Many thanks to everyone who voted, and commented on the last post and in the satellite discussions on our forums, rpg.net, SomethingAwful and 4Chan. And even the one person posting on Giant in the Playground (like the Eye, I’m always watching). It’s exciting to see how many people are taking an interest in the Fallen World Chronicle, and I look forward to talking to any of you who come to GenCon. Don’t be shy – I’ll have as much of the book as exists with me for you to leaf through.
To keep you updated on our progress – drafts are starting to roll in for both the Chronicle Book and the attendent fiction Anthology. We’ll see increasing amounts of mechanics in these blog posts – and the choice this week is between two things I have a draft for, so we’ll really start to dig into the details.
That’s this week, though. Last week’s choice ended up closer than I thought it would, but Mage Sight won out.
In a game about mysteries, Mage Sight represents searching for clues. It’s the mechanics of a Mage character’s insight into the world, and one of the ways a player’s choice of Path affects her character.
Mage Sight is now also tied up with the Supernal World — while the “Supernal Realms” have been described as other dimensions in the past, we’re going to be much clearer in this edition that the Supernal is everywhere. The Aether is in every thunderclap, every wire, and every time a human approaches the divine.
Mages call the world of magic they unveil with Mage Sight “The Supernal World”, and reserve “The Supernal Realms” for the experience of interacting with symbols devoid of Fallen Reality, something which only happens in Awakenings and, in theory, Ascension. The Fallen World lacks magic, but is a Lie. Under that Lie is the Supernal World, where the concrete and abstract mix. The abstract by itself is the Supernal Realms.
Mage Sight comes in three levels of awareness.
Peripheral Mage Sight is the default—the baseline awareness of the strange all Awakened have. It used to be called Unseen Senses, but as that continually caused confusion with the Supernatural Merit of the same name, we’re changing it. Every mage experiences her Periphery in a different way, linked to her Path and Nimbus. Many don’t experience it through literal sight, but as one of the other senses.
Under Peripheral Mage Sight, a mage can sense the presence of any supernatural effect that is not masked. Any form of concealment magic defeats it without a Clash of Wills, but any other power or ability alerts the mage. The mere presence of supernatural creatures doesn’t trigger it, only the use of powers—a ghost will go unnoticed as long as it stays in Twilight form, but as soon as it spends Essence or uses a Manifestation, mages in the vicinity know that something just happened. Mages sense the presence of continuing effects like magical wards or spiritual possession until the effect ends or they leave the area.
Active Mage Sight is the next level, the mage deliberately opening her senses to the Supernal World. By default, this allows a mage to perceive the symbols of everything relating to her Ruling Arcana, and any other Arcana she knows at a cost of 1 Mana each.
The experience is interpreted and filtered through the Mage’s soul into her mind as hallucinations and sensory effects – an Obrimos using his Mage Sight might see electricity glittering in the wall cables, see a halo of authority around the leaders of groups, and feel the burning, life-giving power in sunlight. The result is confusing or even overwhelming for new mages not used to it, and presents such an overload of information that it’s hard to make out details.
What active Mage Sight does do is make glaringly obvious what was only a feeling of something strange in Peripheral Sight, as long as it can be seen in the Arcana used. A Mage using her Sight can see the Nimbus of other mages when they cast spells, active spells (both those being cast and those already in effect – the old edition had only vulgar spells visible, but it’s all magic now), and the presence of supernatural entities and inactive items and Merits that are covered by the Arcana used, even if in Twilight. For example, Fate Sight will pick up on the presence of destinies and fate-cursed objects even if those curses haven’t triggered.
Concealment magic only works against active Mage Sight if it protects against the full battery of a mage’s senses — an invisibility spell that warps light will not mask a living human from a Thyrsus’ Life senses, but a vampire’s mental “ignore me” field, or a spell that uses Prime to hide its signature, will work. Even then, a Mage whose Sight includes the appropriate Arcanum for the concealment power (such as a Mastigos for the vampire or an Obrimos for the cloaked spell) gets a Clash of Wills roll.
The downside of Active Mage Sight is the distraction factor – it imposes a -2 dice penalty on attribute and skill rolls – and how wearing it is, requiring a willpower point per scene after the first if it’s kept up.
The next level is Focused Mage Sight, where the mage concentrates her awareness on a particular subject. The hallucinations and sensory artifacts deepen and become more obvious, which mages describe as seeing into the Supernal World. The Obrimos isn’t looking at the world interpreted through the Aether any more, he’s looking at the Aether in the shape of the world — the walls are straining, barely holding back the power coursing through the cables, strange mandalas are visible in the heart of the sun, and the leader is decked in chains of office.
Mana and other sources of magical power are now visible, and the Nimbus of other mages (as well as the mage using Mage Sight) are visible all the time. Supernatural powers including attainments are visible, where only their effects were if covered by the Arcana earlier (for example, a Fire Spirit using its Influence to start a fire will show up under Forces in Active Sight, and both Spirit and Forces in Focused Sight). Clash of Wills rolls to see through concealment effects of the Arcana involved now grant the rote quality to the mage’s roll.
Once focused, a mage can scrutinize the subject of his Sight for information, and spend Mana to assist the attempt. Mages have discovered that when Mana is released rather than used, it doesn’t simply vanish but dissipates along invisible lines and whorls like blood in water. A mage using Focused Mage Sight can spend Mana and watch the shapes it makes – shapes that magical runes are based on, and which can provide details about the phenomena at hand. Mechanically, Scrutiny is an instant dice roll, with Mana spent adding successes after the main roll is successful the same way weapons do for damage. This allows players to “bid for clues”, knowing that it won’t be a waste of time.
We’ll give Storytellers advice on how much information to give out in Scrutiny rolls, including a mechanic whereby if information is necessary for the plot to move forward, all but one point of Mana spent on Mage Sight is refunded at the end of the scene.
Focused Mage Sight increases the penalty for nonmagical dice pools to -3, and every Turn after the mage’s Gnosis in Turns requires a Willpower point, but going this deep into the Supernal World is dangerous. Every so often, mages catch sight of one of the Supernal’s inhabitants while Focusing – our Obrimos might see an Angel – and keeping Focused too long increases the risk of a hostile entity taking an interest. While a mage is focused, Supernal beings don’t need to be summoned into Fallen reality to use their powers on him, even if they still can’t physically touch him. Once you notice them, they notice you.
Next week, we’ll take a detailed look at one of two major sections of the magic system. Both have been semi-spoiled already, but we’ll show specifics, including things that we’ve danced around (what does constitute “safe” for a spell?) or not spoken about at all ([redacted]). Both are significant areas of change from the current edition.
If you choose Yantras we’ll look at all the ways magical style impacts the game – from High Speech to Dedicated Magical Tools, and more besides. Mages can cast spells by thought alone, but usually only do so in extremis.
If you choose Paradox we’ll look at how mages’ reach for power exceeds their grasp, how and where they push past what’s Wise, and what the consequences are for them and the Fallen World around them.