Sheer Perfection [Signs of Sorcery] [Mage: The Awakening]

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Welcome back, faithful readers!

Mage‘s errata is being incorporated, and the second edition core will soon be off to have an Index added. In the meantime, now that we have a stable ruleset, I think it’s high time to get back to Signs of Sorcery.

Our topic tonight is the Perfected Metals, one of the lesser-known pieces of Awakening lore. They showed up in a spell (“Forge Thaumium”) in the 1st ed core, and of course in the names of some of the Watchtowers, but it wasn’t until Legacies: The Ancient that they were explained. Essentially, the seven classical metals of gold, mercury, silver, tin, copper, lead, and iron had Perfected, magical forms . Gold, for example, became orichalcum, which when alloyed with lunargent (silver) and hermium (mercury) in a spell became Thaumium. Legacies: The Ancient gave a few lines of notes about what those metals did when not alloyed together, and launched a dozen fan theories and rules expansions in the process.

When Signs of Sorcery was but a glint in a Developer’s eye, I knew I wanted to finally take a look at the Perfected metals. I knew it with such certainty that we cut Forge Thaumium from second edition’s corebook in order to revisit it properly in Signs.

I asked my writers to give rules for all seven metals (only four had them in Legacies: The Ancient) and to give more alloys than just Thaumium. They spun off from there, taking in things like Perfected fire, Perfected water, Perfected flesh. It’s a shortish section full of plot hooks right at the start of Signs’ chapter on Crafting, and it’s available for your reading pleasure here.

As always, this has not been to an editor. Pointing out spelling mistakes is just denying the editor the satisfaction of their job.

I am particularly interested in whether or not the spells involved should keep the ability to make them Lasting.

Those of you trying to convert the Crasftmasons. Yeah, they probably have Hone the Perfected Form as an Attainment.

(NB: Yes, Apeiron here is different to the substance described in Imperial Mysteries, which used its name to refer to the ultimate expression of Matter magic. If we ever revisit archmasters’ mechanics, that’ll be getting a name change, in the same spirit that Platonic Forms and Eidolons are no longer called Tulpa because that’s what Mad Ones’ Arcana manifestations are called, and goetic entities are called Goetia to distinguish them from Pandemonium’s natives. Mage has a vast lexicon, and every now and again we come across two things sharing a name like this.)

24 thoughts on “Sheer Perfection [Signs of Sorcery] [Mage: The Awakening]”

  1. YES!!! I’ve been waiting for this preview for so, so long! I LOVE Perfected Metals & such! Also, I vote let the spells keep the Lasting Reach option. Without it, every Perfected Alloy & most Perfected Metals & materials will be entirely too fragile.

  2. I have been waiting for this. I’ve got a player with an alchemical Legacy and this was a must for him.

    I’m curious what, if any, effect making a soulstone from perfected materials might have.

  3. Thanks a lot for sharing this, Dave!

    I believe that Matter spells of all arcana should have the most “+2 reach: permanent” of them.

    I’ve got some questions, though:

    * Are these perfected metals (and materials) and alloys affected by Matter and Forces spells as their normal counterparts? Say, can I increase the size of a perfected fire with Forces.

    * Brountium gives +2 against “debilitating effects” – are these effects necessarily of mundane origin or supernatural origin as well?

  4. Just in time for a Promethean crossover ;)`

    I’d err on the side of not allowing lasting to make the ‘basic’ perfected metals, the smiths art is strong symbolism and if you want quality, you work for quality. That said alloys made form the real McCoy can have the option of being made lasting. One possible work around for spell made materials could be that they are not counterspellable or subject to dissonance till they are emptied of mana.

    It would be nice if perfected acid made mention of that old alchemical classic ‘Vitriol’, however you choose read the letters and maybe the term Adamant is more worthy of perfected diamond in the gems, don’t usually associate that term with anything that can be cut period.

  5. The spells should not have the ability to become lasting although they can be made indefinite.

    Attainments don’t need to be lasting, since there’s no difference between an indefinite attainment and a lasting spell.

    There should also be processes (like the twilight method) to make them which are not spells but would be ‘lasting’ in spell terminology.

    • If the spell isn’t able to be made lasting, it kind of defeats the point of using it for long-term projects, and ultimately makes the spell kinda suck for all but the most transient of tasks.

  6. I’m a bit confused why only Free Council could ‘hammer out’ ( pun intendent 😉 ) spell to make Metal into Perfected. We literally have 2,5 thousands of years for Iron Age mages to XIX century on very common topic to work and experiment on that. I would understand if it would be like Atomic Power, that is very new phenomena – but one ancient as such should not be limited to Libertines reverse engineering only.

    As to Hone the Perfected Form spell itself – I would take out Lasting option. It still can be made Indefinite with advanced Matter mage and it would also not made whole ‘Twilight and back’ process meaningless. Then process become the Lasting solution. I want to point out also the Indefinite Perfecting of metals can have very interesting story implications when they become Havocs… 3:)

    OR we assume that ‘Twilight and back’ is more Sleepers and apprentices thing UNTIL they get / hit Matter 3 and then they just cast it all the time.

    Side question: Would Perfected Metals react somehow to Prometheans on Refinement connected to original Metal? It would make interesting crossover idea, I think. 😉

    • I suspect the idea is that, after a certain point, doing it by putting it through twilight and back became Tradition! which is very important to everyone but the Free Council. That said, I’ll grant that I’m unclear why they didn’t figure out the fast way first.

  7. Idea – Perfected organic materials ( like blood or skin ) are ‘alive’ and items from them can ‘heal’ or even ‘regenerate’ in longer periods of time. Cursed tome of black magic made from human skin and blood is nearly indestructible, it just ‘grows back’ any than the most profound damage to it. ( Evil Dead series and it’s Necronomicon comes to mind! )

  8. As written, it seems possible for metals to become accidentally Perfected from supernatural passes. In a crossover chronicle, why wouldn’t werewolves and especially sin-eaters have experience with metal items becoming Perfected from having accompanied them on so many trips into and out of Twilight and such? This seems like it would make Perfected metals much more common than the text describes. I know a Storyteller can wave this away, but what explanation would one use? Is accidental Perfection impossible because intent is somehow required, or maybe mages have some minor symbolic step they have to do between passes?

    I also like the suggestion that the “passes” method makes the Perfection Lasting but the shortcut spell is indefinite. This too seems like a necessary rule to explain why Perfected metals are as scarce as the text claims. If all it takes is 1 Mana and a Disciple of Matter, why wouldn’t every lock, window and paperweight in the Athenaeum be permanently Perfected?

    In the end, I wonder if maybe the answer might be to have a sidebar discuss Lasting Perfection as an optional rule since it seems like it should be up to the Storyteller to decide how much time and effort they want players to spend on making items and how prevalent those items should be in their chronicle.

    The part about teeth reminded me of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Sri Lanka. So many exciting new plot ideas from this preview! Thanks!

  9. DaveB mentioned in his post he will probably delete Lasting option. ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to remove the Lasting effect on Hone The Perfected Form; if you want a Perfected item that won’t eventually revert, you have to make it the old-fashioned way.’ –

    There was proposal of making Reach option to lower number of passes in Twilight part of Hone Perfected Form: ‘Take away the Reach option to make it lasting from the Matter spell and instead provide a +1 Reach option that halves the amount of necessary passes through Twilight. You could even make it possible to take that option multiple times.’

    I think I agree with this Reach option to the spell. 😎

  10. I always thought that Adamant would be a Perfected diamond rather than glass (especially since ‘adamant’ is the root word of the word ‘diamond’. It would make more sense for it to be a diamond, unless the devs thought that it would make adamant hard to implement in the games.

  11. Other Perfected Materials:

    • Mirror: mirrors are items, not materials. They’re based on silver.
    • Leather: a living material, leather is what happens when you prepare a hide.

  12. The text for Forge Dumanium is confusing; the first line references ‘scavenging’ mana like Sophis does, but I don’t see a mechanic in it for gaining mana.

    I would say the spells are better without the Lasting reach, if you can still get it done the old-fashioned ways. Prompts an appropriate-seeming scarcity but not too harshly.

  13. I’m surprised that they didn’t cover a Perfected Alloy equivalent of Bronze. If an Age can be named after it, then surely it deserves a Perfected Form.

  14. Regarding naming, I don’t really see why mages would view the Perfected Lead described here as being worthy of the title Apeiron — Anaximander’s theoretical substance from which all others come, the “Unlimited,” the totipotent cells of material reality, if you will. Perfected Lead sounds super useful, but still seems simply too… well… limited for mages to give it such a lofty title. (I’m also not sure what better name you could give that Matter 6 spell.) Additionally, “The manifest Shades of Stygia are Apeirons,” (Mage 2ed p. 97) so the term is already used in 2nd edition. On a constructive note, the Greeks and Romans were certainly not the only ones to use lead; maybe there are traditional Arabic, Indian or Chinese terms and concepts that could be drawn upon, and I sense 2nd edition writers are looking for ways to be somewhat less Eurocentric.

    So we have adamas (2nd ed. p. 244), adamantine (as in Arrows), and now adamant. On the one hand, these terms all complement one another by sharing a common theme of being nigh unbreakable. On the other hand, adamas and adamantine are used in a metaphorical sense, though introducing an actual substance named adamant might detract from that; somewhat like how a mundane pharmaceutical named “Panacea” could kind of cheapen metaphorical usages of the term. I’m really not sure what the best course would be.

    I noticed something else different in these rules from the earlier ones that I’m guessing was discarded. “The final product has a tenth the volume and mass of the original stock of metal.” (Legacies: the Ancient p. 67) I suspect the LtA rule was intended to make Perfected substances always ten times as scarce and valuable. While the idea of the substance shrinking like this might be mechanically clunky (and makes me wonder what happens to that 9/10ths Fallen slag), having this rule would help explain why mages wouldn’t just cast Hone the Perfected Form on every tool or weapon.

  15. Totally tempted to make a Moros Blacksmith character for a game, just to have a character who can do all that stuff. Can’t wait to see more of what’s in store!

  16. Oh, Idea! I’ll reluctantly agree with the notion of removing the Lasting option from Hone the Perfected Form, but perhaps for the various Forge spells, keep it, with the caveat that it’s only available if ALL component metals were themselves Perfected the slow (& Lasting) way. Thus, the impatient can have results fast, but which must be Relinquished and are vulnerable to being Dispelled, while purists who insist on doing things the *right* way will produce un-dispellable results.

  17. This looks pretty great!

    If perfected materials aren’t lasting, they are much less useful. I agree that maybe hone the perfected form shouldn’t be able to make the material lasting.

    I think a spell that reduces the number of passes to make the material lasting makes sense though. Might also make sense to allow for lasting creation using Patterning or Making practices.

  18. As Toroid said above, the term Apeiron is also already in use for Shades of Matter from Stygia in the 2nd edition Mage: The Awakening core rulebook, so if you want to avoid confusing repetitions of the same terms, you should probably change that one.

    • You’re not the only one, and that’s one of the things I was coming to post about.

      That thing about perfected metals being used for banes strikes me as the kind of rule that will sit forgotten in a rulebook, until players pull it out in the middle of the game, disappointing their ST:

      This ephemeral being is subject to an interesting and symbolic ban, but I mentioned tin smelting in it, and now people will just scare it off with the same Kassiterum dagger they use for dealing with every other kind of spirit. Instead of being able to build on material symbolism, the ST would be better off avoiding it.

      In general, abilities that work by causing you to ignore everything about a problem but a very specific detail risk flattening it reductively.

      On the other hand, I can see why you’d want to avoid endlessly stacking bonuses. I quite like the idea personally of allowing you to do magic according to their weaknesses; so you’d follow all the conditions that exist to use their weakness against them in a mundane fashion, but then you could mix the rules into your own spell.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear picture of what that means, possibly it allows you to use higher arcana tricks in very specific circumstances by using reach, (so it’s a paradox limited and thematic way to bind or remake a specific spirit before you actually have access to the appropriate practices in general) or allows you to apply the properties of the weakness to an unrelated spell (you hear in folk-law that you can contact them through a pool of water in moonlight, so you use a pool of perfected water in moonlight to listen in on other people talking to them with a space spell).

      Either idea is far more ambitious and fiddly, and could veer off into extra sets of systems; moment specific spells bypassing arcana limits vs ways of players boosting the supernal sympathies of folklaw in order to make them work differently. Lots of bother balancing all that.

      On the other hand, it’s a set of ideas to explore, rather than a loophole applied externally to existing systems.


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