Signs of Sorcery [Mage: The Awakening] [Open Development]



Welcome once again, faithful readers! Or as Frank would say…

Mage: The Awakening Second Edition (featuring the Fallen World Chronicle) is still moving its way through layout, but my cabal of authors have not been idle since its Open Development ended. We’ve been writing the first sourcebook for the new edition, Signs of Sorcery. As of last week, that book is now in Development.

Which means we’re back. Back for more Open Development, in the style to which you became accustomed. We might not be here every week, and some topics will have to wait until the corebook is out (although more on that below,) but I’ll focus the blog on one subject per post.

Signs was announced at GenCon 2014 as “Shards of Power”, and underwent a name change last year. The blurb from the GenCon 2015 brochure was this:

“Explore mysteries of Supernal origin, the creations of mages and the reclusive archmages, and the tools by which they practice magic – yantras, magical items, soul stones, artifacts, Supernal Verges and more. “

What does that mean in practice, though?

In second edition, we’ve focused Mage onto a core tone statement: Addicted to Mysteries. We’ve made a game whose protagonists become obsessed with occult conundrums, and seek out the experience of finding the supernatural in the world. Anything supernatural can be a Mystery, worthy of Obsession rewarded by Arcane Beats. We make it clear several times in the new core that the overwhelming majority of Mysteries aren’t caused by the Supernal World or the powers of mages (although everything can be examined using the Arcana, only mages’ spells are made with them).

This first book, then, is about the subset of Mysteries that are Supernal. About the enigmas that land closest to home, the creations of dedicated mages, the collected lore of the Orders, and the always-there-behind-the-surface, immanent Supernal World.

We changed a lot of the game in the new corebook, but word counts being what they are we have plenty more to say about those innovations. We made the Supernal the hidden symbols behind the Lie, the thing mages see with their Sight. We added a system for mages drawing on the symbolic properties of their environment to cast spells. Both have chapters here.

Early in a second edition (so early the core’s not even out yet,) we’ve got a long list of topics that we didn’t have room to re-examine in the corebook. Some were looked at in early first edition, and if they’re Supernal Mysteries we’ve evaluated whether they still fit into the game before including them here. The 1e player’s guide Tome of the Mysteries covered many topics, but many subjects never got anything beyond cursory coverage in the ten year line so far: we had an entire book of example Grimoires, but nothing about the central Grimoire mechanics. Or Imbued Items and Artifacts, for that matter.

What This Book Is

Mysteries. Which, in Mage, means Story Seeds. Every item covered in Signs is a valid Obsession for a mage, something for them to get stuck into over a Story or sequence of Stories. The writers have given us weird edge cases and exceptions that prove rules, the things that attract, fascinate, and infuriate the Awakened about themselves and “their” Supernal.

An expansion and elaboration of the 2e Core. We got a lot into that 2e Core but sometimes only sparingly – we got the basics down, but not the weird bits that build off them. Not every Artifact fits neatly into the Merit in Awakening’s Chapter Three, not everything seen in Mage Sight fits our baseline description of Scrutiny. Some things, we cut knowing that we’d get right back to them here – Forge Thaumium and the Perfected Metals, for instance, would have required too much room to explain for a relatively niche subject, but this book is where we look at the Awakened’s esoterica.

A place for complicated spells. The corebook (like the 1e core) doesn’t have any spells that use more than one Arcanum in it, and although we tried our best, some spells didn’t fit into its wordcount. Mages use their magic to investigate Mysteries, and those in this book are not exception. “Forge Thaumium” and “Scribe Daimonomikon” are both in here, as are means of affecting Yantras and specialized crafting magic.

A book about the elements of Awakening’s setting that are uniquely its own. Because mages merrily wander all over the cosmos of the Fallen World, driven by their Obsessions, it uses all of the “generic” parts of the Chronicles of Darkness world rather than only some of them like all the other games. This can, to the uninitiated, give the impression that Mage has no setting of its own; well, Signs is an entire book full of phenomena only mages experience.

What This Book Is Not

An equipment list or bestiary. Mage is already well served with “list” books like Intruders: Encounters With The Abyss, Grimoire of Grimoires, and Keys to the Supernal Tarot. For Signs, we have concentrated on holistic discussion rather than simple list formats. For example, I asked my writers to prioritize a discussion of the jealous trade in Artifacts among mages and how mages theorize they enter the Fallen World over ten statted, dot-rated Artifacts, which would have taken the same word rate. Partly, this is to keep the older Mage books “valid”; our expansion in Signs of the 2nd edition Supernal Entity rules should let Storytellers easily convert the example entities from Summoners without retreading their individual descriptions. Where we do cover previous material, we’ve tried to keep it as the sole example in a wider topic – this book contains the 2nd ed rules for Ochemata, superseding those in Seers of the Throne and Imperial Mysteries, but it uses them as an example for a discussion of quasi-Supernal Entities.

Tome of the Mysteries second edition. It’s not the only book we’re revisiting content from. Legacies: The Ancient talks about perfected materials in the Forge Masters Legacy. Tome of the Watchtowers has an expanded table of Path symbols and the concept of dedications (which we have renamed while bringing back here.) Grimoire of Grimoires shows what the variety of rote texts should be, despite the seeming simplicity of the Scribe Grimoire spell. All of the Order books boast example Imbued Items and Artifacts. Tome of the Mysteries, though, is the most-revisited. It’s where 1e expanded on rotecraft, gave rules for Awakened alchemy, and talked about crafting. Every chapter includes some topics that were looked at previously, but as I imply above the writers were explicitly not beholden to prior interpretations; not everything that was appropriate for Mage back when Tome of the Mysteries was written is still so in a new edition, and especially in a book about Supernal Mysteries the cosmological changes we’ve made to the game preclude some things from ever coming back while enabling others.

A Legacy book. We talk about Legacies briefly when we look at Grimoires, because Daimononika, but Legacies are mages learning how to achieve effects without the Supernal, so they aren’t a valid topic for this book. Besides which, even though the 2e Legacy format is a hell of a lot shorter than the 1e one, we still don’t have the wordcount room to include any.

A crossover book. By dint of its subject matter, Signs does not contain any revelations about the other Chronicles of Darkness games. They, and their protagonists, are part of the overwhelming majority of Mysteries that aren’t of Supernal origin without exception – a Moros can examine a vampire by seeing how it appears in Stygia, but that doesn’t make the vampire the product of the Death Arcanum, only that its existence is revealed in the Supernal World just like any other dead thing. Signs of Sorcery is about those things that are created and influenced by Stygia (and the other four Supernal Worlds,) so we have no space or inclination to peer through other gamelines’ unmentionables.

Theme: Hidden Complexities

As every initiate learns, the Supernal World is hidden behind the Abyss – it only manifests when mages use their Sight to see its shallows, or their spells and summoning circles to bring it fully into the Fallen. Each of the five Supernal Worlds is the world-shaped manifestation of a deeper Supernal Realm, each one made of two Arcana. Easy. Logical. Makes sense. You can draw a diagram of it and relax, knowing that the Tellurian is an orderly place.

Except, of course, that Emanations and Verges exist. That Mana pools in Hallows. That Artifacts have crept into Fallen reality far beyond the numbers explicable by the gifts of summoned entities and the product of archmasters. Like a student entering postgraduate study and learning that his scholarship so far has been vastly simplified for his level of understanding, mages quickly realize that the interaction of Supernal and Fallen is not as predictable as their first lessons described.

This book is about the nails that stick up, the things that work in defiance of the Orders’ basic theories and tie scholars in knots accounting for them. The enigmas that draw mages in, tempting them to Obsession and hubris. Some mages specialize in these Mysteries, and understand them more than their peers; dedicated crafters, mages who explore the depths of their Paths, Curators and Lorehouse Keepers who spend lifetimes cataloguing Grimoires and studying Artifacts. Even they have some things that elude them, but they’re the professors and doctors to other mage’s postgrads.

Mood: Close to Home

Supernal Mysteries are personal to mages. It’s their metaphysical back-yard. An Obrimos can accept that she doesn’t know anything about vampires far more readily than she can face a manifestation of the Aether that doesn’t make sense without it getting a rise out of her. Not only do the things in this book challenge mages in their area of expertise (challenge, not necessarily defeat – they should be able to eventually reach answers they’re happy with and move on to new Obsessions) but they’re the only ones who can confront them. Any Sleeper with an abundance of bravery and a deficit of common sense can hunt ghosts, but only a mage can confront a Stygian Mystery.

So what’s included?

Signs breaks its Mysteries down into six chapters, most of which are then subdivided within their theme. We’ll hop around them over the course of this Open Development process, so please leave detailed questions until I show you the section in question (though expressions of which parts you’d like me to ramble on about soon are welcome!);

Chapter One: The Supernal World covers the five Supernal Worlds, breaking each one down by how each of the ten Arcana appear to mages of that Path using their Sight. It expands on the 2nd ed corebook’s rules for Mage Sight, including a page discussing how they interface with the Investigation subsystem in Chronicles of Darkness. It expands the rules for Supernal Entities and how mages summon them, giving them unique dread powers called boons on top of their Arcana. Finally, it discusses Aedes, phenomena like Arcadia’s Thorns or The Primal Wild’s Singing Paths that affect mages of that Path using their Sight but don’t otherwise break into the Fallen World.

Chapter Two: The Mage’s Tools is, put simply, “Yantras, volume two.” Stew Wilson returns to the subject he wrote in Mage‘s new core with an advanced class on magical tools, ritual spells, and the mystical uses of time, place, sacrament, and tool. Want to use a Mudra without knowing a rote, risk calling on the Exarchs as a Pentacle mage, attempt to dedicate more than one tool, or get advice on how to Storytell massive rituals? Stew has you covered. This chapter reintroduces the concept from Tome of the Watchtowers of taking on a taboo or vow of deprivation for magical purposes, which we’ve renamed obligations.

Chapter Three: The Crafter’s Trade covers the persistent magical effects created by magic within the known Practices (as compared to Chapter Five, below). We cover all of the perfected metals and their uses, only partially listed in first edition, and do a victory lap through other perfected materials, too (perfected fire! Perfected water!). Thaumium is back, along with a few other alloy spells. Enhanced Items are next, the largest set of spells in the book, covering everything from endless ammo clips to Forces spells to make devices function without power. The chapter then expands on the rules for Imbued Items, including spells allowing mages who don’t yet have Prime 4 to store spells temporarily in items as “charges”, spells to allow mages to Imbue living beings, spells that alter how relinquishing spell control works and cursed items (a fan-favourite topic in Tome of the Mysteries.) Finally, the chapter discusses the social aspects of magical item creation among the Awakened, and gives Merits so your character can tote any of the goodies described herein.

Chapter Four: The Wealth of Knowledge is about the vast legacy of Obsessions past a modern member of an Order inherits; rotes and advanced rotecraft, Grimoires (including Daimononika, palimpests, ephemeral Grimoires, living Grimoires and more), and soul stones (including such things as what happens if you try to use a Mad One’s soul stone, merging an astral version of a soul stone’s creator into your Oneiros as an Astral Mentor, and creating “anti-Demesnes” called annulities that suppress an Inferior Arcanum). It moves on through an expansion of the Nimbus mechanics including lots of spells to affect it, and finishes off with a detailed expansion of 2e’s rules for requisitioning items from a mage’s Order, covering communal resources like Lorehouses and Aethenea, and guiding the Storyteller through what an Order should have available.

Chapter Five: The Manifest Supernal is about those Supernal Mysteries that do, in defiance of beginning mage’s lessons, sit in the Fallen World. Artifacts, eidoforms (platonic objects; the knife that is the symbol for “knife” and so forth), Sariras (the left-behind chrysalis of an Ascension), Hallows, Verges, Emanation Realms, symbolic places called Manteions like the Nevada test range or the ruins of Troy that are themselves magical symbols usable by mages, the creations of archmages, ruins of the Time Before, living expressions of magic like Ochemata, Ananke, and the Aeons, and secret people like Rmhoals and their cryptid animal equivalents.

Finally, Chapter Six: Awakening is about just that; the great Mystery all mages have experienced. We look at the majority of Awakenings adding to the descriptions in the 2e core, then examine metamorphic Awakenings, those where the new Mage returns to a world that is not… Exactly… like the one they left. A lucky few return to the Fallen World bearing Artifacts, the most unfortunate come unstuck in space or time. We look at the lore surrounding Awakenings, how mages might observe and follow an Awakening in progress, attempts to trigger or discourage them, the terrible consequences for one gone wrong, and finish the book off with advice for Awakening existing Sleeper or Sleepwalker characters in play, rather than leave it in the prelude as in most chronicles.


Homework Assignment

That’s a run-down of what Signs is all about. On our next blog, we’ll do Open Development of the expanded Mage Sight rules. If you’ve been a dedicated follower of Mage blogs, you’ll know that while we talked around the subject back in, that was so early on that it didn’t contain any mechanics.

I can’t usefully show you the expansion to Mage Sight without the core rules, so here they are: freshly snipped out of the layout text of Awakening second edition, the 2e Mage Sight rules.

Please note that these are not under open development. They’re done, playtested, finished, off to Magical Mike Chaney for months now and possibly even laid out by now. The only capacity to change them is minor typo correction after the advance pdf comes out. I’ll clarify questions on them where I can, but please read in that spirit. They’re to get you ready to comment on the expansion next blog.

See you then!


33 thoughts on “Signs of Sorcery [Mage: The Awakening] [Open Development]”

  1. Amazing.

    Quick question, is Active Mage Sight a reflexive action to activate?

    Just checking, since I didn’t explicitly see that said.

  2. This sounds completely amazing. If you’re taking requests, and it’s not too narrow a topic, I would love to hear about some perfected metals, alloys, and other interesting materials in the near future.

  3. This book sounds incredibly rich in everything we could want for the first Mage 2e supplement. I’m very excited for it.

  4. My main requirement for any game to bear the name “Mage” is the ability to absolutely nerd out about the metaphysics of it and have dorky quasi-philosophical discussions of the material.

    So bravo, sir.

    • Possibly, possibly not following the format of the 1e Legacy books (which is really the format of the 1e Bloodline books for Vampire.)

      Awakening has 96 written-up Legacies in first edition, and 2 in second edition so far; the Eleventh Question in the corebook, and the Nagaraja in Dark Eras. If we were to do a new Legacy book, what proportion should be old ones converted to the new edition versus new ones? What are we to do with that big pile of old Legacies, some of which are important to the setting.

      All things to consider.

        • Well, I guess a book of legacies just needs to define some form of design pattern (a more detailed version of “Legacies” blog post). Personally, I would preffer variety over quantity and examples of legacies like Dave’s Parliament of the Needle (Wizard Communists).

      • If it were me trying to do a Legacy book, I’d start by reading over all the existing Legacies and make notes on which ones I liked/didn’t like and why, which ones I thought were important to the game’s culture and why, and which ones I thought no longer belonged or were wonky in some way and why.

        I’d also use the Legacy builder system in the Core (assuming that’s still a thing) to rough out some notes on the mechanics of each Legacy and see if anything was obviously imbalanced or easy/hard to convert.

        Then I’d use that info to figure out which ones needed the update, which ones could simply be referenced (leaving the fans to do the hopefully minimal conversion), and which ones should never be spoken of again.

        All that info should tell you which Legacies you must absolutely include and which ones you don’t need so much. Compare with wordcount, then let the authors pitch some new Legacies, and go from there.

      • In the immediate term, I’d just like to have a list of spells which Legacies would use as Attainments. I’ve already got the 1e books for the Legacies’ backgrounds and oblations, but when it comes to converting Attainments, there really isn’t much to work with. A lot of Legacies have Mage Sight or Mage Armor as attainments, so it’s really hard to imagine what they would look like in 2e.

  5. Anyway, this book sounds pretty awesome. I’ll definitely be grabbing it after the Core. I’m definitely looking forward to the rules on crafting enhanced and imbued items. Imbuing People sounds like it could go wrong in any number of entertaining ways, which is always fun.

    Can a Mage grant someone a Supernatural Merit as a permanent thing?

  6. Looks like chapter one will be worth the price of admission alone. As someone keenly interested in running an amalgam of Mage, Scion and Nobilis clear articulation of each Realms praxis will be very useful.

    Also, I cant believe we have had two posts on Mage Sight and not had mention of Ice Kings skankey old Wizard Eyes. Yes, the four faced cherubim are always watching you, even as you brush your teeth.

    Always watching.

    So clever.

    Either them or the Empty Set.

  7. “The corebook (like the 1e core) doesn’t have any spells that use more than one Arcanum in it,”

    What? That’s false. The 1e corebook had a bunch of spells that used more than one Arcanum.

    • Yeah, I did a double take there, too. It wasn’t even *rare* in 1e.

      Forge Thaumium, Scry, Aport Item and Psychic Genesis, Sculpt Tulpa, Fiery Transformation… et cetera.

      A lot of those are going solo come 2e, from what I gather, so I suspect that plays in here.

  8. Dave,you know the Supernal gods who the Exarchs dethroned and Bound,and some archmasters are trying to free again,are we gonna learn a little bit more about them?

  9. Hi, good to hear you’re working on more Mage stuff. Off the content you posted about I’m mostly interested about chapter 2, Yantras being one of the my favorite things added in second edition.

    So I wish you good luck with the book and … to have fun with it. From your APs it was easy to see how much you liked the the game so I hope that working as a dev didn’t dimish that 😛

  10. I’ve been aching from more news on Mage 2nd Edition so this is very welcome. I’m excited to know what’s coming down the line: Supernal adventures was something I came to very late in Mage 1st Edition and haven’t really gotten a chance to explore with my players so I’m excited about the possibilities of doing it early in 2nd edition.

  11. I am INCREDIBLY excited to see your posts firing up again, Dave. I love basically every line that Onyx Path has done/is doing (excepting Mummy, which I haven’t looked at yet, and Deviant, which I can’t look at yet) but Mage will always have a special place in my heart.

  12. My rational part is so focused on being patient and waiting politely for Mage 2nd Edition that cannot decide if this micropiece of rules is something good and satisfying.. or just a little bite on the cake,the kind of delicacy that lets you hungrily searching for more.

    The truth probably sits between the two options.

    I will hungrily wait for more information on that golden Chapter 6. All of them please me, but that one has me hooked on its promises.

    Oh, but one request besides that. Would you mind, Dave, to provide us with one scene in which Mage Sight is used to its fullest? Looking for some flavor there,some in-character interaction with the mistery as it would be seen in a game. If you could spare some time to do it, it would be awesome!


    We have considered the “so is this a Reflexive action?” question long and hard, balancing the fact that you need Active Mage Sight already up to Counter incoming spells and see mages in the process of casting with the fact that you can take Reflexive actions at any time, not just on your own turn.

    We’ve gone for entering Active Mage Sight is reflexive when only using Ruling Arcana, and instant otherwise. Leaving it is always reflexive.

    Also, the other main query I’ve seen is

    You have to be using Active Mage Sight to focus. You select which Arcana to use for Scrutiny from among those in your Sight. As both elements of focused sight are already actions (instant for Revelation, Extended for Scrutiny) it doesn’t need any other timing notes.

    • Oooh. I like that! It makes Ruling Arcana all the more important, and emphasizes the ease with which you can use those Arcana.


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