The Creative Arts [Mage: The Awakening]

Mage: The Awakening, Open Development


Welcome back, faithful readers! Mage: The Awakening Second Edition has spent the last four months being redlined with a fine-toothed comb, and is now back with the authors for a spruce-up before evolving into its final form. As second drafts come back in, I’ll be sharing the topics we didn’t get around to in the last phase of Open Development, such as Attainments (and I might split that up), the remaining five Order write-ups, Gnosis, matters of the Soul, and Mana.

Now, the previous blogs have described a lot of how we’re changing Mage, but today’s topic is something that we’ve gone into the new edition not only wanting to keep, but raise in prominence. Awakening, like its big brother Ascension and both games’ estranged uncle Ars Magica, is different to all the other World of Darkness games in how it treats characters’ powers. A Mage character sheet doesn’t list individual powers like Werewolf Gifts or Demon Exploits. Its powers aren’t progressive lists like Vampire Disciplines. The Arcana list many example spells, but they are examples. The game’s big draw, like its predecessors’, is the ability to come up with thousands of spells and place them within the framework provided by the mechanics.

In the current edition, creative thaumaturgy came after the example spell lists, giving some readers (especially those just flipping through the book) the impression that Awakening discourages inventive magic use compared to Ascension, but that certainly wasn’t the intent and one of our main goals in the new edition is to dispel that notion. What we do have to work with is the new World of Darkness’ generally tighter mechanics – it’s easy to describe what you want to do, but how to translate that into a game effect gives a lot of people difficulties. What dot-level should a spell be? How much damage is appropriate? When should you give bonus dice to actions, or dice tricks? When should you use a Condition, and how “big” can spells get?

In-between the Yantra section and the Arcana (with their attendant lists of spells), Awakening Second Edition offers advice on Creative Thaumaturgy and how to design new spells, written by the Arcana Team alongside all of the spells they designed and redesigned for the game.

It breaks spells down into a five-step process, which assumes the spell is using the full rules rather than Down and Dirty magic, which only uses steps one and two:

Step One: Declare Intent

As Emmet show in this clip, this can be the hardest part of the process, especially for a player. It comes with practice, and in taking the example spells as a starting point rather than an exhaustive list – think of something similar to an existing spell but not quite covered? That can be your basis. A minority of players all but abandon the described spells and think only in terms of the Practices, and it’s this method that I recommend to people joining us from Ascension. Most players will be somewhere in-between.

Step Two: Determine Arcanum and Practice

The ten Arcana list various phenomena as being under their purviews, but like the spells those aren’t strictly speaking exhaustive. If you can think of something we haven’t, put it into one of them. Second edition clarifies a few things in terms of the Arcana’s dividing lines – Death is very clearly the “magic that affects the Soul” Arcanum now, rather than sharing it with spirit, Prime is “truths” not “illusions”, as purely sensory illusions are Forces now. Before each Arcanum goes into the example spells, they also give any special notes and advice on how their purviews work; I have personally noted (often firsthand) a great number of players and storytellers not “getting” how time – the dimension, not the Arcnum – works in Awakening and struggling with improvised spells. That was because principles like “the past is fixed unless altered by magic, the future is constantly changing according to probability (which is itself a function of Fate)” and “if you kill your grandfather you don’t blink out of existence, but everyone will forget who you were” were built into 1st ed’s spells but left to inference. Second edition flat-out tells you about it, and about how Fate interacts with destiny, and how magical sympathy and contagion work with Space.

The Practices are the skeleton behind the Arcana system – thirteen categories for spells (with a few more as the secret business of Archmasters) that every spell falls into. One of the happy results of the new edition’s Reach system for Paradox is that we have none of the warping of Practices relative to their dot-ratings first edition had, and we’ve extended that by removing the “offsets” some Arcana had for different types of subject: Every single Fraying spell is three dots, and Life no longer requires higher dots to cast on animals than plants. Game balance (such as it is) is administered through Reach, instead – if you can imagine two versions of the same spell in the same Practice, and one is obviously more powerful than the other, our advice is to make the more powerful one a Reach effect on the less powerful one. Because the Practices are now hard-locked to their dot ratings, they’re much improved as the means for a Storyteller to figure out what dot-rating a spell needs to be.

Initiate (•)

  • Compelling spells nudge something into doing something it could have done naturally. A coin toss can be made to come up tails (Fate), a bored worker can be made to take that coffee break now (Mind), or a spirit can be forced to avoid its bane (Spirit). Making the coin hover and spin in midair, making the worker walk into her boss’s office and quit, or making the spirit ignore its favorite prey are beyond the bounds of a Compelling spell.
  • Knowing spells deliver knowledge about something directly to the mage (or to another target). A mage can divine the cause of a corpse’s death (Death), sense whether someone has a powerful destiny (Fate), or unerringly know which way is north (Space.) This knowledge is a direct awareness of Supernal truth; the mage doesn’t have to interpret evidence based on her senses or try to divine the truth out of cryptic riddles.
  • Unveiling spells expose hidden things to the mage’s senses, or expand the confines of those senses. She might gain the ability to hear radio waves (Forces), peer across the Gauntlet or perceive things in Twilight (Spirit), or see the flow of Mana across the landscape (Prime).

Apprentice (••)

  • Ruling spells grant fuller control over phenomena than a mere Compelling spell. Water can be made to flow uphill or into unnatural shapes (Matter), animals (or even human beings) can be commanded (Life or Mind), or time can be momentarily made to accelerate or slow down (Time). A Ruling spell can’t fundamentally alter its subject’s abilities: Water can be directed, but not turned solid or gaseous. Time can be altered, but not overwritten. An animal can be commanded, but not made stronger or fiercer.
  • Shielding spells, sometimes called Warding spells, offer protection against phenomena under the Arcanum’s purview. A Shielding spell might protect against a ghost’s Numina (Death), make the mage immune to fire (Forces) or disease (Life), or allow her to survive in a caustic atmosphere (Matter). Mages protect themselves from general harm through the power of their Arcana with the Mage Armor Attainment rather than Shielding spells.
  • Veiling spells are twofold: Firstly, they can conceal things under the Arcanum’s purview from detection: A subject can be made to lose all sense of time (Time), a fire’s heat and light can be hidden from view (Forces), or making a building all but impossible to notice (Matter). Secondly, they can conceal a subject from concrete phenomena under the Arcanum’s purview: a mage can render herself invisible to ghosts (Death) or ward a powerful Locus from detection by spirits (Spirit) or walk unnoticed through a crowd (Life or Mind) or past a camera (Forces). Short of archmastery, it’s impossible to Veil something against an abstract concept or force: a mage can’t Veil herself against death or hide from time, for example.

Disciple (•••)

  • Fraying spells degrade things, weakening them and enhancing their flaws. Fraying spells can weaken subjects under the Arcanum’s purview: damping a fire (Forces), sapping Strength (Life), or eroding the barrier between worlds (Death, Spirit, or others, depending on the worlds in question). They can also directly attack subjects using the energies of the Arcanum: inflicting damage via the chill of the grave (Death), or psychic overload (Mind). Damage inflicted by a direct-attack Fraying spell is always bashing.
  • Perfecting spells are the opposite of Fraying spells in many ways: they bolster, strengthen, and improve rather than weakening and eroding. A Perfecting spell might repair damage to an object or a person (Matter or Life), allow a machine to function perfectly, with no wear and tear (Matter), or make a modest destiny into an earth-shaking one (Fate).
  • Weaving spells can alter nearly any property of a subject without transforming it into something completely different. Solid steel can be transmuted to liquid (Matter), a sword can be enchanted to damage beings in Twilight (Death or Spirit), or a few seconds of time can be rewritten (Time). A spell that grants the target the properties of something that falls within the Purview of another Arcanum, like giving someone diamond-hard skin (Life and Matter), requires a mage to know the Practice of Weaving for both Arcana.

Adept (••••)

  • Patterning spells allow a mage to completely transform a target into something else that falls under the Arcanum’s purview. A memory can be replaced wholesale (Mind), the mage can turn herself (or a subject) into an animal (Life), or she can teleport by “rewriting” her own location (Space). A spell that transforms the subject into something that falls within the Purview of another Arcanum, like transforming into a living pillar of fire (Life and Forces), requires a mage to know the Practice of Patterning for both Arcana.
  • Unravelling spells can significantly impair or damage phenomena under the Arcanum’s purview, or directly inflict severe damage using the forces of an Arcanum. A raging storm might become a calm summer’s day (Forces), solid iron reduced to dust (Matter), even spells can be torn asunder (Prime). Mages can hurl fire (Forces) at their enemies, or cause aneurysms and heart attacks with a glance (Mind or Life) Damage inflicted by a direct Unravelling attacks is lethal, but can be upgraded to aggravated by spending a point of Mana and one Reach.

Master (•••••)

  • Making spells allow for the creation of whole new phenomena ex nihilo. The mage can conjure gamma rays (Forces), birth new spirits (Spirit), or create a doorway to the Underworld (Death). Time can be dilated by creating more seconds, hours, or even days (Time).
  • Unmaking spells annihilate subjects under the Arcanum’s purview entirely. Life can be snuffed life a candle (Life), two locations can be forced into each other by destroying the distance between them (Space), even Hallows and Verges can be wiped from the earth (Prime). Unmaking spells are beyond inflicting direct damage with attacks; a successful Unmaking destroys the subject altogether.

Astute players will likely figure out a multitude of ways to accomplish similar effects with different Arcana, sometimes at different dot levels. This is okay. Just because a Fate ••• spell can do a thing doesn’t mean a Forces • spell that does a similar thing is “broken” or should be disallowed.

Take for example influencing the outcome of a coin toss. A simple Compelling spell of Fate can easily tip the odds toward either heads or tails, but it’s theoretically possible to use a Forces Fraying spell to alter the kinetic energy imparted to the coin, causing it to spin slower, or use a Matter Weaving spell to change the coin’s center of mass. Both are perhaps more complicated than the Fate approach, but they’re valid within the purview of their respective Arcana. Similarly, a Mind Weaving spell could force a target to feel love, while a Life Ruling spell could cause the target’s brain to release dopamine and other hormones that create a similar effect.

Step Three: Determine Effect and Cost

The effects of a spell can be incredibly broad, and it’s impossible to categorize every conceivable thing a mage might want to do with a spell, but this section will highlight some of the more common effects, how to adjudicate them, and what they should cost. We go through Damage, Healing, Conditions and Tilts, Bonuses and Penalties, Dice Effects, Protection, Hiding, and Narrative Effects.

Don’t think of this section as a “menu;” any individual spell should have a single, clear effect. If you start designing a spell that deals damage and grants bonus dice and imposes a Condition, you’re probably creating a combined spell (see p. XX), not a single spell.

I’m not going to give you the whole thing in this blog, but here’s an example:

Conditions & Tilts

As pre-packaged blocks of rules already designed to fit into a lot of different systems, Conditions are an excellent source of inspiration for long-lasting spells.

Because the effects of Conditions and Tilts are so broad, it’s difficult to assign hard-and-fast rules for Practices that inflict them. Use the Practice descriptions and the following list as a guideline:

  • Compelling (•) spells can’t create Conditions out of whole cloth, but can intensify phenomena that already exist to inflict Conditions. A Compelling spell can make someone who’s already nervous Spooked, for example, but can’t make someone who’s uninterested in the mage romantically Swooning.
  • Ruling (••) spells can create most non-Persistent, mundane Conditions. Supernatural Conditions, such as the soul loss Conditions or Manifestation Conditions, generally require a Weaving (•••) spell.
  • Creating a Persistent Condition is almost always a Patterning (••••) or Unraveling (••••) effect.
  • Spells inflict Conditions that harm, hinder, or inconvenience characters. Wholly beneficial Conditions, like Informed or Steadfast, should be saved for the benefits of rolling an exceptional success on the spellcasting roll. Spells can mimic the effects of a helpful Condition, but using magic to gain a benefit and a Beat is double-dipping.
  • Tilts are usually created by applying a Reach to an attack spell, but if you want to create one on its own, it’s usually a Fraying (•••) or Patterning (•••) spell.

Conditions created with magic only last as long as the Duration factor of the spell. If the target resolves the Condition before the Duration expires, the spell ends early and the target gains a Beat as normal. (It’s the Storyteller’s call whether the Beat is normal or Arcane.) If the Duration runs out, the Condition goes away, but that doesn’t count as resolving the Condition.

Removing a condition with magic is always at least a Ruling (••) spell, but otherwise follows the same guidelines as creating one.

The Beat Goes On…

At this point, you may be wondering what’s stopping you from loading up on Condition-causing spells in a relatively safe environment, resolving them all, and earning Beats by the bucketload? The honest answer is “nothing, mages do it all the time.” Mastigos force their apprentices to face terrifying fears in order to better themselves. Thyrsus challenge their own bodies with horrible diseases. The only limits are the rule that a character may only earn one Beat per scene from resolving Conditions, and the limits of her own Wisdom (see p. XX). Remember, though, that letting a Condition-causing spell’s Duration expire doesn’t count as resolving the Condition.


When designing the corebook’s spells, we had lists of what would definitely require Reach, Mana, or both – and we give both lists here. They’re less important in Creative Thaumaturgy terms than in actual spellcasting – most Reach is spent to manipulate spell factors, and most Mana is spent on Attainments or to mitigate Paradox – but when some spell effects do require one or the other, we tell you.


Step Four: Decide Primary Factor

Determine which Factor is the Primary Factor –  the one that starts at the mage’s Arcana dots in levels before penalties, while all the others begin at the first level. This is almost always Potency, or Duration, but the rule of thumb is “whichever Factor you immediately think of when you think of a more powerful version of the spell.” The Primary Factor can be changed during spellcasting with a Reach. The Primary Factor of a given spell effect is always the same; you can’t make a creative thaumaturgy spell that’s identical to another spell except with a different Primary Factor.

Step Five: Cast the Spell

And then cast away!

When designing new spells, it’s important to remember how the spellcasting system works – never assume what the spell will be cast on, for example, because that’s a function of the Spell Factors. First edition had lots of spells that required touch range, or needed extra dots to cast on someone else, or stipulated that they were always Aimed; second edition does none of that, as those things are all handled by the business of your spell and Paradox dice pools.

How do the spell factors work? That’s a subject for another blog.

I hope that all re-whetted your appetite for Mage previews. More to come as soon as possible.

Until then!


  51 comments for “The Creative Arts [Mage: The Awakening]

  1. Tiresias
    April 29, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I am so happy right now. 😀

  2. Solarious
    April 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I’m vibrating at a frequency of elation and joy right now. Can’t let the co-workers notice.

  3. Octavo
    April 29, 2015 at 11:21 am

    This is going to make both playing and running Mage so much easier! I love that Mastery of Time allows the wholesale creation of days!

  4. Ninjar
    April 29, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Wow! That made my week.

    I was worried about the blog’s hiatus. Good to see you again Dave!

  5. Eolirin
    April 29, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Glad to have these starting back up.

    One question, does this mean that Masters of most of the Arcana can kill people on a single success with an Unmaking Spell, or is that contested somehow? Because that’s kind of terrifying.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      April 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

      It would be resisted like any other hostile spell, but after that, yes.

      • Dave Brookshaw
        April 29, 2015 at 11:44 am

        Also, Unmaking an Arcanum on someone isn’t *always* instantly fatal – Life obviously is, and Forces can be depending on what exactly you do to them – but there are other, funkier, applications. One of the sample Death 5 spells is an Unmaking spell that resurrects the subject (sadly minus their soul!)

        • branford
          April 29, 2015 at 12:07 pm

          Very nice. If you give the resurrected subject someone else’s soul, well withing the purview of a Death master, would that be considered a “total” resurrection, or would the subject still be irreparably damaged?

          • Dave Brookshaw
            April 29, 2015 at 12:22 pm

            You can indeed take a soul from a “donor”. Have fun!

            Oh, and also don’t let them get Dispelled. That would be bad.

        • Aiden
          April 29, 2015 at 12:09 pm

          So if you can grab the soul and stuff it back in, does that make everything okay again?

          • Aiden
            April 29, 2015 at 12:09 pm

            Or what about someone else’s soul? Can you just steal a replacement from someone else?

          • Freemind
            April 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm

            It seems that yes would be the answer to both. If you have a soul, it doesn’t matter where it came from for the purpose of restoring a soul into the revived body.

            But where that soul would matter to the local mages. Only reapers harvest souls, and they aren’t looked on to kindly. And short of Archmastry, you cannot forge a spare (per Dave on the forums). So unless you some how manage to catch the departing soul, barter with an Archmage (or become one), or find a full soul jar lying around (which itself is suspect), full resurrection is going to lead to some interesting political entanglements if you are found out to be harvesting souls or dealing with those who do.

  6. Aiden
    April 29, 2015 at 11:37 am

    This is so much more clear and consistent than the first edition corebook was on the matter. I almost feel like I could make Creative Thaumaturgy work just from the descriptions of the Practices here, and the clear assignment of each Practice to a specific level of the Arcana across the board.

  7. Andrew Thomas
    April 29, 2015 at 11:51 am

    So much simpler than 1e. I like it.

  8. Freemind
    April 29, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Great! I love it Dave!

    The one thing that has always bugged me is physical damage from Mind. Ascension made one good point (in my mind) that mind wasn’t really able to act on the physical body, limiting it to bashing damage. I get psychosomatic stuff (your mind makes it real, such as feeling pain that has no physical source) or headaches causing bashing damage.

    But the books always made it seem that the brain/nerves/physical elements of the mind (stucture, neurochemistry, Syanpses, etc.) were under the purview of Life, and this was made clear to exclude other Arcana that could influence aspects of this (i.e. Matter can’t turn my blood to acid and forces cant stop the electrochemical signals of neurons because they are part of a living pattern). Mind instead focused on the more esoteric elements, such as conciousness or memories. While the underlying chemicals/structures can influence thoughts, Life could never directly interact with them: I couldn’t use it to read a thought or alter memories. Likewise, mind could stimulate actions (such as a lustful thought leading to the, erm, certain biologic reactions) or make you take actions that would effect the body (lead you to jump off a cliff), it also didn’t interact with the body directly: it didn’t directly cause the release of hormones or influence the tissue.

    Your example gives an aneurysm for the Mind causing lethal damage, but this is damaging a blood vessel (aneurysms are bulges of the vessel walls that are structurally weaker, and can rupture, which is what actually causes the damage). Ruptured aneurysms, seizures, strokes (ischemic or hemorrhagic), lesion/masses are all structural and chemical anomalies, and thus would seem to be under the purview of Life, not Mind.

    Now, if it is making them harm themselves via their Mind, such as stabbing themselves/walking into traffic, that would make sense to me (Though it means you are limited by the means they have to hurt themselves). But directly assaulting the thoughts of another doesn’t seem like it should cause physical damage, but instead place conditions that significantly inhibit the enemy (such as putting them in a fugue state, trapping them in a Nightmare, etc.).

    Yes, it would mean Mind lacks the same direct damage potential of the other Arcana, but it also could make those using it even scarier and thematically appropriate. Which is worse: an unhealing scar, or permanently being trapped in a nightmare? I feel that thematically, it fits the Symbolism of the Mind better. Otherwise, wouldn’t the Thyrsus be right about the Mind Arcana: the mind isn’t really seperate from the biologic?

    Then again, maybe I am missing something (or letting my understanding of the Fallen World get in the way).

    • Nuwisha Nutjob
      April 29, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Attacking with Mind could cause hallucinations to make someone think they were taking physical damage, and all the harm would be psychosomatic. And then, when they have all their Health “filled up” with imaginary damage, they suffer brain death.

      I could imagine it playing out something like this:

      “Omg, I’m bleeding!”
      “What are you talking about, Steve? You’re not bleeding anywhere. Your not even hurt”
      “Oh god, oh god, I’m dying! Get me to the hospital! I’ve been stabbed!”
      “Steve stop freaking out! You’re fine!”
      “I…I…” Steve falls over and dies, much to his friend’s bewilderment.

      That would be some evil witchcraft right there!

      • Freemind
        April 29, 2015 at 2:10 pm

        A cool description. I am trying to see how it would work mechanically.

        Yes, filling up with bashing to the point the person dies would make sense (stimulate enough fear to cause a heart attack, etc.). And that actually makes sense as an indirect assault: a man with a weak heart (low stamina) is more likely to reach that point. I even acknowledged that. But it is a slow buildup, unless your really powerful, since it would take a minimum of 6 bashing damage (5 health for size +1stamina) to fill up an empty bar before wrapping around and becoming lethal. Again, this actually would fit thematically, as the thoughts indirectly trigger the fight or flight response, dumping more and more epinephrine into the system. But then, I already said I had no issue with this.

        My issue was more how does it do Instantaneous aggravated damage (and to a lesser extent, lethal). This is supposed to repress serious trauma or injury, with aggravated reflecting things like limb loss, cancer, cauterize do wounds or supernatural damage that resists healing. My thing is… How does the mind do that? If there was a separate health at for the mind, your example would work, but if I shoot a guy and then mess with his mind with an unravelling spell, they are treated the same damage. Yes, it is a game and there will be mechanical and story segregation, but this one seems easy to fix.

        And sure, there are psychiatric conditions that manifest physically ( broken heart syndrome or depression are examples) but they aren’t immediately lethal (unless you have a pre-existing health flaw). Even when you see people die instantly from heart attacks due to anger or fright, they usually had something wrong physically that allowed that (or else the DMV and Haunted House would be known as suicide booths).

        While the hallucinations causing brain death is interesting, I also don’t see how it works: Psychosomatic responses are limited to what the body can reproduce without physiologic changes (I blame television shows, like fringe, for making people think otherwise) In other words, even when you have things such as conversion disorders, which can cause seizure like activity, the brain isn’t truly undergoing the physiologic effects of a seizure, the patient is just acting one out (they just don’t realize they are doing it). They also won’t make you bleed out or develop any other symptoms outside of what your body could reproduce or are derived primary from the brain (such as pain, N/V, pruritus).That said, pushing the bodies physiologic states for too long will eventually lead to physical harm and death. But again, this would be best represented by the use of bashing damage accumulation, as the body being supercharged by fear or other psychic elements wears the body down.

        Even brain death is an anatomic phenomenon. It is actually what defines death medically, and it is marked by complete cessation of the function of neurons. The loss of conscious thought is instead a vegetative state, where the biological components still function and the person is still alive (loss of peripheral control with retention of consciousness is locked in syndrome, a nightmare I wouldn’t with on anyone). Usually, there is a limitation in function or parts of the brain are dead in vegetative states, but that is from the injury that resulted in said state. I could see Mind reducing a person to a vegetative state, and then they would die without supportive care, but the body (I.e. Brain) wouldn’t be harmed directly.

        I just feel that with Matter and forces in the past being ruled out as affecting internal elements of living pattern, then the distinction should be made with Mind as well. Yes, those have external means to effect a living pattern (lightning and steel) but that is there thing: they are Gross Arcana. Let the Subtle Arcana of the Mind shine by not having it deal direct damage lethal/aggravated damage, but either driving a man to unconsciousness or death with bashing damage (representing the growing negative physiologic response to the thoughts, rather than direct damage to the body) or by directly placing harmful conditions.

        • Freemind
          April 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm

          Then again, maybe being an MD is making me over think this/take it too seriously. Damn Fallen World science, and damn slow week at the hospital giving me too much time to think about extraneous stuff.

        • Eolirin
          April 29, 2015 at 2:46 pm

          Well what happens if you overstimulate all of the nerve cells in the brain by a lot? Excessive neural activation leads to cell death, right? If enough of your brain decides to suddenly short itself out, well, you’re probably going to die, but even if you don’t, you’ll suffer all sorts of stroke like symptoms, and it’ll be physical damage, not just mental.

          Neural activation and Mind are linked enough that you can treat them synonymously for this purpose, even though the Mind Arcanum doesn’t quite map to this exact dynamic; you can preserve a mind outside of a neural system in Mage, not something you can do in the real world, for instance.

          • Eolirin
            April 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm

            Also, Awakening isn’t Ascension, you can use Life to control humans like meat puppets, and even generate emotional responses by trigging changes in hormones, so there’s a lot more fluidity to how things work.

          • Freemind
            April 29, 2015 at 4:53 pm

            What you are talking about is called Excitotoxicity, which is due to a flood of chemicals, often from local cell death due to trauma or disease, or drugs that disinhibit the chemical regulatory processes (or overwhelm said pathways by flooding the system with excitatory chemicals). Excitotoxicity isn’t referring to thinking too hard, but what happens when you go through alcohol withdrawal: Glutamate is no longer properly suppressed without alcohol, meaning alcohol’s sudden removal causes of flood of glutamate that triggers cell death (Hence the DTs). But healthy brains will prevent this.

            Hyperstimulation means excessive sensory input, and it can actually cause disruption of thought proceses. Essentially, those regulatory processes I mentioned kick in due to the sudden rush of electrochemical release. This regulatory response is so strong it literally shuts down entire those pathways temporarily, and can interrupt conciousness. This is why you pass out due to pain, or become stunned by loud noises/sudden flashes. So, supercharging someone’s thoughts could cause them to pass out or be stunned, but unless they have a medical predisposition, the body would simply shut down before lasting damage could occur. Remember, my point was that the mind can’t directly interfere with the biological components, so it wouldn’t be able to short these regulatory processes. Yes, symbolism can supercede Fallen elements, but I feel you would need Life to do this in this case.

            My thing is, and as you pointed out, the mind is a seperate phenomenon in Mage. I can create a mind independent of a brain, or create one in an inanimate thing. I would liken it to software, with the brain being the hardware in humans, but it is an imperfect analogy. But I always viewed Mind spells to be optomizing the software for a person’s hardware, not altering the hardware, when it boosts Mental attributes. I mean, I could boost my Tulpas mental capabilities without any neurons there to be stimulated. Mind control is hacking the software, behavior modification and memory alteration is editing the software. But the software is limited on its ability to influence the hardware, only able to push it within its natural limits, through its normal means of interface. Even if you hack the hard drive controls, the software cannot change what the hard drive can do (i.e. it cannot make your hard drive work as a monitor). Same with mind:it can interact with the body, but not make it do things beyond what is within its normal biologic limits (at least without conjunction al life).

            That all said… yours is the best explanation I have gotten. I think the MD in me will still howl in protest, but I could accept it.

          • Eolirin
            April 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm

            So, I think, in Awakening, the line isn’t that clearly defined. Yeah, you can have a mind with no body, but they’re not wholly distinct in living beings either. Fuzzy lines is a feature here, not a bug I think. If you need a metaphysical basis, maybe this works: the Soul is made up of all five subtle Arcana,

          • Eolirin
            April 29, 2015 at 7:48 pm

            Oy fingers; the soul is all five subtle arcana, and the body depends on all five gross. So living things really rely on all 10 Arcana. You can thus cause direct damage by assaulting any of them.

            But also, if we allow fuzzy overlap between neurological function and Mind, you can justify the interruption of those regulatory processes you mentioned, so that the overstim does result in toxic responses.

          • Eolirin
            April 29, 2015 at 8:00 pm

            And if we hold to modern neuroscience that line has to be fuzzy right? In the real world memory, skill acquisition, cognition, etc, all depend on neurotransmitter releases and physical changes to the neurons themselves, so if you change a person’s memories, you’d have to literally change the neurons, if you made them happy you’d have to result in the release of certain chemicals, etc. Why not be able to suspend the regulatory processes that prevent cell death when using Unravelling? You’re being overstimmed and simultaneously prevented from passing out.

          • Freemind
            April 29, 2015 at 9:33 pm

            But as pointed out (by you), Mage delineated those. The actual thoughts and memories are Mind, and the biological systems that facilitate thought are Life. It actually removes the fuzziness, and as stated, minds can exist completely independent of the biological in the Mage setting, meaning that the biologic brain and Mind are seperate things for the purpose of magic.

            See, my point is simply this: if you set purviews, stick to them. If biologic processes and the physical body are the purview of Life, and the esoteric aspects of thought (emotions, memories, etc.) are defined as the purview of Mind, then they should stay in those spheres of influence. They can duplicate some effects from the other, but they must do so within their own domains of influence. As pointed out, Fate, Forces and Matter can all influence a coin toss, but all do so in a way that fits how the Arcana works (fate effects chance at, Forces the nature of the forces affecting the flip, and matter the mass of the coin). Continuing with the coin flip, Mind would let win it by making your opponent think you won, but it won’t let you act on the actual coin. Sure, the final outcome is the same, but How is defined by the Arcana’s purview.

            Yes, Life and Mind get close at points, and can achieve some identical effects. For example life can spur lustful thoughts by creating a surge of hormones, while Mind directly inserts them. But the how is still important, and if the How doesn’t match up with the purview, it shouldn’t work. For example, while elevated levels of dopamine can cause psychosis, there is no way to control how those hallucinations manifest (or if they even do)with Life: that dopamine surge could just as likely have the guy charge you in a fit of psychotic rage as cower in fear at all the “bats”, or anywhere in between. Only mind can directly influence the thoughts themselves, and shape the hallucination to the Mage’s desire.

            And that was my initial point:how, without changing the person’s physiology directly, could thoughts cause lethal or aggravated damage? The biological components are outside the purview of Mind, so only those physiologic conditions that could normally be triggered by thoughts should be fair game. That is why I acknowledge direct bashing damage: there are physiologic stresses that can be placed by the mind alone. It is just none are going to be immediately lethal unless you have pre-existing physiologic susceptibility, it is prolonged stresses, or you alter the physiology directly. While having a pre-existing condition is bad luck, creating the new physiologic conditions fall under Life.

            And I do recognize how other Arcana can harm the human body. That is why I singled out Mind.

            (Side note:I never bought that the Soul is the 5 Subtle Arcana, but rather it is something else that they can interact with. But that is a discussion for another thread ?)

          • Eolirin
            April 30, 2015 at 2:27 am

            But again, you do stay in the purview of Mind here; overstim but no blacking out equals cell death right? Blacking out, or not blacking out, is a Mind purview thing, overstim is a mind purview thing. The consequence is physical, but the trigger is Mind. Just like if you trigger bliss, you release dopamine as a byproduct.

            The reason why the hardware software thing doesn’t work is because in a living thing the hardware is the software and vice versa; that this isn’t the case in nonliving this doesn’t change this. The ability to use Life to trigger an emotional response, even if it’s not as precise and controlled as if you did it with Mind establishes that. Attacking a body with Mind isn’t as precise or controlled as with Life; you’re restricted to burning out neurons or messing with certain autonomic systems. It’s analogous.

        • Nuwisha Nutjob
          April 30, 2015 at 11:13 am

          You bring up some good, thorough points, but at this point I think it would just come down to an ST call. Eolirin brought up some good points about the fuzziness between Arcana, so I would say that once the final rules are out, you can adjust the situation accordingly to fit your own idea of how Mind would work within the fuzziness of the rules. But I get where you’re coming from, and we will need to see how this is all finalized in the PDF before we can speculate further.

          • Nuwisha Nutjob
            April 30, 2015 at 11:17 am

            *By you I mean Freemind

  9. Illuminated
    April 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Does Shielding just prevent damage/conditions or could I say, use Forces to Shield someone against gravity and let them float around?

    • Dave Brookshaw
      April 29, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Yes, you could. Or Fray the Gravity.

      • ChanceTR
        May 12, 2015 at 11:26 pm

        Hell. Yes.

  10. Thorbes
    April 29, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Great, we have spoilers back! And a nice one at that 🙂

  11. Nuwisha Nutjob
    April 29, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    A lot less confusing than first ed Mage. My only worry is players meta-ing to gain beats by casting spells on themselves and resolving the conditions. But it makes sense that this is how it would work. Just requires some ST regulation.

    Beyond that, the new creative thaumaturgy is fantastic!

      April 30, 2015 at 7:11 am

      That is an actual feature, according to the write up. You can grow more powerful by subjecting yourself to thsese effects.

      Just be aware that, also written right there in the article, you have to resolve the condition and not by letting it expire and you can only get one beat per scene, regardless of what you do.

      • Nuwisha Nutjob
        April 30, 2015 at 11:17 am

        That makes sense.

  12. Menace
    April 29, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I was never under the impression that the game discouraged creative spellcasting. However my players seem to stick to the example spells so this might help the issue.

    Looks like magic is getting more powerfull in 2ed.

  13. Hanil
    April 29, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Hi there a newbie fan here! I must say that although I love how simple and clear you have made it there is something that worries me. If I understood correctly the only way you can do lethal damage with magic is when you reach level 4 with an arcana? that seems a bit restrictive doesn’t it? or are there other ways of doing lethal damage that don’t require such a high level?

    • Riley
      April 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Well…more roundabout ways, probably.

      I may not be able to directly kill somebody with Fate 3, but I can give them some seriously bad luck and they fall down the stairs or a chain reaction electrocutes them or something. And even if they don’t die from that, it’d be simple enough to finish them off with a knife or gun or something at that point. Creativity!

      • Andrew Thomas
        April 29, 2015 at 4:02 pm

        IDK, 3.5 DnD Seers had some pretty nasty damage powers to play with, as with nomads, so I imagine Fraying and Unmaking Fate spells will work on similar metaphysical frameworks to their Time and Space analogues, i.e.: lots of targeted cursing and collapsing branching potentialities against each other. Think of the Jet Li movie “The One.” Eliminate enough potentiality for a person, and they become exactly what you want them to be; add too much, and they never do.

    • Eolirin
      April 29, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      So the ability to cause Lethal damage like that is *direct*, via the spell. So you cast the spell at the person, and it takes as many health levels as potency, if it succeeds, no intermediary effect.

      Any other uses that cause damage as a secondary consequence are fair game for any level of Arcana, they just have to make narrative sense. DaveB has an example from one of his games where a character turned a bucket of water into gasoline, coated an enemy with it, and then changed the conductivity in the floor boards they were standing on to conduct electricity between them and a nearby electrical outlet. And the damage follows the standard rules for fire. Now, I’m not entirely sure whether the water into gasoline is properly a patterning effect now, so that’d require Matter 4 if it does, but if you start with gasoline to begin with, you’d only need to alter the conductivity, which should be a weaving effect under the new system, I think.

      • Eolirin
        April 29, 2015 at 2:59 pm

        But it’d be only a ruling effect to arc the electricity from the socket if you use Forces to do it, so you could do that at two dots, potentially.

  14. Full Time GM
    April 29, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    As a Storyteller who’s had players struggle under the previous rules of magic I am really happy with this. I managed to get the magic rules figured out previously but it took three seperate books and several hours of study to make it click. Having everything laid out in the corebook is a major step up.

    • Nuwisha Nutjob
      April 30, 2015 at 11:25 am

      That was a problem I had with 1st Ed too. Too much scattered between different books. Just one of many frustrations that I feel Onyx Path has taken steps to correct. Mage is going to be pretty sweet.

  15. Colin Fredericks
    April 29, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Interesting. This is MUCH better than what 1e did – which is to say, 1e very successfully convinced me that I would just be reading a list of spells and picking one.

    Things I didn’t expect:

    If I want to *make fire*, I do that with Forces 5. If I want to *destroy something with fire* I do that with Forces 4. (And… I guess the fire disappears afterwards or something?) If I want to *draw the heat out of something and make a fire with it*, I do that with Forces 2 – so a combined ice/fire attack is MUCH easier than just fire on its own.

    All scrying, soothsaying, and informational magic in general is one-dot magic. Huh.

    • Eolirin
      April 29, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      If you want to spontaneously create fire out of nothing, you use Forces 5. If you want to turn potential or kinetic energy into fire, you use Forces 4. If you want to heat an object above the temperature that it burns at, you can use Forces 3 as a weaving effect to lower that temperature, or a Perfecting Effect on, say, friction, to increase the heat being generated when the object’s moved.

      So you can start fires as low as Forces 3, but the method varies.

  16. Menace
    April 30, 2015 at 6:17 am

    One thing:

    You write that mastery of Time would allow to create extra minutes or days. I didn’t play ascension but a common complaint I heard what about Time spells ruining action economy and bogging the game by giving extra actions per turn. Anything to say about that ?

  17. wologimbat
    April 30, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Given “A spell that grants the target the properties of something that falls within the Purview of another Arcanum … requires a mage to know the Practice of Weaving for both Arcana.”

    Shouldn’t “a sword can be enchanted to damage beings in Twilight (Death or Spirit)” also require matter? It seems like you’re giving the target material (Matter) object the properties of an ephemeral (Death or Spirit) object.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      April 30, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Should be “change a property into one that falls…” I think. I’ll look closer at the wording.

  18. Brian Goubeaux
    April 30, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    I think that the reason why spells would be seen as restricted in 1E was two factors:

    1. Paradox
    2. The fact that the spells that players create can be so game-breaking that it ceases to be fun anymore. I’ve heard of players creating a spell so Goldberg-like that the Storyteller would reject it on it’s utter ridiculousness alone (and very probable Paradox smiting). So this edition might cause STs some headaches when they try to referee these things.

  19. crawlkill
    May 1, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    probably because I mostly play on moderated chats (MUSHes), which, of course, are only as well-moderated as the anonymous internet weirdos who staff them (frequently very bad, or at least very inconsistent), I’ve always had a strong dislike for make-your-own-magic systems. this may be a bad taste in my mouth from the constant inconsistencies in the Ascension system, which seemed often barely to try to match its descriptions of the capacities of the Spheres with the effects its sample rotes could produce (or even elemental things like how many successes it takes to affect X targets). given an environment of non-constant and iffy GM supervision along with loose rules and the kind of adversarial attitude some people on that kind of game develop, freeform can get real bad real quick. those people want to “win.”

    so I’m interested, but I’m also very, very thankful for Awakening’s giant spell lists that try to stay coherent (and the wikis that index them all for searching, totally invaluable).

  20. tau neutrino
    May 3, 2015 at 2:41 am

    Can Forces create illusions with scent and taste components?

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