Welcome back to our tour of Awakening‘s Fallen World Chronicle. To the list of fora I’m now monitoring, we can add Penny Arcade’s tabletop roleplaying game thread. Hello everyone over there!
So. What’s a “Yantra,” then?
Put simply, when we were designing Fallen World Chronicle, wedecided to organize the spellcasting rules — every form of dice penalty would go together, and then every form of dice bonus. It’s especially important given that spells now obey the full dice action rules for the Storytelling system – you have a dice pool, you apply penalties (spell factors) and bonuses, then roll. You only need one success, but getting five means an exceptional success.
Because that means that you pre-determine your primary spell factor instead of applying successes to it (yes, mages trying to injure people with magic have to decide ahead of time how much damage they’ll do – if you think about it, that’s what the mage is actually doing while casting.) we found we needed more forms of dice pool bonuses than the handful the game’s current edition has.
And that, in turn, led us to magical style. Mages can cast spells while blindfolded and naked, without moving a muscle, but that makes for dull play, so in Fallen World Chronicle you’re rewarded for describing how your mage casts her spells. Rewarded with dice. In-world, mages use items, places, events, and actions with Supernal weight to help focus their mind on the spell they’re casting.
Because “Magical Tool” only covers a subset of all the different ways you can boost your magic, we needed a word for it, and I wanted to avoid “Focus” at all costs to avoid confusion with M20. We went back and forth between “Yantra” (a mystic pattern that, when meditated on, puts you in key with the divine) and “Instrument,” eventually splitting the difference and saying that the Diamond uses the former while the Free Council uses the latter. We have to call the game mechanic something, though, so majority rules. Apologies if that offends any hardcore Libertines. 😀
One more thing before I hand over to the first draft of the Yantra section in the Chronicle Book; we have three types of spell in Fallen World Chronicle.
- An Improvised Spell is just that – something you’ve used your knowledge of the Arcana to come up with.
- A Praxis is a spell you’ve become especially practiced at, iconic for your character. You get one with every dot of Gnosis, and can buy more with Arcane Experiences. When a mage uses one of her praxes, all Magical Tools (NOT all Yantras – tools are a subset, as you’ll see) count as being Dedicated, which greatly reduces but never quite eliminates Paradox Risk.
- A Rote is an imago designed by a Master and either cast by following the instructions in a Grimoire or learned with Experiences by less-developed mages.
All three use the same dicepool – Gnosis + Arcanum. If you’re casting a rote out of a book (which takes hours), or one you designed yourself, you get the rote factor (reroll failures) on the roll. There are other benefits of rotes, chiefly around Paradox, but we’ll save the detail of that for a future blog – for now, if you’re familiar with the current edition you’ll know the habit of some spells saying “with +1 dot in the Arcanum you can…” – for these purposes only, a mage casting a rote counts as the Master who designed it.
And now, the Yantra excerpt.
(EDIT TO ADD – I see Stew “Werewolf Developer” Wilson has outed himself as the author of this section on Google+. Stew made the tactical error of saying he was interested in Semiotics when I was doling out assignments. I think he did a really good job – hope you all do too!)
Magic is the act of transforming will to power. A mage needs no more than that — just the ability to think clearly enough to form an imago is enough to work magic. But mages are also humans, and humans find the focus necessary to form and maintain all but the simplest imago at the drop of a hat is elusive at best. Instead, mages do what all humans do: they use semiotic shortcuts. Just as a first-grader may learn “Roy G. Biv” as a mnemonic for the colors of the rainbow, so a mage uses symbolic times, places, words, items, and movements as a key to forming an imago. The Diamond call these keys “Yantras,” after the Sanskrit word for a mystical design or apparatus. The Free Council prefer the more prosaic “Instruments,” focusing on their grounding in humanity’s acts of creation, while the Seers know them as “Chains,” mystic signatures burned into the Fallen World by the hands of the Exarchs.
Sleepwalkers and Sleepers alike often mistake the medium for the message, believing that the Yantras associated with a given working are in and of themselves sources of power. This belief — that anyone can work Supernal magic with the right combination of items, motions, and words — is sadly mistaken. To a mage, they are aids to concentration and keys that unlock parts of an imago held in memories.
Each Yantra has a meaning above and beyond the Yantra itself — to the mage who wields it, a crystal rod is a tool of clarity and a means of action at a distance, of touching beyond one’s grasp. To some mages, it is a symbol of male sexuality. Others see it as a means of channeling power and removing illusions. Still others see it as a tool of command. All of these things are true — this crystal wand is a reflection of the Crystal Wand that casts a shadow on the wall of Plato’s cave.
In order to use a Yantra, a willworker has to recognize a specific symbolism in the tool. That reflection then factors into her arcane understanding, enabling her to use that symbol as the foundation for an imago. Rather than drawing a picture of what she wants freehand, she instead has a stock image she can trace or use as inspiration. The more Yantras she uses — whether different interpretations of the same tool or different tools altogether — the more basis she has for her imago, making it easier to form.
Naturally, using Yantras in this way has its limits — if the mage can’t fit any of the symbols associated with the Yantra into her working, she can’t use it to bolster her magic. A Guardian might set up a Chamber of Veils that she uses to hide truths and reveal secrets, but unless she can connect her Supernal understanding of the Chamber of Veils to a place of healing, it won’t help her when a cabal-mate stumbles through her door holding his intestines in place.
Unlocking the Imago
When a mage uses a Yantra in the working of a spell, she adds bonus dice to her spellcasting dice pool. The number of dice varies by the Yantra that she uses. These bonus dice can help eliminate penalties to her spellcasting pool, or provide bonuses. A mage can only get so much help from Yantras — after offsetting any penalties, the maximum bonus from all her Yantras combined cannot exceed 5 dice.
A mage may want to use as many Yantras as possible in her spellcasting, especially for powerful acts of magic. She can however only access so many pieces of Supernal knowledge at once. To reflect this, the number of Yantras she can apply to a given spellcasting pool is limited by her Gnosis. If she uses one ritual item in many ways, each individual use counts as one Yantra for this limit.
(DAVE’S NOTE – Breaking into the section for a moment, the number of Yantras you can use are:
1 or 2 2
3 or 4 3
5 or 6 4
7 or 8 5
9 or 10 6)
It takes time to draw upon the Supernal sympathy of objects and actions. A mage can draw upon one Yantra as a reflexive action when casting a spell; each further Yantra extends the casting time by a turn. Someone who wants to interrupt an involved casting thus has plentiful opportunities to snatch away mystic items, block out the light of the full moon, or just shoot the mage in the head.
Mages seek out — or create — locations that border the Supernal in the hope of using that proximity to enforce ascended laws on the Fallen World. Others find places — or times — where the Lie reflects the Supernal without any specific proximity.
Many willworkers enhance their ritual space with a soul stone, turning it into a weak form of Verge. Mages most often decorate their ritual spaces according to their Order — a Mystagogue’s ritual space may be a storehouse of knowledge that reflects the Order’s Tarsi Archive, while a given Libertine may fit hers out as a machine shop or embed the soul stone in a sacred tree.
A Demesne is of most use in ritual casting. It provides a prepared, sacred space where the mystic can work without the interruptions of the Lie; only a few (such as a dojo used by an Adamantine Arrow to practice sacred weapon forms) are of any use with instant spells and then only in defense of the Demesne. Beyond that, the construction and sacred tools within a Demesne determine what magics it can apply to. A Libertine’s machine shop helps with spells that build, repair, or dismantle. An Arrow’s training room helps with spells involving duels, preparation for battle, self-mastery. A Guardian’s Veiled Room helps with spells of disguise, misdirection, and uncovering truths.
Effect: Casting in a Demesne has a +1 modifier
Places and times in the Fallen World can bring about the Supernal if they reflect the spell a mage is using. An Acanthus may use the sun at noon to see through falsehoods, while a Magistos might use the light of the full moon reflected in a pool of water to scry across vast distances. Locatin is just as important — many Obrimos seek out churches to perform spells of persuasion, command, and stewardship.
An environment has to link to the spell itself, not just the mage. The Obrimos in a church cannot use it as a Yantra to magically charge her cellphone. The magic must link to what Sleepers know about a place or time, not because their perceptions cause Supernal notice but because they act as unconsciously reflect the Supernal attributes of a place.
Effect: Casting in an appropriate location grants a +1 modifier.
In places where the Supernal touches the Fallen World, willworkers find it much easier to draw power through an imago. Such places are natural Yantras, lending their power to those within. Each Supernal Verge teems with the power of one of the Supernal Realms, and lends its power to the Ruling Arcana of that Realm.
Supernal Verges are thus as valuable for their versatility as their power. In a Pandemonic Verge, any spells that use the Mind or Space Arcana can draw upon the Verge’s power, be that a long ritual to superimpose two locations or a simple spell to fuddle an opponent’s senses. A mage in a Supernal Verge can use his mystic connection to the Watchtower to use it as a Yantra on any ritual spell that doesn’t involve the path’s Inferior Arcanum.
Effect: Casting in a Supernal Verge has a +2 modifier.
Everything a willworker does can be magic. Orders teach ritual gestures that bring the imago of a rote to mind through conditioning and muscle-memory. High Speech allows a mage to intone or write her spell not in the imperfect tongues of the Fallen World but the sacred glossolalia that is what it describes. A mage can even hold her spell’s imago in her mind, focusing on it beyond the point of creation in order to maintain Supernal truth upon the world.
Some mages use actions as Yantras to get out of a bind — even stripped naked and chained in a cannibal killer’s dungeon, a théarch can speak words of High Speech and focus upon the imago of a spell. It takes a little practice to get used to, but given a little time to breathe he can work magic far easier than if he formed an imago from whole cloth.
Many spells finish when the willworker forces the Lie to change. Some hold on for as long as the mage can impose her will. It’s a draining task, but worth it. Most common is a mage who holds her imago in her mind. If she’s particularly skilled in the High Speech, she may find it easier to keep the spell in mind by slowly translating her imago into runes back again, focusing on them. In either case, she must focus on the spell and only the spell. If she wavers, the effect is lost.
On a basic level, concentration is a mage exerting her will over even her own mind, forcing herself not to weaken. As such, it’s a symbol of ongoing action — and a means to have a spell last longer than it should. The vast majority of mages focus on a spell over time in order to bolster its duration. A few mages instead see concentration like a lens, focusing Supernal truth. While this interpretation can bolster a spell, it also leaves the mage open to disruption until she completes her spell.
Effect: Concentrating on an effect provides 2 extra dice. If the mage is hurt or takes a non-reflexive action while the spell is active, it ends immediately.
High Speech is both a language and not a language, a description that is the thing described. Though even mages hear it as gibberish, its Supernal nature ignores the Fallen idea that the map is not the territory. As such, a mage uses High Speech to intone her imago, describing the change that she wills and thus making that change real. As a means of changing the world it is flexible — it requires no external props nor ongoing concentration — but it requires her to speak the words out loud. It’s not enough to coop them up within the mage’s mind, she has to express her desire so the Lie can hear it.
As a Yantra, High Speech is very versatile. Almost every mage knows enough to declaim her control or dominance over a subject. She can repeat the words over and over again as she casts to build up a defense. It is however not subtle. She cannot work words of High Speech into a normal sentence to compel a listener to her will. The metalanguage of the Supernal can not hide in the shallow grammars and inflections of the Lie.
Effect: Vocally intoning her imago confers a 2-die bonus. As it takes time to speak the words, she cannot use any Yantra reflexively when using High Speech — every Yantra including this one adds a turn to the casting time.
Mudras are Supernal mnemonics taught by the Orders that draw on skills and knowledge of the Fallen World, cast through the Order’s philosophy. Creating mudras is part of defining a rote, codifying the structure of magic in the symbols of the Lie. Mudras come in many forms — Buddhist Libertines may use zazen, while the Arrow may tense specific muscles in a set pattern, and Guardians use specific rhythms of walking and representative hand gestures. Each rote is unique to the mage who created it — some encode specific symbolism into the positioning of individual fingers to allow a student to form his own mnemonic; far more present a paternalistic approach that teaches the mudra and the magic without an intervening step to consider the actions’ meaning.
Effect: Using a rote’s mudra adds the user’s rating the rote’s encoded Skill to her dice pool. If the Skill is one of her Order’s specialized rote skills, she adds an extra die.
An intersection between incanting in High Speech and concentrating on an imago, some mages use runic High Speech to enhance the power of a spell. Most use the boost from a runic Yantra to boost a spell’s duration; the need to scribe the runes on to the spell’s subject makes them less useful for most other castings. Anything that disrupts the careful shape and arrangement of the runes makes them an imperfect description of the spell’s imago, ending the effect.
The runes themselves are a written form of High Speech quite apart from the fortune-telling iconography of Sleeper occultists. They most often speak to effects of permanence and durability. Some inscribe the runes of a healing spell onto their cabalmates in the form of mystic tattoos that heal injuries, while others paint or carve them into solid objects to make them harder than diamond. When using runes on a person, a mage may paint her subject, scribe the runes with a tattooing gun, or brand them right into the subject’s flesh.
Effect: Runic casting adds 2 dice to the mage’s spellcasting pool. If anything damages or disrupts the runes — whitewashing runes painted on a wall, or slicing through a runic tattoo — while the spell is active, it ends immediately.
Each mage maintains at least a handful of magical tools, mundane items that have a symbolic link to specific kinds of magic. Almost no mages rely on just a single tool. Even if she only uses magic appropriate to its symbol, it’s too easy to take the tool away from her.
Effect: Each item used as a Yantra adds +1 to the spellcasting pool.
Each Supernal Realm has its reflections in the Fallen World, and a mage knows the tools of magic that align closely to her Path. While mages with a background in Sleeper occultism recognize that the Path tools show up in several traditions, their direct elemental or Tarot symbolism is the Lie’s corruption of the Supernal Realms’ truth.
Each path has five tools, each of which has a specific magical function:
- Coins or other symbols of material wealth, which represent construction, repair, and inanimate or intangible things that last beyond mere human lifespans. It is the tool closest to the Fallen World, and so is often used to manipulate it directly, for money or other resources.
- Cups or other drinking vessels can involve healing, intuition, perceptual magic, and gathering together. Drinking from a shared cup is a common way to spread a spell between a group. It’s often seen as a symbol of female sexuality, though what that means depends on the mage.
- Mirrors may be actual mirrors, polished plates, or reflecting pools held in containers of the appropriate material. They represent sight, soul, and the self, and are the magical tool most commonly used when the mage would work a spell upon herself.
- Rods, wands, or staves are symbols of control — the ability to point and have a thing happen. Pointing a rod is a way of singling out a specific victim, while holding one is a symbol of rulership and command. It’s also used as a symbol of male sexuality.
- Weapons, most normally knives, are symbols of thought made action — any spell that takes direct, decisive action on the world (or a person) can benefit from a weapon. While often used to harm, weapons also represent the mastery of intellect and will over the world.
Each Path has specific materials that elevate a magical tool from merely an object to something resonant with a Supernal Realm, as well as weapons that can replace the traditional knife.
- Acanthus: Glass, crystal, silver, reflective materials; Rapier, bow, precision weapons
- Magistos: Iron, brass, leather, worked materials; Curved sword, whip, cruel weapons
- Moros: Lead, bone, gems, buried materials; Hammer, mace, crushing weapons
- Obrimos: Steel, petrified wood, gold, perfected materials; Double-edged sword, spear, noble weapons
- Thyrsus: Wood, copper, stone, natural materials; Axe, sling, hunting weapons
An Order’s magical tools draw upon that Order’s symbols rather than those of the Supernal world directly, focusing a willworker’s magic in a way that matches her teachings. The formal magical style of the Diamond Orders and the Seers of the Throne all resonate through the same tools — the Arrow use martial tools as symbols of conflict, the Guardians use cloaks, masks, and veils as symbols of things hidden and revealed, the Mysterium teach books, writing, and language as tools of knowledge and communication, and the Silver Ladder uses signs of authority to as tools of status and persuasion. The Seers of the Throne each choose a sigil or word that they must display to use it as a tool.
The Free Council are an oddity among all the other Orders. Each Libertine learns a style of magic that draws from Sleeper occult beliefs, and their magical tools demonstrate that eclectic learning. A Libertine raised in Wiccan beliefs may use the trappings of that religion, while one who studies sacred architecture may use geometric tools.
(DAVE’S NOTE – Me again! As you can probably guess, many Orders have Merits that modify your Yantras. Adamant Hand, for example, lets you use your own combat rolls as a “Weapon” Tool. The Free Council have a Merit called Techne that lets them decide what their “Order Tools” are, based on what aspect of Sleeper culture they’re interested in.)
The Seers of the Throne do not work their magic alone. Ascending through the priesthood of the lie drives a Seer to serve her patron Exarch. Once she gains its notice, it tests her. If she succeeds, she becomes a Prelate, and she can use her patron Exarch’s symbols to draw on its power. Each Exarch has its own symbols — its own strings that it uses to puppet the Fallen World like a broken marionette. A prelate can use his Exarch’s strings as Yantras for his own magic, but each individual Exarch has her own symbolic resonance that limit what its prelates can do with it’s blessing as a tool.
Rather than defining the “what” of a spell, sympathetic tools define the “who” — the person, place, creature, or institution upon which the mage forces her will. She may have a person’s real name or a lock of her hair, a ghost’s anchor, a chunk of concrete taken from a building, or a company’s articles of incorporation. Whatever the case, sympathetic tools give her a much easier time working her subject into the spell’s imago. As such, a sympathetic link is always suitable as a Yantra against the specific individual.
Effects: Each sympathetic link is a separate Yantra. A mage has to use a Sympathetic Yantra in order to cast a spell at Sympathetic Range.
(DAVE AGAIN – But you can use a Sympathetic tool even if you don’t have any dots in Space or Time, and the target’s right in front of you. Feel free to tear a picture of someone in half in order to cast a Fraying spell at them)
A sacrament is any magical tool symbolic of the spell in question that the mage destroys during casting. Many times — though by no means always — it also provides a sympathetic link to the subject of her spell. She may infuse bread with herbs and spices to make those who share the loaf work together smoothly. She may burn a man’s driving license and passport for a spell that removes him from government records. She may fire a male figure out of clay then crush it to powder when changing her body to match her gender. If she can find one of her enemy’s magical tools, she has both a sympathetic link and a sacrament for any spell that would hurt him.
Some mages go further than finding or creating things to sacrifice during casting. Some engage on quests into the other realms of the Fallen World, leaving the flesh behind to uncover items with magical properties of their own. Destroying them during casting can make a spell flare with power. Particularly twisted mages kill animals and murder humans for the magical power. The surest way to kill a powerful enemy with magic is to sacrifice something close to him — a beloved pet, or a family member.
Effect: Most sacraments grant a single die bonus. If the mage has to spend significant effort to find the right item or component, the bonus increases to +2, or +3 if the item comes from a realm other than the physical world. Using a blood sacrifice as a Yantra gives bonus dice equal to the amount of mana otherwise gained.
Some mages invest in their cabal and in their shadow name, coming up with a whole new persona as a willworker, independent — or at least, significantly divergent — from who they were as a Sleeper. A persona binds her magical style, her personal mysteries, and her Shadow Name into an identity that, over time, leaves its mark on the Fallen World. By playing to this fictional persona, she can tap in to a level of Supernal sympathy. Her actions must play in to her personal story, however — a fortune-teller or faith healer can’t use her persona as a Yantra to harm another. By contrast, the faith healer could use his persona not just for healing, but to bolster his reputation and give his words greater gravitas, making people more likely to believe him.
(DAVE REDUX – As you almost certainly can guess, this is a Merit. There’s one for Cabal Symbolism as well)
Each mage has a dedicated magical tool — an item that synchronizes with her Nimbus and that feeds in to her understanding of magic. An Thyrsus who trusts to nature to provide may not have much by way of possessions, but his walking stick is his staff, and he uses it even for spells that do not benefit from its symbolism. A Botswanan Libertine who learned the magic of the Sangoma may tap a rhythm on her drum even when the noise has no bearing on her spells, as the drumming is part of her Nimbus. These dedicated tools can be of benefit even when the tool has no semiotic link with the mage’s desires, limiting the risk of paradox.
Effect: Using a dedicated tool as a Yantra gives the mage REDACTED PARADOX-REDUCING BENEFIT. She only gets bonuses to the spellcasting pool when the tool is symbolically appropriate.
And there we have it!
Next week will be the last proper update until after GenCon (I’m going to forgo the usual poll next week and just post the Inspirational Media list for the game on the GenCon weekend, as I’ll be traveling when I’d normally assemble the post for you,) so we’ll make it a biggie. Paths or Orders?
141 responses to “A lever and a firm place to stand”
Awesome – can’t wait for this to come out.
Let’s go with Orders.
I like a lot of what I see here, and I very much like the idea of having it all in the same place in one book. Hit us with the Paths.
Yantras are everything I’d hoped they’d be and more. Too impatient for the book, they are going in my game right friggin now.
Also, Paths please.
This is a very cool system. Taking all these disparate elements of the game and combing them was a really good move.
As fior the choice, that’s tough…I’ll say Orders, but I won’t be sad in the least if that doesn’t win.
Orders! Orders! I want to know what the Libertines are up to these days.
How about paths, shall we? Fantastic, compelling read.
Great stuff, looking forward to this. Orders please.
Ahhh this makes me so happy.
Let’s hear about orders please.
I’m going to have to go with Orders.
Looks cool. I’m glad you’ve found a middle ground between Ascension paradigms and former nMage’s ‘it doesn’t matter what else you do, just think and maybe say some high speech’.
I vote for Orders, by the way.
I’ll take Paths, please.
Bravo! Bravo! It’s perfect! That was something I really missing in Awakening and love so much in Ascension: Magic Style.
Can’t wait for my MtAw group put these new rules on table!
You said in forum many changes were made in Orders, but I am pretty curious about new Acanthus Path (RIP old and beatiful Acanthus Faeric-way to be).
However, since I want to see more things it wasn’t told about in forum, my VOTE IS ORDER, please!
This article is basically everything I could’ve asked for to make spellcasting interesting and evocative. As I just finished reading “Deathless”, I’m finding I especially adore the Persona Yantra. The idea of wearing a rut into the world via your personality, and then drawing power from it is just….yes.
Anyway, I vote Paths
I’m a huge fan of as-clean-and-absolute-as-possible rules, particularly for magical powers. I thought it was something Awakening did well, and this sounds like a further step in the right direction. hopefully M20 can do something similar and get away from the “well there are sort of rules but basically you just go by ‘what your storyteller thinks is reasonable,’” and if there’s one thing people are -not- good at doing on the fly, it’s determining statistics that are and are not “reasonable.”
the “gotta decide how much damage you do before you cast” thing always seems aesthetically unappealing to me, although I can see how that contradicts what I juuust said about clear and consistent rules. I guess the dichotomy is that it becomes inconsistent with the way -attacks- are handled, while remaining consistent with the way -magic- is handled. and maybe that’s no bad thing, to have attack magic feel like a distinctly different option from ordinary attack.
are there still plans to make harming people with magic be a sanity no-no? I haven’t read a whole lot of the revised GMC stability/humanity/whatever-you’d-call-them-that-isn’t-really-Morality-anymore breaking points system, and I can’t remember if we’ve heard anything about how Mage’s will be handled.
*plans to make harming people with magic still be a sanity etc, not still plans to. no idea if there ever were for FWC.
If something would be a Breaking Point for you nonmagically, doing it with a spell makes the Act of Hubris worse.
Is there some significant change twixt Integrity and (what I assume is being called) Wisdom that goes beyond this? It seems a bit thin of a rationale to rename it if that’s really the difference. Given what “wisdom” literally means, it’s a bigger stretch to apply the term to Integrity than it was to Morality.
(Wisdom could be a separate trait, without normal/mundane analogue, if you wanted to emphasize either morality or its imposed nature. A merit that represents a character’s dedication to appropriate use of magic, could serve, or a rating that measures a character’s general acceptability to the Lie would be potential examples of either. The latter could hook to the Gnosis Paradox dice rules in interesting ways.)
I’m not sure how much of a change that’s intended to be? personally, I really liked that using the magix to hurt someone, even in self-defense, was a relatively high Wisdom sin (was it 5?). it’s like, “hey, this is the only true thing in the world, and you’re using it to rip living things apart, you dick.” hopefully that thematic angle will be preserved.
As do I. My point is that by removing the moral aspects from Integrity, the theme distills to “good or bad for your mental health” so “right or wrong” are off the table. That’s fine. It cleans things up, but Wisdom as it existed *depended* on the moral distinctions.
You could reinstate some morality with the conversion to Wisdom to allow these good/bad distinctions or add it as a parallel trait alongside Integrity. (The latter is my preference)
I’d like an explanation better than “You use your soul, so you have to really *want* it to cast a spell, therefore it’s worse.” That’s an argument for magic removing accident or whim as mitigating factors, not for making it worse. A planned and premeditated act involves plenty of the character’s will, too.
This is most excellent. Everything I had hoped for.
Paths next week, please!
I Have voted for the loser the past two time but I have been blown away by the last two blogs, so I’m going to have to say Orders, but I would be surprised if it isn’t amazing either way.
Paths, please! I’m eager to see how much they’ve changed (if at all).
Does that mean that rotes for spells that do damage also have the rote quality?
That seems to lead down the path of Hunter’s “23 die pool with the rote quality for attack”.
Was there a reason to abandon arcanum+skill instead of gnossis+arcanum for rotes?
Yes, if you’re the Master who’s spent Arcane Experience on making it. If you’re not the creator, you only get the rote factor if you take the long road of casting out of a grimoire. Which, like we say in the post, takes hours – good luck finding a combat use for it, though.
Hmm. I missed that bit. I’m going to reserve judgement until I see the paradox rules but without the break for a larger pool it seems to make Rotes less valuable and Grimores more.
On one hand is good – Grimores should be ridiculously valuable but on the other Rotes doing something (of high mechanical value) was one of the best parts of Awakening.
One of the key benefits of being in an order was that you had access to teachers and mentors who could provide you with rotes in addition to the less solid benefits of someone to (ostensibly) watch your back and be part of a political machine/cult.
So I guess I’ll vote Orders then.
Just re-read mudras for the 3rd time and spotted the skill boost. Interesting. Still want that sweet infos on orders.
what does it mean ” for these purposes only, a mage casting a rote counts as the Master who designed it”
if a mage knows a Death 3 rote he cast it as if he were a master?
someone with no knowloge of an arcana could still cast a spell from a grimore?
You can’t cast a spell with a Practice higher than your capabilities, but here’s an example. You know how Portal is Space 3, but with Space 4 you can cast it instantly or make it last longer, and with 5 you can do both?
If you have Space 3 and “Portal” as a rote, you can cast it instantly and make it last longer, as it was designed by a mage with Space 5.
You can’t learn a rote of a Space 4 spell if you’re only Space 3, though.
And you have to have the Arcanum for a spell even if you’re casting it from a Grimoire. You have to know how to cook before you can follow a recipe.
Hmm, interesting. I was hoping that the rules for Overcharging spells (I think that’s what it was called) from Tome of the Mysteries would sneak into FWC — extra power at increased risk of Paradox…
…unless they still are?
What I especially like is the way this seems to suggest a more simplified magic system numerically, while still allowing for Mage’s trademark flexibility. Also, if I’m reading this right, it’s going to be heavily in your starting Mage’s benefit to be certain he has access to a lot of Yantras in each spell, since his base dice pool may not be that high even with rotes.
Your more powerful mages, on the other hand, can have that need for a style fall away for more simple spells as they grow in power.
More powerful mages can use more Yantras in their spells, and will know more Praxes (which really promote using those Yantras), so it tends to keep to Awakening’s “a magical style is something a character grows into.”
How many Praxes can a mage know, then?
Up to ten free ones (one per dot of Gnosis), plus however many you’re willing to buy, would be my guess.
You get one for free with every dot of Gnosis (and yes, you start with one), and can buy more for Arcane Experience. If you join or form a Legacy that converts one of your Praxes into an Attainment, you get a cost-break carefully set by my crack team of designers so that it’s more efficient to buy a Praxis and then turn it into a Legacy Attainment than to just buy the Attainment.
Ah, I seem to have revealed that Legacies cost XP. Whoops. 😀
So the Mastigos become Magistos, yes? 😉
I like that there can be a rather big bonus from Yantras – the +5 to spellcasting – but character are limited by Gnosis in things they can use. And even things like special times or your Shadow Name persona could be “magical tools” for magic. 🙂
Even if I weep that we don’t see Paradoxes next, I would love to read how Orders are changed in FWC.
Fantastic. While I’m certain that Paths have been revised, I think I’m more curious as to how the Orders have been changed, since I imagine the most significant revision would occur there.
I’ll vote for Orders, please.
Best reboot of magical styles ever!
My vote goes for Paths.
This is amazing. The ideas I’m getting from reading this…
I’m leaning slightly towards Paths, though I would love to hear about both.
Great read and quite a long one. Nice to see some crunch.
Voting for orders. I believe we had quite a lot of spoilera about paths.
Cool stuff as always, and I do love that the Yantras aren’t as restrictive as I feared they might be. Anyway, I’d like to vote for Paths.
I’d love to see how the Orders work in The Fallen World. The execution of them, especially The Atlantian Orders, always struck me as the blandest part of Mage:tAw and I’m hoping that’s no longer the case. 🙂
Excellent read. This is filling out magical style in a way that feels only previous hinted at or buried among several books. Nice work!
Vote: Paths – I am dying to know the new archetype interpretations of each path!
I’m gonna have to say Paths for my vote.
If High Speech is unintelligible, even to other mages, does that essentially make High Speech a tongue mudra? (Maybe plus larynx and lungs)
Not really. A mudra is useful because it’s a shortcut, a key to a memory palace. High Speech is useful because it’s a direct proof that Russell’s Theory of Description is bollocks. With High Speech, the map is the territory.
Good read, I vote for Orders.
Paths for me.
I like how the system both organizes the bonuses and penalties to magic, and also reinforces the fact that this game is about symbolism and sympathy. The magical tool is no longer just a -1 paradox stat stick, it’s a whole set of choices.
I do have to say that I’m going to miss the accented High Speech that was described in Secrets of the Ruined Temple. It made little sense as written, but it did allow players to use Latin for spellcasting a la Harry Potter or the Dresden Files.
I’m pretty torn about whether to choose paths or orders, but in the end, I want to know more about Paths.
Re-reading Secrets of the Ruined Temple. I may have accidentally extrapolated the section on hiding high speech in mundane written language to mean that the same could be done for verbal high speech. Not sure where I got that.
Wait, I’m not crazy. Accented High Speech was a thing and it’s from Tome of the Mysteries.
Accented High Speech is spoken with weird inflections spoken by practitioners of cultural magic.
Classical High Speech is taught by the Diamond.
Poetic High Speech is a language of imagery and enigmas.
I can see why it’s changing, though now that High Speech is going to be called out as the platonic form of language.
Pretty much nails my wish-list, including the action based tools that Bill teased and never did anything with, way back when. (Still crossing my fingers on mysterious practices.)
All good, so far. Reworking casting as consistently a single action is a huge change, and I’m curious how well the changes work, but I like what I’ve seen so far.
If Hung Spells remain an option, welp, they’re one of your potential schemes to use Grimoires in combat… which favors the prepared; I like it.
(Methinks Paths sound slightly more interesting at the moment.)
I would suspect that the rote would have to be created as a hung spell, since hanging the spell would be part of the imago when creating it, and rotes have preset imagos.
Note to self – how do rotes interact with the 2-dot Attainments like Sympathetic Range, Hanging Spells, and Conditional Durations?
I like how a lot of these things were already in the old core (save some notable exceptions as Supernal Verges and Personas) but you managed to sort, clean, simplify and twist them into something new and evocative.
I’m going to vote for Orders, I just have to see what you are doing with the Guardians of the Veil and the Council of Free Assemblies.
Excellent job of tying style with mechanics. I think my players will be much more likely to say, ‘I do this and this to cast that’ than they were before.
As with Beachfox above, I’ve found orders to be a less than necessary element in MtA, and they’ve never really played a major role in my games. I’m eager to see how their usability has been improved upon.
So make the next article about Orders, if you please.
Orders, definitely. Wanna hear more about this new distance between the Diamond and the Libertines.
You Awaken to a Path, not an Order. I vote Path.
As a side note I’m really glad that they give examples of Yantras (Chains, love it!) for the Seers of the Throne. I hope this is foreshadowing of options for playing Seer Chronicles in the Fallen World Chronicle, similar to what Mage20 did with the Technocracy.
They won’t be as supported as the Pentacle, but the Seers have their Order pages at the front of the book alongside the more usual five choices. As indicated by the except this week, Prelacies are among the Merits. We’re going to see if we can get one or two of the servitor creatures in, too.
Glad to hear that the Seers are gonna be right up front with the rest of the gang. The Seers book is my favourite Order book.
Wow, so hard to choose.
Paths, I guess.
“She may fire a male figure out of clay then crush it to powder when changing her body to match her gender.”
Thank you for continuing your modern tradition.
“By playing to this fictional persona, she can tap in to a level of Supernal sympathy.”
So I can not only, as the Player, play a character inspired by John Constantine on a meta-game level, but I could actually PLAY someone inspired by John Constantine in-game! And…get bonuses to spells that sell my soul to half a dozen demons >_>
This is all really cool. The more powerful of a Mage you are the more ‘archetypical’ of your Path or Order you become, but Personas still allow for some individual ‘symbolic growth’ as well.
I’ll vote for Orders. It seems they’re getting the bigger change, and all this about Yantras makes me interested seeing how Mages interpret the Supernal in the World
NO I CHANGE MY VOTE TO PATHS!
It’s such a hard choice, but I think that even though I don’t think the Paths are changing as much as Orders, I think we’ve gotten plenty of spoilers about the Orders already.
Time for some Path action
Nice. I really like the props and stage work of Ascension now, it really is a hell of a show now.
You’ve talked a lot about Paths, but damn if I can’t wait to hear more anyways. Paths it is.
Blergh, did I say Ascension? Meant to say Awakening.
I’ll tally my vote for the Paths right now. I’d like to see the changes there.
This is a great way of redoing magical style–it adds a lot more flexibility to the system that lets a mage’s personality and preferences color their magic, while still being palpably in tone with how I understand Awakening.
a vote for Orders here
Waow! This is exactly what I was hoping for – bringing what I loved the most out of Extended Casting (style and symbolism!) into ALL of magic. And it’s already filling me with ideas (as well as a burning desire to play…), which is probably the best way to judge it.
Seriously, I’m impressed. So impressed that I really don’t mind what gets spoiled next.
Damn, I love it. Bringing style front and centre.
I can’t wait to see more about the Orders though; I’m hoping we’ll see even more about how the three organisations do their symbolism.
So much thought into taking the established pieces and making them fit together better.
I say go with Orders, because their new workings are harder for me to intuit.
Harder choice than last week….
I vote Paths.
Paths please! Tons of different types of Yantras! Might take me awhile to digest it all.
The supernal verges look very interesting (as the rest of the yantras) and it rises a question. Will they be the new hallows, wil they contain a hallow or are these two different things?
And my vote goes to Orders. They are one of the things that I find very interesting and I want to know how do they interact now between them.
Supernal Verges aren’t Hallows (they sometimes have Hallows in them, though!) – they’re larger, stronger, naturally-occurring Demesnes, where the Supernal bleeds into the world so much even Sleepers can see its inhabitants.
You know, it took me years to realize that Demesnes didn’t have to be built in Hallows. I was getting caught up with their Exalted namesakes.
I am hoping we can go back over Paradox at some point. Til then, I happily await Orders.
Given how everyone seems to be asking questions relating to what would have been in the Paradox post, it’ll come back around to the blog soon enough.
I used to play a Free Councilor whose whole shtick was integrating magic with music on a symbolic level, with the goal of founding a Legacy to this effect. Seeing the Free Council call its yantras “Instruments” warms the cockles of my heart.
I vote Paths.
Add another vote for Paths
Hmm, a little hard to choose, but I’ll vote for paths
This as awesome. I vote for Orders – with Atlantis taking a back seat for FWC it looks like the Orders will change in some interesting ways.
I Vote for Paths.
I vote for Paths
Is group casting with Yantras possible?
Yes. Libertines get more oompf out of group-casting if they’re all versed in the same thing with Techne, too.
Group-casting in Fallen World isn’t quite done baking, but comes in three types of assistance, offering increasing benefit to the primary caster;
1) Sleepwalkers and mages who don’t know the Arcana involved can assist in your ritual, and count as a Yantra.
2) Mages who have the Arcana but not the [i]dots[/i] involved offer a bonus that doesn’t count as a Yantra for your Gnosis limit – getting your apprentices to help you out is a thing, now.
3) Mages who are capable of casting the spell all by themselves use the full teamwork rules.
Ah, so if you are capable of casting it, you get to include *your* Yantras into your roll, as well? But if you’re just helping, you don’t?
(I must say that even in the old rules, I HR’d that as long as you knew at least one of the Arcana in use, you could join in. Then I encouraged players to make everything sympathetic, or concealed, or including an Unveiling of X into it, etc., so that they could all join in. There is NOTHING that screams Mage to me more than a cabal of sorcerers performing a ritual together within a summoning circle.)
Yeah, we’re tiptoing the tightrope between the goal and the consequences of it.
The goal: we want want Masters to use younger mages as ritualists, for cabalmates who are apprentices and disciples in one thing help the cabal’s adept in it out on the really big stuff, and most importantly we want Sleepwalkers to be able to join in.”
The consequences we desperately need to avoid: if a cabal of mages can pool their Arcana dots freely, it completely breaks the game and setting. “I’ve got Life 4, you’ve got Forces 4, let’s cast a Life4/Forces4 spell” leads to a four or five character cabal having no weaknesses.
(You see? We DO worry about game balance!)
Great post. Orders next please.
I vote Paths!
Much as I want to hear about orders, I think I’ll have to go with paths. you can have a mage without an order but you can’t have a mage without a path (unless you can in which case I really need to hear about paths).
Amazing. Great, great job. Unveil the Paths for us, Dave!
I’m curious to see how the Pentacle has changed so… Orders.
I vote for Paths as well
This is all really cool. I’ve hat MtAw for a long time but never really got to play; I’m really digging this take on the the system. I’m looking forward to seeing the FWC when it comes out.
Fantastic! Like so many other have already said, this is so much what we’ve been needing for Awakening. I do have a couple questions about blood sacrifices though.
“Using a blood sacrifice as a Yantra gives bonus dice equal to the amount of mana otherwise gained.”
– Are these bonus dice in addition too or instead of the mana gained?
– Also, are animal sacrifices being changed at all, or does this mean an animal sacrifice is only worth one die? I always wondered about the single point of mana and limit of one per day. With so many other ways to gain mana (oblations with a hallow or legacy, dedications, or even just 3 from scouring your own pattern) it seemed not as attractive an option. With the limit to the number of Yantras I can easily see a mage choosing something else and it seems to me that a blood sacrifice should both be a more potent form of concentration and made more tempting as it is also borderline taboo (animal sacrifice that is).
-Finally, does at least human sacrifice ignore the +5 bonus cap? As stated above, with the capacity to utilize other Yantras, it seems that a more powerful mage would reach a point where that cap could be attained through other ways. For example, a mage using 3 Yantras could get a full +5 with High Speech + Runes + either a suitable location or a tool. Even at only 2 Yantras High Speech would limit the effective bonus of a sacrifice to 3. Having a human sacrifice be able to bypass the +5 limit would both make it more tempting an option for the supposed good guys (the PCs) and make the realization that an enemy mage has found or even taken a loved one that much more terrifying (if the idea of a loved one being murdered to murder you isn’t already terrifying….)
Not that I plan on using blood sacrifice for my own characters….I’m just wondering if there are any plans to make it a more tempting taboo to break.
Also, I’m good with either, but if I had to choose I’d like to see more about the Paths.
Instead of. You can take mana or Yantra dice, or a combination of the two.
Yantra dice buy off penalties, *then* cap out at +5. If you do something ludicrous with a -10 modifier and have +15 from Yantras, you roll your dice pool+5.
Ah, right! I had forgotten about the cap after the penalty cancel, so that does make that more dangerous. Also, I like that the choice of a combination of bonus dice or mana – it makes the sacrifice more versatile and therefore also more attractive for an option.
Thanks for the reply!
This is so great- spellcasting is the most important part of the game, and I’m glad it’s going to have more incentive to feel like something that requires planning, prep, and inventiveness.
Hard choice, but I’m going to have to vote Orders.
I vote for Paths.
Mainly cause while the orders got a lot of development in the mage run I never really felt that paths developed much beyond the core book to the extent that they rarely come up in my games after character generation.
I am curious to see how they are getting revamped.
I very much like the Yantras.
The more ritual and general strangeness around a spell casting the better in my opinion
This just made Mage a whole lot more interesting, and that’s saying something.
I vote for Paths! Please and thank you!
Paths, definitely Paths.
Speaking for myself, I’ve never been a fan of the idea of Mages just willing effects – it always strikes me as being more “superpower” than “magic”. So I guess I’m glad to see more emphasis on actual acts/mantra/etc – but I think I’ll go as far as to actually require them at my own table.
Paths. I want to know whether Path stereotypes will take covert Path spells into account this time around.
What if there’s no such thing as “covert” or “vulgar” any more? Only “Risks Paradox” and “doesn’t.”
The Path themes are formed from the melding of their two Arcana, though – Mastigos aren’t Space or Mind wizards, they’re all Space *and* Mind wizards, even if they never go past the first dot in one of them.
OK; good. I like the emphasis on Semiotics, and I like the consolidated structure: you have Places (Environment, Demesnes, and Verges), Actions (Concentration, Mantras, Mudras, and Runes), and Tools (Path Tools, Order Tools, Patron Tools*, Sympathy, Sacraments, Personas*; and Dedicated Tools — Patron Tools and Personas are enabled by Merits). As opposed to the way these things were scattered throughout various boxes and sections in the original core book. I think it could be consolidated a bit more (Demesnes are essentially artificial Verges, so you could roll those two sections together; Patron Tools and Personas are going to have to be described in detail in their Merit write-ups, so you could reduce those two sections to stubs with references to the respective Merits); but this is definitely a major improvement over how things are now.
Thanks for the rundown on the different kinds of spells. Not sure how I feel about the loss of Skill-based dice pools; or is that something that can be added back in using appropriate Merits? Can you upgrade a Praxis to a Rote if it turns out that a Master has already formalized as a zrote the same spell that you’ve internalized as a Praxis? And is there any benefit to knowing it as a Praxis instead of a Rote?
I think you’ve mentioned that extended castings are gone. How do you determine how long a spell will take to cast?
I’m going to vote for Paths, although I have an ulterior motive: the sooner I can learn more about them, the sooner I can make some decisions about a pet project of mine.
if you know a spell as both a Praxis and a rote, you have to pick which way you cast it – if it’s a rote, you can add your encoded skill as a yantra. If it’s a praxis, you treat all Tools as Dedicated. Praxes are better at paradox mitigation but take longer to cast because you still have to actuvate all those tools. Rotes are quicker and more likely to succeed in the first place, especially if you’re the Master who designed them.
Encoded skill? Nice; so skills aren’t being dropped; they’re just being changed from being a fundamental part of the base dice pool to being a Yantra?
It says so in the excerpt: Effect: Using a rote’s mudra adds the user’s rating the rote’s encoded Skill to her dice pool. If the Skill is one of her Order’s specialized rote skills, she adds an extra die.
I vote for Order. I also administratively change all the votes to Path to votes for Order. You’re welcome, everyone!
I’m somewhat confused by the description of some of the place-based Yantras.
Is the Demesne still created by the soul stone? The way the soul stone is referenced in there more implies that “when a mage creates a demesne, he often likes to stick his soul stone in there and make it all fancy” as opposed to implying that the soul stone is actually the thing that makes a Demesne possible. Also, if this is all Demesne’s do now, it seems a serious nerf, since they previously downgraded vulgar effects to covert so long as sleepers weren’t peeking.
I’m also curious about the wording of the Supernal Verges. Is the intent that any mage can use the Arcana of the Verge’s path, but only a mage of the path can use it in a ritual for any non-inferior arcana? Or is that last bit also meant to apply to any mage (meaning that a mage whose path matches the Supernal Verge doesn’t get any extra benefit other than an a guarantee of having applicable Arcana.)
Demesnes are still created by Soul Stones – they’re weak, artificial Supernal Verges created by a Master – “Sanctify Demesne” is a 5th-dot Attainment in every Arcanum.
And yes, they still do more than provide a dice bonus. This post was only about the dice bonuses.
I vote PATHS, please.
Also, it seems that Demesnes are no longer such a big deal now, since the Vulgar/Covert distinction no longer applies (IIRC). Is it still a master-level spell? What is the deal now with large demesnes with multiple soul stones? Could it be used as a more versatile yantra, or multiple ones?
Orders, please! The impression I’ve gotten from Dave’s posts on rpg.net is that Orders are going to be a bit more – relateable? – than before, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that plays out.
That was awesome! 🙂 My group’s storyteller complained about my wall of text summary this week. I’m just so excited about the changes I like to let my group know about the updates.
We Guardians are watching you…beware what you expose to the blind.
My vote is for Orders.
Paths are needed before I can even begin to conceptualize the Orders.
Gonna throw my hat in for Paths! Also, spellcasting sounds beautiful, and I love Yantras. 😀
You said “other worlds of the Fallen World” when you talked about Sacraments. Does this mean that Mages can go into Twilight, the Underworld, and the Hedge to get sacraments for their rituals?
Plus, the talk about Persona made me think of the Shin Megami Tenshi series of the same name.
Mike and I vote for Paths.
Also, since Free Council Yantras are based on the tradition of magic they learned under, does that mean that the Mystical Traditions book is now a sole extension of the Free Council book?
Semiotics makes more sense for Mage than some other games.
About rotes – I have always like the idea of a mundane skill being encoded in the rote and that being the reason why it lower paradox and gets the bonus from the skill.
However, the way rotes and skills went together was really clunky from a play and game balance perspective – each arcane used a more or less random group of skills (they made thematic sense) and it was almost impossible to answer the question: What kind of skills will I need to be good at this type of magic, if that’s part of my concept? Tome of Mysteries gave some neat guidelines for how skills were encoded in rotes… which were apparantly irrelevant as what skill should be encoded depended on the spell and not what each order or individual’s preferences were.
Anyway, my question: How is the skill determined that is encoded in the Rote? Is it the master’s free choice? If it’s a free choice, how do you avoid the situation where the guy with persuasion 4 wants all his rotes to use persuasion?
Oh and PATHS btw.
I cant stop thinking about contradictory personas/yantras powered by the abbys. Using your healing persona to harm or your warrior persona to heal. Is that possible? What about with other types of yantra?
I am mostly interested in paths, specially mage sight and how it shows non-path arcana.
Nice stuff. I’m really looking forward to FWC.
This is a tough choice, but I vote for Paths
Paths, I think. I want to know more about the influence of the different Supernal Realms.