Effect, however, for a mage to enter their own dreams as a lucid dreamer.

Non-Personal Dreams: Only true oneiromancers can enter the dreams of other individuals. The exact mechanics vary by the power used, but generally, they involve a roll contested by the dreamer’s Dream Bastion rating (Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance). Attacking the bastion, if the oneiromancer has physically traveled to the Maya, only destroys the bastion and wakes the dreamer.

Changelings: Changeling are uniquely capable of entering dreams by innate talent alone; they don’t need any specific power to do it. A changeling spends a point of Glamour and rolls (Presence or Manipulation) + (Empathy or Persuasion) + Wyrd, contested by a dreamer’s Bastion rating. In doing so, she reaches out to the dreamer’s subconscious and persuades him she’s a part of the dream. A changeling doesn’t need to roll against the bastion rating if she shares a pledge with the dreamer or if it belongs to their fetch.

Mages: Mages can use Mind 3 to enter others’ dreams. Spirit can also be used to physically travel into the Hedge, though this is considerably more dangerous (and tedious) than entering a dream mentally.

Skeinwalking: To come.

The following rules apply to all characters in dreams.

Dream Intensity: Not all dreams are the same. Some are powerful, intense experiences that snatch up the dreamer and hapless oneiropomps and take them for a ride, forcing them to experience the fullness of the dream’s intended course until it is completed. Other dreams are wisps of imagery and vague symbolism, poorly remembered when away, and often only half-noticed while asleep. Such dreams are easy manipulated by skilled oneiromancers.

The power level of a given dream is referred to as its Intensity. At the onset of dreaming, the Intensity is determined by rolling the dreaming character’s Wits + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance trait. The number of successes gained in that roll determines the Intensity of the dream, which influences a number of factors.

Vampires: Kindred only truly dream when they are in torpor. Daysleep is more a state of temporary death than it is true rest, and causes a vampire’s dreams to be as dead and lifeless as they are. Vampires not in torpor cap the dice pool to determine their dream’s Intensity by their Humanity dots.

Changelings: Changelings may scour or bolster the Intensity of a dream by spending a point of Glamour and making a (Presence or Manipulation) + (Social Skill or Occult) + Wyrd roll. Successes are added to or subtracted from the dream’s Intensity. An exceptional success when bolstering the Intensity results in the Too Solid Flesh tilt while an exceptional success in scouring brings the Intensity to 0 immediately and the dreamer awakens.

Too Solid Flesh
Description: Dreams are all too real and what happens while in the dream happens physically as well.
Effect: All participants in the dream gain the benefits of Lucid Dreaming and will clearly remember what occurs regardless of the dream’s total Intensity. Damage is not downgraded upon transitioning from the dream to the waking world. Pieces of the dream can survive the usual dissolution into glamour, and escape into the Hedge as physical objects or hobgoblins known as Oneiroi when the dream ends.
Causing the Tilt: A changeling rolls an exceptional success when bolstering the Intensity of a dream.
Ending the Tilt: The Tilt ends when the dream ends and the dreamer wakes or dies.
Most changelings use this to lessen the power of nightmares, allowing the dreamer to experience the nightmare (and thus perhaps get the kind of catharsis that some people gain from their bad dreams) without finding themselves exhausted the next day. This can also be used to scour away the Intensity of dream-poison, reducing the hold of the True Fae over mortals they control through the contagion-dreams.

Appearance: Characters in dreamscapes, whether they are ordinay mortals or true oneiromancers, rarely appear precisely as they do in the waking world. A character’s dream form may even look nothing like she does, because this is her self-image as determined by her subconscious, and divorced from the limitations of flesh. A dreamer’s appearance frequently reflects their state of mind. If the dreamer is calm, lucid dreaming, or has managed to project their ideal astral form, they could look like an idealized version of themselves. Under other circumstances, their dream form might betray whatever stress, fear, or insecurities they’re facing in the physical world. In some particularly extreme cases, it may even take a Wits + Empathy roll (at a variable penalty depending on how pronounced the differences are) for other characters to recognize who the dreamer is.

Mages: Characters with the Shadow Name Merit often appear radically different in age, race, sex, or fitness, as their dream forms conform to their magical selves. The roll to recognize the character is contested by her (Manipulation or Composure) + Subterfuge + Shadow Name Merit dots.

Dark Minds: Some minds and souls are so dark and depraved that making mental contact with them is perilous in of itself. If the dreamer’s combined (Willpower + Supernatural Tolerance) exceeds the oneiromancer’s (Willpower + Supernatural Tolerance), and the dreamer’s Morality score is lower than the oneiromancer’s, visiting the dreamer’s psyche is a breaking point for the oneiromancer at either (dreamer’s Morality score) or (10 – dreamer’s Supernatural Tolerance), whichever is worse.

Example: An Integrity 7/Willpower 7/mortal sorcerer uses a Sorcery Merit to visit the dreams of a Humanity 4/Willpower 4/Blood Potency 1 vampire. The monster’s dreams are disturbing, but the oneiromancer’s mind is strong enough to automatically withstand them. If, on the other hand, the oneiromancer were to visit a Humanity 3/Willpower 10/Blood Potency 8 vampire, the oneiromancer would face an Integrity 2 (10 – Blood Potency 8) breaking point.

Visiting the psyche of a creature too monstrous to have a Morality trait (such as Strix and True Fae), or a creature whose Morality has fallen to 0 (wights, Marauders, Nephandi, etc.) is a Morality 1 breaking point unless the oneiromancer’s combined (Willpower + Supernatural Tolerance) is higher than (10 + dreamer’s Supernatural Tolerance). The oneiromancer faces this breaking point every scene they remain within the dreamer’s mind, rather than simply when they enter it. Such creatures’ psyches are simply too alien and demented to linger in for overlong.

Magic in Dreams: Characters may use most supernatural powers as easily within the dream as without. Other supernatural abilities that affect the mind or the apparent surroundings of the dream may be called upon while inside of it, though any power that relies on other supernatural factors or realms being present such as Ghosts or the Shadow automatically fail. A nightmare may feature a ghost, but it is merely the dreamer’s mental representation and not a real ghost.

Mind Over Matter: Dreams are wholly metaphysical realms shaped by the minds of their inhabitants. Characters within dreams substitute the higher of their Intelligence or Presence scores for Strength, Wits or Manipulation for Dexterity, and Resolve or Composure for Stamina. This changes derived traits such as Defense and Health. Lucid dreamers can rely on “body memory,” a reliance on subconscious memory of how the body reacts in a given situation, to still use any their normal Physical Attributes (if those are higher). At the GM’s discretion, it may also be possible to substitute certain Mental or Social Skills for Physical ones, such as Subterfuge in place of Stealth.

Mages in Dreams: The following special rules apply to mages.

Mind Effects: Dreams are made of thoughts, emotions, and other ephemeral creations of the soul, but the Spheres affect their creations using the same rules as they do on the material realm. In a place of symbols, each Sphere’s dominion has equally symbolic importance. Matter affects visions of stone, for instance. That said, a place of thoughts and emotions made manifest eases the use of the Mind Sphere. Mind Effects benefit from the 9-again quality to rolls.

Paradox: A mage in his own mind is formidable; his Effects are always considered coincidental as long as the magick doesn’t leave the confines of his own soul. Furthermore, all magick that does not align with his Paradigm is considered vulgar.

A mage in a non-lucid dreamer’s mind only enjoys this benefit if his combined (Willpower + Supernatural Tolerance trait) is higher than the other character’s. If not, his magick is considered vulgar or coincidental on the basis of that character’s belief system.

A mage in a lucid dreamer’s mind is always subject to their beliefs.

Instruments: Mages have no need for physical Instruments in dreams. They can simply will symbolic representations of them into existence.

Lucid dreamers and oneiromancers can all accomplish the following feats in dreams. Even non-lucid dreamers are capable of some of them, where noted.

Hide Presence: Lucid dreamers can conceal their presence in a dream by rolling Dexterity + Stealth or (Composure or Manipulation) + Subterfuge, contested by the Perception or Wits + Empathy of any other lucid dreamers. Non-lucid dreamers are never aware of a lucid dreamer’s presence in their dreams unless the lucid dreamer deliberately draws attention or does something obviously noticeable, such as physically attacking them.

Oneiromachy: When characters physically engage in oneiromachy, or dream combat, mark damage on their physical health track. However, when a character would normally be knocked unconscious or killed they awaken. Upon leaving the dream, downgrade any physical damage the character has taken: aggravated damage becomes lethal, lethal becomes bashing, and bashing damage dealt in a dream causes no harm in the waking world.

Amnion: The Amnion is an intensified self-image that a lucid dreamer can invoke to protect herself. Amnions take many shapes, from antique diving suits to scaled hides and spiked bat’s wings. A lucid dreamer may invoke her Amnion as an instant action. When she does so, she gains general armor equal to her highest Resistance Attribute or Supernatural Tolerance trait. However, as a refined form of egocentrism, it impairs the ability to interact with the outside world, imposing a –2 die penalty to Finesse-based tasks. The Amnion is treated as a form of equipment and overlaps (does not stack) with “physical” armor or other abilities that grant an armor rating.

Dying in a Dream: If a character takes bashing damage equal to their Health (in the dream, not the waking world), they regain no Willpower from that night’s rest. If a character takes lethal damage equal to their Health, they take the Soul Shocked Condition and face a breaking point at their current Morality level. If a character dies from aggravated damage, they take the Soul Shocked Condition and face a breaking point at Morality 1. Some supernatural abilities allow oneiromancers to inflict even worse fates on characters they kill in dreams.

Non-Lucid Dreamers: Non-lucid dreamers who find their dreams under assault are at a distinct disadvantage. It’s the nature of dreams to move as slow as molasses when running from a nightmare and punches thrown barely touch the foe. They can’t use environmental attacks, and any oneiromachy rolls made do not have the 10-again quality. Lethal damage also vanishes upon awakening, rather than being downgraded to bashing, though aggravated damage still inflicts lethal damage in the waking world. Non-lucid dreamers who
are defeated in oneiromachy do not regain a point of Willpower for the night’s sleep. If they
successfully win the fight, however, they regain two points of Willpower.

Personal Attacks: A physical attack—swinging a fist or shooting a gun—is the most basic form of an attack even within a dream. Resolve the attack roll like any normal combat. The character adds half their Supernatural Tolerance stat, rounded up, as a weapon bonus (regardless of what weapon they imagine themselves actually using).

Environmental Attacks: The second style of attack is an environmental attack using the dream itself as a weapon. Walls may close in suffocatingly tight, lightning strikes out of a clear blue sky, or shadowy figures drag a character down into black water. Though the environment is used as a weapon, and the oneiromancer may describe huge, epic devastation as part of his attack, such attacks do almost nothing to anyone save the target himself. Regardless of the “special effects” involved, these are still techniques of oneiromachy, attacking the dream-self of one foe at a time.

Environmental attacks rarely rely on typical combat Skills. Causing wild animals to savage a character could use Animal Ken, making a timely storm strike might be Survival, and invoking terrible sorceries could be Occult. Roll (non-Physical Power Attribute or Finesse Attribute) + (relevant Skill) + Supernatural Tolerance – Defense for the attack and resolve as normal. Damage inflicted through environmental attacks is either bashing or lethal, at the character’s choice.

Realize You are Dreaming: Lucid dreamers automatically know when they are dreaming. Non-lucid dreamers must succeed on a Wits + Composure roll with a penalty equal to (5 – dream’s Intensity rating). There’s no point in rolling to see if a character recognizes they are dreaming every night they go to sleep, but if an oneiromancer has entered the character’s dreams or if they have been pulled into someone else’s dream, such awareness can make the difference between life and death.

Unravel Enigma: Lucid dreamers who are attempting to gain insights, solve riddles, and puzzle out enigmas with Intelligence + Investigation rolls find the process particularly easy while dreaming. The character can spend a Willpower point to immediately make another Intelligence + Investigation roll above and beyond what they are allowed in the waking world (for example, only one roll per day). Once they wake up, they better understand how the pieces fit toether.

Remembering Dreams: People dream every night though they rarely remember the experience. Very rarely a dream is so vivid and intense that the dreamer remembers every detail. The dreamer rolls Wits + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance for Intensity. The dreamer can also benefit from the following bonuses: ambien (1 die), B complex vitamins (1 die), persistent Mental Condition (1 die), hallucinogens (2 dice), meditation (+2 dice).

Dramatic Failure: The dreamer wakes unrested and without dreaming. She doesn’t regain a point of Willpower.
Failure: The dreamer does not remember the events of her dream upon waking.
Success: The dreamer remembers the dream upon waking, though details quickly fade and the entire dream is forgotten after a few hours unless recorded or something reminds them of it later. The Intensity of the dream may help or hinder various dreamwalking techniques.
Exceptional Success: The dream sticks with the dreamer in such detail that it is perfectly remembered even years later.

Lucid dreamers do not need to roll to see if they remember their dreams.

Wake Up: Characters automatically wake from their dreams after a full night of sleep. Characters who wish to leave a dream prematurely, however, find that the dream’s Bastion acts as a barrier between the dream and the physical world no matter which way the changeling is trying to go. It may not be visually present from within the dream but a changeling attempting to return to the Hedge or a dreamer attempting to wake herself up early must still pass through it. Roll Wits + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance – dream’s Intensity in order to leave the dream.

If a character tries to wake from a dream while engaged in oneiromachy, she must spend an instant action, and her roll is contested by her opponent’s last attack roll. Oneiromancers can also forcefully prevent another dreamer from awakening by succeeding on a contested Wits + Presence + Supernatural Tolerance roll. The dreamer can try again at the start of the next scene.

Dream riding is perhaps the simplest and least intensive form of oneiromancy. A dream-riding oneiromancer enters the dream of another and makes simple changes to events and the environment around him. He can introduce fairly dramatic changes, altering the appearance of the dream’s setting, how its dream-inhabitants act and all manner of other changes. The integral dream itself remains relatively the same, however. Some oneiromancers practice dream riding on themselves and their allies on a regular basis in order to monitor them for evidence of outside influence as well as bolster their mental defenses.

Used against an enemy, dream riding techniques can be a valuable source of intelligence. Oftentimes, oneiromancers simply dream ride in order to observe what is going on, not doing much to change the content of the dreamscape. Naturally occurring dreams have value in and of themselves, and a wise oneiropomp understands this. From within the dream, an oneiromancer may use dream riding to perform a number of simple actions.

All oneiromancers can freely use the below techniques. Lucid dreamers are limited to Analyze Dream and Alter Dream. Non-lucid dreamers are not capable of any of them.

Analyze Dream: By carefully observing the dream a lucid dreamer determines whether a dream is specific type or if anything not native to the dream is present. Make a (Wits or Intelligence) + Occult + Intensity roll. Prophetic dreams are particularly delicate and even subtle changes that don’t require a roll disrupt the Wyrd’s influence on the dream enough to turn it into a regular dream. With an exceptional success a lucid dreamer locates any non-natives within the dreamscape. Careful dreamers will always analyze the dream before making any changes.

Alter Dream: Subtle changes that don’t affect the narrative of a dream do not require a roll. A dreamer may will a chair into existence just to sit without any problem while creating a chair to wedge under a doorknob can affect the narrative. These larger changes require a (non-Physical Power or Finesse Attribute) + (applicable Skill) + Supernatural Tolerance roll, penalized by the dream’s Intensity.

Convince the Dreamer: It is possible to plant subliminal messages in a dreamer’s mind by carefully adjusting their dreams. This works just like Social Combat, except each roll requires one night of work, both characters add their Supernatural Tolerance stat (if any) to their rolls, and the oneiromancer is under no time constraints and never takes penalties from circumstantial factors besides how opposed the dreamer is to the message’s contents. In the waking world, trying to convince a stranger to leave his wife should take significant penalties (if the GM even allows a dice roll at all), but an oneiromancer can speak directly to the dreamer’s subconscious mind and convince them of normally impossible things. This isn’t mind control, however: the oneiromancer is simply able to suggest courses of action the dreamer would never listen to from most people, but might entertain from their most intimate friends and confidantes. An oneiromancer couldn’t break up a genuinely happy marriage, but he could break up a staid or unhappy one even if the dreamer was in complete denial about it.

Alternatively to convincing the dreamer of something, the oneiromancer may inject subliminal suggestions into the dreamscape for later use. Roll Manipulation + (a relevant Social Skill) + Supernatural Tolerance, contested by the dreamer’s Wits + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance. For every success, the oneiromancer may “store” an extra die in the psyche of the dreamer, up to a maximum of five. When interacting socially with the dreamer at a later date, the oneiromancer may tap into these subliminal clues, pitching his voice to a certain tone, using a certain phrase or wearing a certain scent, using as many of these dice as he pleases on any Social-based roll in dealing with the dreamer. These clues remain embedded in the dreamer’s psyche for one week, fading at the end of that period. Only a single “batch” of subliminal clues may rest in the psyche of any given dreamer at one time—establishing a new set of suggestions overwrites the previously stored ones.

Oneiromancers may not use Convince the Dreamer in their own dreams.

Learn about the Dreamer: Dreams provide an unrestrained look into a dreamer’s soul and oneiromancers may learn quite a bit simply by observing and interpreting what they see. As long as no changes are made to the narrative of the dream, the oneiromancer can make a (Intelligence or Wits) + (Investigation or Empathy) + Supernatural Tolerance roll each night. For every success, the oneiromancer may relive one of the dreamer’s memories or answer one question about the dreamer, such as what their Virtue or Vice is, what their driving goals are, who their first grade teacer was, and so on. If the dreamer’s mind has been protected or tampered with through supernatural means (such as if he has been Dominated into forgetting a memory the oneiromancer wants to view), the oneiromancer must succeed on a Clash of Wills. At the GM’s discretion, information the dreamer would go to great lengths to keep secret (in game terms, do something that would require a breaking point at their current Morality level) may be contested by a Resolve + Composure + Supernatural Tolerance roll from the dreamer. Witnessing certain especially dark or traumatic memories may also call for a breaking point roll from the oneiromancer. Use the rules under “Dark Minds”, above, as guidelines.

Oneiromaners may not use Learn about the Dreamer in their own dreams.

Dreamscaping is far more involved than simply riding a dream. A dream-rider simply experiences the dream as it already exists, making small changes here and there. A dreamscaping oneiromancer, however, is literally creating the dream in its entirety, using the power of his will to shape a dreamscape from the latent stuff of the dreamer’s dreamscape. There is a limitation to this ability, however—because it relies on the confluence of the dreamer’s own dreamscape and the creative endeavors of the oneiromancer, an oneiropomp cannot actually dreamscape his own sleeping hours. Thus, many allied oneiromancers assist one another with the creation of dreamscapes meant to bolster and nurture one another.

There are three means by which oneiromancers may shape a dreamscape:

Find a Fallow Dream: The most common method oneiromancers use is to find a fallow dream. This requires the dreamer not to be actively in the middle of a dream, and for the oneiromancer’s psyche to enter the dream bastion when it first forms in the Hedge but before it’s fully developed and a dream begins naturally. Thus, an oneiromancer who enters a dreamer’s dreamscape before she enters REM sleep may take the opportunity to shape his will into the fallow, unattended dreamscape, setting the stage for his own psychodramas. However, the mind of a dreamer fights such unnatural intrusions. A dreamer’s psyche has its own unknowable agenda, and fights any changes to the symbolic, subconscious presentation the psyche has in store for a sleeper. To dreamscape a fallow psyche, the oneiromancer spends a point of Willpower (changelings may spend a point of Glamour) and makes a (Presence or Manipulation) + Social Skill + Supernatural Tolerance roll, contested by the sleeper’s usual normal roll for dream Intensity. This contest immediately triggers REM sleep—if the oneiromancer’s roll wins, he shapes the dreamscape into a scenario of his own choosing at an Intensity equal to his rolled successes. If the dreamer’s psyche wins, it begins a dream of an Intensity equal to the successes on the Intensity roll.

Scour Intensity: A somewhat easier way of dreamscaping is to scour a dream already in progress, using dream riding, though this is only possible for changelings and oneiromancers who use supernatural means to replicate the Lost’s innate abilities. Once the Intensity of the dream has been reduced to 0, the oneiromancer may immediately craft his own dream, resulting in a swift and strange transition from one dream to the next for the sleeper. Though this is easier to accomplish, it is more mentally demanding: the oneiromancer must pay two points of Willpower (changelings may pay two points of Glamour) to weave a dreamscape in the wake of a scoured natural dream, instead of the normal one point.

Use Existing Dream: The final method is to simply use an existing dream. Instead of dream riding—or if the oneiromancer rolls an exceptional success when making a minor change—the oneiromancer begins dreamscaping immediately. While this is the quickest method, the dream’s Intensity remains and penalizes all dreamscaping rolls as the dreamer’s psyche fights any changes to its subconscious agenda.

There are several benefits to creating dreams of whole cloth. The dreaming mind serves a purpose, relieving stress to the psyche, triggering a variety of physiological functions that normally lie dormant, providing incredible access to the subconscious and generally providing something of a “power down” cycle for the machine that is the human body. Dreamscapes may be crafted to facilitate the following techniques. In addition, it is said that some changeling entitlements, mage legacies, and other selective groups teach unique forms of dreamscaping that no one else knows or is empowered to use. Any single dreamer can only benefit from the below techniques once per night—thus, an oneiromancer could craft a healing sleep dreamscape and then a stress relief one, but the dreamer would only gain the mechanical benefits of the first dream.

Only changelings can use the below dreamscaping techniques. Mages can employ the Mind Sphere to replicate their effects, spending Quintessence in place of Glamour. Other creatures (or mages who’d rather not cast Effects) must buy the Dreamscaper Merit.

Dreamscaper (•••)
Prerequisite: Oneiromancer
Effect: Choose one of the below techniques: False Memory Dream, Healing Sleep, Nightmares, Psychotherapy, or Sleep Teaching. Your character can use that technique as if she were a changeling, paying for its use with Willpower instead of Glamour.
You can buy this Merit multiple times, taking a different dreamscaping technique with each purchase.

Oneiromancers may not use any of the below techniques in their own dreams.

False Memory Dream: Memory is notoriously malleable. Eyewitnesses often disagree with each other when they’ve seen the exact same thing, and therapists have convinced patients of events that never actually happened. Oneiromancers take this a step further by inserting these memories directly into the subconscious. Spend a point of Glamour and make a (Presence or Manipulation) + (relevant Social Skill) + Supernatural Tolerance roll vs. the dreamer’s Wits + Composure + Supernatural Tolerance. On a success the dreamer takes the False Memories Condition.

False Memories (Persistent)
The way you remember things doesn’t match up with how they happened. You might remember a son who didn’t exist, your alcoholic father abusing you despite being raised an orphan, or never getting married. You believe your memories to be true no matter what; even conclusive proof has a hard time getting through to you. Being faced with proof that your memory is fake is a breaking point for you at a level set by the Storyteller.
Possible Sources: Dreamscaping a False Memory Dream
Resolution: Face proof that your memory is false and succeed at the breaking point.
Beat: Your character trusts someone or takes a risky action based on his faked memories alone.
Healing Sleep: By creating a dream that’s particularly refreshing and interacts with physiological processes, the oneiromancer may speed the dreamer’s healing. Spend a point of Glamour and roll (Wits or Manipulation) + (Medicine or Empathy) + Supernatural Tolerance. For every success rolled, the time the dreamer spends asleep counts as a full day of rest. If the oneiromancer knows the dreamer’s Virtue or Vice from previous encounters where Learn the Dreamer was successfully used, the oneiromancer can also tap into the subconscious affirmations of self that some dreams embody, and assist the dreamer’s recovery from mental as well as physical stress. In game terms, she also regains a point of Willpower as if the dream were a wish fulfillment dream.

On an exceptional success, the dreamer is considered to have gained an extra day of rest. She also regains all her Willpower if the oneiromancer also knows her Virtue or Vice.

Nightmares: An oneiromancer can create a dream to harm as easily as help someone. While some find the idea of creating nightmares abhorrent, others enjoy the power it gives them and particularly enjoy tormenting others. Many changelings, in particular, relish tormenting their fetches with horrible visions of their inevitable deaths. Roll (Presence or Manipulation) + Intimidation + Supernatural Tolerance contested by the dreamer’s Resolve + Composure + Supernatural Tolerance. On a success, the dreamer gains the Shaken Condition. The oneiromancer can also choose to make the roll extended and inflict the Phobia Persistent Condition on the dreamer once she accumulates a number of successes equal to (5 times dreamer’s Resolve or Composure, whichever is higher). The oneiromancer only needs to spend one point of Glamour per night whether she makes an instant or extended roll.

Psychotherapy: An oneiromancer with the knowledge to do so may actually use the dreams of a subject as a means of treating psychological or mental problems. If Learn the Dreamer reveals that the dreamer is suffering from a Mental Condition, a oneiromancer may use psychotherapy as a means of treating it. Spend a point of Glamour and roll Manipulation + (appropriate Skill to the Condition, often Empathy or Medicine) + Supernatural Tolerance – dream’s Intensity. Non-persistent Conditions can be resolved with a single dice roll, while persistent Conditions require a number of successes equal to (5 times the relevant dot rating of whatever caused the Condition). Conditions maintained (not simply caused) by supernatural abilities also take a Clash of Wills with every dice roll. The oneiromancer can “leave off” during the psychotherapy and return within a number of days equal to their Empathy or Medicine dots before all accumulated successes are lost.

Sleep Teaching: Much of teaching involves more than simply the flow of information—most students learn in different ways. These techniques are what allow the students to truly process the information on a subconscious level. An oneiromancer may take advantage of the easy access to the subconscious of a dreamer to augment the learning process, crafting a dream that serves to teach the dreamer a Skill, Mental Merit, Supernatural Merit, or other supernatural power (such as a Contract, Discipline, and so on) in a fraction of the usual time, or without some of the usual hoops to jump through. Some oneiromancers jokingly refer to sleep teaching dreams as “montage dreams.”

Spend a point of Glamour and roll (Intelligence or Wits) + (dots in the ability being taught to the dreamer) + Supernatural Tolerance. On a success, the dreamer may spend Experiences on the desired ability in half the usual time or at the rate of one Experience per night, whichever is less. On an exceptional success, the dreamer can buy a dot in the ability after only a single night of sleep teaching. If buying the ability dot would only take a single night with a normal success, the dreamer is refunded one Beat from the total Experience cost. The oneiromancer must possess a number of dots in the ability at least equal to the number desired by the dreamer in order for them to benefit from sleep teaching.

To come.

Once a mage falls to Lucidity 0, he becomes a Marauder and replaces Lucidity with Quiet as his Morality trait. He’s irrevocably insane and is treated as Lucidity 0 for all mechanical purposes, but the degree of that insanity depends on his Quiet dots. That trait, however, can go up and down, depending on the events within the story. Certain things may drive the character more sane or less sane, but he’s never totally sane in the usual sense of things.

A Marauder’s base Quiet depends upon that mage’s usual disconnection from Consensus Reality. Robert Davenport, for instance, is pretty lucid: he can interact with most of the world, though he remains convinced that his wife and daughter are still alive and that his Avatar is actually his wife (who occasionally speaks through him). At times, he views his surroundings as a faerie-tale landscape in which he’s the hero. Davenport’s base Quiet, then, is low—between 3 and 4, depending on his situation. Pillory, on the other hand (see p. 628 of the M20 core rulebook), remains wrapped in an eternal nightmare that’s disconnected from anything like baseline reality. Her base Quiet, then, is 9 or 10—grossly distorted in every way imaginable. Such Marauders are merely a step or two away from complete metaphysical disintegration. A permanent rise above that level will destroy them.

Quiet Dots Degree of Insanity
1-2 One or two minor disassociations from baseline reality. Very few Marauders are this sane.
3-4 A few simple but notable differences between the Mad One’s reality and the reality experienced by other characters. Davenport, for example, refuses to believe that his family is long dead.
5-6 Major breakdown between the Marauder’s perceptions and the rest of reality. Perhaps the mage lives in a fantasy vision of the Roaring ‘20s or believes that she’s a concubine in medieval Songhai. Although the Mad One still views herself as human in a human world, that world must be translated by her Avatar—from its normal state into the world that she experiences.
7-8 Grotesque distortions of time, space, identity, and form. The Marauder perceives a reality that’s related to the normal one, but it has many significant differences that the Avatar must “translate” before she can interact with the world at large.
9-10 Welcome to Wonderland! The Marauder’s reality is nothing like the rest of the world; everything she perceives gets wildly distorted if and when she perceives it at all.
11+ Consensual Reality ejects the Marauder into the Umbra. Exiled beyond Consensus Reality, the Mad One exists only in distant Otherworldly Realms. If she gets any madder than this, she’ll drop out into the Deep Umbra. What happens after that is a mystery for the ages. Theory holds that Marauders who Ascend to this degree of madness become veritable gods within the Onerae Dream Realms.

Oddly enough, Marauders of Quiet 9 or higher appear to be immune to the effects of Disembodiment. Does that mean that physical existence is tied to forms of sanity, or that some forms of madness transcend physical existence…?

Reduced Paradox: Even on a dramatic failure, coincidental magick cast by a Marauder character does not invoke Paradox. She does not gain an automatic die of Paradox for using vulgar magick. Backlashes and other Paradox accumulation is handled normally.

Bounced Backlash: Other mages—perhaps even un-Awakened characters—in a Marauder’s vicinity suffer the effects of his Paradox backlash. Whenever a Marauder invokes a Paradox, transfer as many Paradox Reach as his Quiet dots from the Marauder to the next character with the lowest Morality score in the same area (other mages with Lucidity scores always come before other characters). Marauder backlashes tend to invoke explosions, time-freezes, angry Paradox Spirits, insect swarms, rains of blood, Paradox Realms, and other area-effect phenomena. In most cases, these backlashes fit the madness of the Marauder who caused the Paradox.

Quiet Insulation: Every two dots of Marauder Quiet (round up) subtracts one Reach from the number of Reach the GM may spend on Paradox effects. Subtract this Reach after spending Reach on other characters who would suffer the Marauder’s Paradox on their place due to Bounced Backlash. While Marauders aren’t quite “immune to Paradox” as conventional wisdom holds, the Mad Ones rarely suffer significant consequences from it.

Compounded Insanity: When a Marauder’s player botches a vulgar magick roll, that character’s Quiet increases by one.

Recovery?: For each week that the Marauder spends with characters who do not share her delusions, that compounded insanity decreases her Quiet by one dot. This recovery, however, cannot reduce Quiet below 1. She’s better but still not sane.

Sanity Sinks: Whenever a Marauder flares his Nimbus or spends a few minutes in the presence of otherwise sane individuals, treat it as a breaking point equal to (11 – Marauder’s Quiet dots). For example, spending time with a Quiet 10 Marauder is a Morality 1 breaking point, while spending time with a Quiet 4 Marauder is a Morality 7 breaking point. In addition to the normal effects of a botch or failure, the affected individual follows the Marauder’s definitions of coincidental and vulgar magick for the remainder of the scene. Individuals cannot be affected by Creeping Weirdness more than once per day, nor does it affect the already insane. Malkavian and wight vampires, Black Spiral Dancer werewolves, other Marauders, slashers, specters, True Fae, changelings with Clarity 0 and mortals with Integrity 0, remain totally immune to those delusions. Other characters can resist the effects by exerting Mind 1 magick or by invoking mental Disciplines or Gifts to protect their minds against the madness.

Mage: The Ascension House Rules

Witiko Falls: Disillusion Parasomniac Calder_R