Unofficial Mage Mechanics FAQ

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The Unofficial Mage Mechanics FAQ Table of Contents How does Paradox accumulate? What is Permanent Paradox? How do Mages gain and lose Permanent Paradox? What is Pattern Bleeding? How does Paradox backlash? What is unbelief and how does it work? Can I match other supernatural's powers coincidentally? How do Targeting successes work? Does a Mage have to roll to hit a target? What should I roll for a Targeting roll? How do Targetting successes translate into damage? How are effects resisted? What good is awakening the spirit of an object? Is healing aggravate damage in the Umbra vulgar? How do I create a Wonder? How does Mind interact with AIs? How does a Mage destroy a computer? How does a Mage control a computer? How does Friction Curse work? How can I become immortal? Q) How does paradox accumulate? Canon: "Like this: When a mage attempts to cast a coincidental Effect... -and the roll succeeds or fails, the mage ggains no paradox. -and the roll botches, the mage gains one pparadox point per dot of the highest sphere used in the Effect. When a mage attempts to cast a vulgar Effect without witnesses... -and the roll succeeds or fails, the mage ggains one paradox point per dot of the highest sphere used in the Effect. -and the roll botches, the mage gains one pparadox point, plus one per dot of the highest sphere used in the Effect. When a mage attempts to cast a vulgar Effect with witnesses... -and the roll succeeds or fails, the mage ggains one paradox point, plus one per dot of the highest sphere used in the Effect. -and the roll botches, the mage gains two pparadox points, plus two per dot of the highest sphere used in the Effect. Stephenls Geek" Q) What is permanent paradox? Canon: Permanent paradox ("permadox") is simply paradox that isn't expelled through backlash. Note that it isn't actually "permanent" in the sense

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of "never going away;" it's possible to gain and lose it quite rapidly. Other than that, permadox is like regular paradox -- it is marked down on the quintessence/paradox wheel (usually as fully filled-in boxes, while quintessence is check marks and paradox is Xs), can eclipse quintessence points like regular paradox, and is rolled during backlashes as part of the regular paradox pool. Q) How do mages gain and lose permanent paradox? Canon: "Mages gain permanent paradox through a variety of means, though usually it comes from direct body enhancement beyond human maximums (as distinct from indirect enhancement -- an Effect that increases Stamina may grant permadox, but an Effect that simply increases soak through other means won't) through the use of the Life 3 "Better Body" Effect. Increasing a stat beyond five, growing gills or wings, or any other change that's impossible to maintain without magic will grant permanent paradox. How much it grants is up to the ST, but a good guideline is probably one point per attribute dot above five and one point per miscellaneous impossible trait. Other ways to gain permadox include the Enhancements background from the Guide to the Technocracy and, of course, anything else that explicitly says it grants points of permanent paradox. Mages lose permanent paradox by ending the effect that granted it. Stephenls" Note: In addition, canonically, a Mage gains permanent paradox for every century of life they have lived. Q) What is pattern bleeding? Canon: "Pattern bleeding is a condition related to but distinct from permanent paradox. A mage gains pattern bleeding by maintaining a magical effect in conflict with his or her natural pattern. This includes increasing stats or granting impossible traits like gills or wings. (It's not unusual for mages to suffer from both permanent paradox and pattern bleeding simultaneously.) It is possible to avoid pattern bleeding from stat gain by swapping stat ratings -- trading a dot of strength for a dot of dexterity would not result in pattern bleeding, while simply gaining a dot of dexterity would. Pattern bleeding is a binary trait -- either a mage is suffering from it or not. There are no degrees of severity, although there were in previous editions. Quite simply, a mage suffering from pattern bleeding takes one health level of unsoakable (even to effects that grant a soak against aggravated) aggravated damage per day that cannot be healed unless the effect causing the pattern bleeding ends. This can be avoided by spending quintessence -- a mage suffering from pattern bleeding can spend one point of quintessence per day to avoid taking the damage. Note that because its effects occur once per day, magical Effects with a duration of one day or less never inflict pattern bleeding.

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Stephenls" To make this very clear, you get Pattern Bleeding when: 1) You increase your stats (without lowering another stat equally) or adding inherant abilities. This includes changing yourself to gain merits or eliminate flaws. and 2) This change lasts a day or longer. If you satisfy both those conditions, you must expend 1 quintessense a day or take an unsoakable, unhealable level of lethal damage.

Q) How does paradox backlash? Canon: Whenever a mage gains one or more points of paradox, roll one die. If the result is a 1, there is no backlash and the paradox accumulates. (Non-canon note: this little caveat was added in the Storyteller's Handbook, and is often ignored). Otherwise, roll the mage's entire accumulated paradox pool (at difficulty 6) and subtract the number of successes rolled from the pool. The rest remains on quintessence/paradox circle to trouble the mage later. Note that if a mage doesn't want to suffer paradox immediately, the player can spend a point of temporary willpower to delay all backlash until the end of the scene -- this need only be done once, and future paradox gain during the scene doesn't require additional willpower expenditure for the backlash to be delayed. Then... -If the roll results in five or fewer succeesses, the mage suffers that many health levels worth of bashing damage. This damage is normal bashing damage in every way -- it is soaked with a Stamina roll (and magic that grants a bonus to soak rolls functions as normal) and can be healed with coincidental magic. In addition, the mage gains a Trivial paradox flaw, as described on page 195 of Mage: The Ascension Revised. -If the roll results in anywhere from six tto ten successes, the mage suffers that many health levels worth of bashing damage. This damage is normal bashing damage in every way -- it is soaked with a Stamina roll (and magic that grants a bonus to soak rolls functions as normal) and can be healed with coincidental magic. In addition, the mage gains a Minor paradox flaw, as described on page 196 of Mage: The Ascension Revised. -If the roll results in anywhere from eleveen to fifteen successes, the mage suffers a number of health levels of lethal damage equal to the number of successes rolled minus ten. This damage is normal lethal damage in every way -- it cannot be soaked with a Stamina roll (though magic that allows a soak against lethal damage will function) and can either be healed coincidentally or not depending on how the backlash manifests (essentially ST's prerogative). In addition, the mage gains a Moderate paradox flaw, as described on page 196 of Mage: The Ascension Revised. -If the roll results in anywhere from sixteeen to twenty successes, the mage suffers a number of health levels of lethal damage equal to the number of successes rolled minus ten. This damage is normal lethal damage in every way -- it cannot be soaked with a Stamina roll (though

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magic that allows a soak against lethal damage will function) and can either be healed coincidentally or not depending on how the backlash manifests (essentially ST's prerogative). In addition, the mage gains a Severe paradox flaw, as described on page 196 of Mage: The Ascension Revised. -If the roll results in twenty-one or more successes, the mage suffers a number of health levels of aggravated damage equal to the number of successes rolled minus twenty. This damage is normal aggravated in every way -- it cannot be soaked with a Stamina roll (though magic that allows a soak against aggravated damage will function), cannot be healed coincidentally except in the Umbra, and costs a point of quintessence per health level healed if magic is used. In addition, the mage gains a Drastic paradox flaw, as described on page 196 of Mage: The Ascension Revised. These rules, at times, don't seem to line up with what's printed in Mage: Revised. That's because the Paradox section of the rules is badly confused, and the text and the chart disagree with each other. Note that it is extremely rare to take aggravated damage from paradox in Revised -- it usually only happens in situations where a mage gets into a big magic fight with many vulgar effects, and spends a point of willpower to delay all the backlash until the end of the scene. In addition, a mage automatically loses one point of accumulated paradox per week without effect. Stephenls" Q). What is Unbelief, and how does it work? Canon: "Unbelief is the process by which a magical Effect existing in a hostile paradigm is slowly eroded, success by success. The only actual rules that have been published for it are essentially the above. There's never been any word on how fast unbelief eats successes, or which categories it eats first, and it's up to the ST. " StephenLS Opinion: Setting the stength and nature of unbelief has a huge effect on the feel and power level of a Mage campaign. A mage GM needs to answer two questions: "How long do I want a Unicorn to wander Wall Street?" and "How powerful vulgar effects do I want my players and NPCs to have active all day, every day?". Then set the power of unbelief to achieve those. It is generally agreed that active witnessing and disbelief by sleepers should greatly affect Unbelief, as should local paradigms. An effect created by a Mage and kept in his sanctum should never suffer from unbelief at all. Once exposed to a disbelieving world, spending quintessance or constantly repairing (basically, recasting) the effect are the only ways to prevent the ravages of Unbelief. Again, however, there are no canon mechanics for this and the desired power levels of Mage games vary too much for me to suggest them. Incidentally, Unbelief provides a good mechanistic explanation for why many mages would cast important defensive spells every day, instead of only twice a year. Q) Can I match other Supernatural's magics coincidentally? Canon: "You can call but not raise other supernatural powers /if you have the appropriate merit/. Vampires don't traditionally hurtle fireballs, so a ghouled mage can't always create fire coincidentally (although he can sprout fangs and claws or turn into a wolf or a bat). But if a ghouled mage is in the presence of a Tremere who's using Lure of

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Flames, he can create fireballs coincidentally because paradox, er... I believe "turns away in disgust" is the phrase used to describe it. This is one of the reasons true mages work so well with hedge mages, BTW -- you don't need a merit to be a hedge mage, so if someone uses the Path of Hellfire to blow up a car, the mage standing next to him can give 'dox a raspberry and do likewise for the rest of the scene, to any bits of scenery he takes a dislike to. Provided he's got the same sort of foci as the hedge mage, that is. The limit on this is it only works up to Adept-level spheres. Master-level powers draw paradox regardless of the presence or absence of other supernaturals. This limit got left out of the appropriate sidebar in the Mage Storytellers Companion by accident, but it's supposed to be there. Stephenls" Opinion: Yes, this is canon. I utterly detest it from philosphical grounds, however, as Paradox in my games is a manifestation of the "Law of Unintended Consequences" rather than a spiteful and directed lashing out by sentient paradox spirits. In my games, if you want to cast fireballs coincidentally, make the phenominal effort of learning how to do it right - the Sorcery Path of Hellfire or Demolitions skill. These represent the advantage of extensively researched, practised, and refined techniques over the Mage practice of warping reality so that your ideosyncratic method works.

Q). How do Targeting Successes work? Canon: Every individual target of your effect requires one targeting success. If your effect will not directly affect any entities within, you can target an area instead. For example, a fireball requires a targeting success for every person affected. Filling a room with smoke or mist can be done with Area successes, as no one is directly affected. However, if you want the targets to choke on the smoke as part of your effect, you would need to target them individually. There is one, and only one, way around this rule. A Correspondance Ward (Corr 3) allows a magic to affect all patterns attempting to enter or leave an area without targetting each individualy. Q). Does a Mage have to roll to hit with Targeted effects? Canon: First, all effects are targeted. Even ones cast on yourself - targeting yourself just doesn't cost successes and, since you are assumed to be cooperating with yourself, no targeting roll. Second, there are two types of targeting. Direct Pattern Effects use the sphere governing the target to directly alter the target. Direct Pattern Effects do not require a targeting roll, but you can choose to make one. Indirect Pattern Effects use an outside pattern to cause an effect in the target. An Indirect Pattern Effect always requires a targeting roll unless the target of the effect knowingly accepts the effect. Q) What should be rolled for a targetting role? Canon: Whatever seems appropriate. Opinion: For attacks using a weapon attack as Foci, the targetting role is the attack roll for the weapon.

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For mystical damaging effects (such as fireball) , Wits + Occult is usually appropriate. For mental effects, various combinations of Social attributes and Subterfuge, Leadership, or Intimidation are appropriate.

Q). How much damage does a targeted spell do? Canon: Malcom Sheppard (freelance Mage writer) suggested every excess success on the targeting roll translate into 1 level of damage. This is as close to a canon ruling as has ever been made. Opinion: Two other options have been advanced. First, you can treat it exactly like a Firearms attack. Every success translates into a die of damage. The downside is that this requires an additional role, and makes an average one-round effect by an Arete 3 mage less damaging than an average gun shot (ignoring questions of Agg vs Lethal). I use this rule, except that I count every 2 targeting successes as 1 level of damage to avoid the extra roll. Secondly, you can treat every success on the targetting roll as an Arete success for damage. The downside to this approach is that it makes Mages the uncontested champions of dealing obscene damage in the WoD. Q). How are Effects resisted? Canon: If the target is aware of the effect or has reason to be suspicious and alert, it can resist. If no targeting roll was made: Most mental assaults and pattern alterations are resisted with Willpower. Every success removes 1 success from the effect. Physical damage is soaked with Stamina, Armor and supernatural abilities as appropriate for the type and source of the damage inflicted. Both of these methods are reflexive. If a targeting roll was made: The target resists the Targeting roll rather than the effect itself, as in any resisted action. These rolls are usually not reflexive, but may be for mental effects. Every success reduces the successes of the targeting roll by 1. In addition, physical damage may be soaked as normal. Q). How do I create a Wonder? Canon: Buy Forged By Dragon's Fire. The entire book is dedicated to answering exactly this question.

Q). What good is awakening the spirit of an object? Opinion: "One of the periodic discussions on the board is just what, exactly, using Spirit 3 to awaken objects ~does~, in real terms, other than give you another imaginary voice to listen to. Here's my effort to expound on this effect, as it applies in particular to machines and tools. Every word in this post, other than the fact that "Rouse Spirit" is a Spirit 3 effect, is non-canonical, just my personal interpretation. The primary notion here is that while an object has a function, the spirit of that object has a Purpose. This Purpose is the guidepost

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which should be used when considering what the Spirit will be capable of. The mechanics of the effect are pretty straightforward. Duration and the Gauntlet [it's easier to rouse a spirit in an area where the barrier between this world and the next is thin] are the baseline for the successes; beyond that, Effect successes determine just how potent the spirit is. The following list is cumulative; with 3 successes on Effect, the spirit can also achieve the effects listed for 1 and 2 Effect successes. 0 Success Effect: The spirit is awake, and can chat. It will only discuss matters pertaining to its Purpose. A blender could tell you that it was recently used to blend something hard and cold with an acidic liquid--but it couldn't tell you if that was for a margarita or an orange daquiri. A car could tell you the path it drove, and whether the driver had a heavy or light foot on the gas and brake, and so forth. 1 Success: Manifest Purpose. The item will now function with minimal maintenance, or even without maintenance at all. It still requires fuel and power, if appropriate, but the blade of scissors will not dull, while the car will chug along merrily without an oil change. 2 Successes: Optimal Function/General Disfunction. While not resistant to direct attacks, the item CAN cope with hostile environments--the old Timex commercials in which the watch goes through hell, but continues to keep perfect time, are a good example. Maintenance is now nothing but a memory. Tasks performed with an Optimized tool are at -1 Difficulty. Alternately, the device can refuse to operate at all. This is not a specific error, but a total and complete shutdown. The car doesn't start, the vending machine won't take money or give product, and the hammer always seems to slide off the nail head. The spirits of simple tools rarely, if ever, get much use out of more Effect successes than this. 3 Successes: Specific Disfunction. The item can now be coaxed to fail to perform some specific subroutine of its overall function. For instance, the brakes of a car may fail, and the vending machine may refuse to give change or product, but still let you put in money. 4 Successes: Controlled Malfunction. More than a simple refusal to operate, this causes fairly freakish behavior--the sort of thing that makes for a good dinner-table anecdote. A car that won't shut off [you turn the key, remove it from the ignition, and the car keeps running] or a vending machine that gives you your money back after each purchase, are good examples of this sort of thing. 5 successes: Self-operation. At this point, the device is capable of starting itself up, and performing its functions without a controller. It is still limited to performing actions that accord with its Purpose, however. Blenders aren't supposed to move across countertops, so this won't let one do that. However, it might decide to blend someone's tie or hand if they happen to be in the pitcher. Roused Spirits require attention; the shaman can't just expect them to obey every order or instruction [though they'll usually be fairly grateful for being roused in the first place]. This is generally a

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matter of role-play; the player just describes what he does to repay the spirit for its loyal service. This can be more time-consuming than normal maintenance would have been! Shamen may use the Allies Background to apply to their Roused objects; such devices require only respect, rather than active pampering, to remain loyal and friendly. For this purpose, add the Ranks of Allies devoted to this for purposes of determining how many items the shaman has made loyal in this fashion. So 1 at Rank 1, 3 at Rank 2, 6 at Rank 3, and so on. Upsetting such allies is tougher, but still possible. Anything that makes an object less suited for its Purpose, or which uses it in a fashion directly opposed to that Purpose, runs the risk of alienating the Ally. Dulling the blades on a blender or pair of scissors, for instance, or breaking the handle off a hammer. If a shaman loses the loyalty of a Roused Spirit [through neglect under normal circumstances, or through active abuse of a spiritally], he will have to persuade it to comply. Social rolls will be a big factor; the type of roll used depends on the means used to pursuade the spirit. Charisma and Expression favor sincere apologies and promises to do better; Manipulation and Subterfuge favor trickery or false promises; Intimidation should be used for active threats and attempts to browbeat the object [including threats to let it fall back into slumber and leave it there]. Note that many shamen will find themselves getting a bad "rep" if they indulge in the latter options on that list too often. Freemage" Q). Is healing Aggravated Damage in the Umbra Vulgar? Opinion: "Well, on the one hand, healing aggravated damage is always vulgar. On the other hand, all magic in the Umbra is coincidental. The books don't say either way, that I've seen. So... here's the tricky bit: Malcolm Sheppard has mentioned healing aggravated damage in the Umbra being coincidental several times on this forum. He's a freelancer who's written a whole mess o' really /good/ Mage supplements. So... on the one hand, there's no actual official word one way or the other. On the other hand, there's unofficial word that healing aggravated damage in the Umbra is coincidental, and it's as close as unofficial word gets to being official. That's it. You have to draw your own conclusions from the evidence provided. -Stephenls Geek" Note: Healing aggravated damage still, of course, costs quintessence. Q) How does Mind Interact with AIs?

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Cannon: It requires Mind 5 to create a true AI. A true AI has a true, if inhuman, mind. Opinion: The Mage definition of a "true" AI is a computer capable of not just complex calculation and responses, but true feeling, ambition, and foresight. In other words, not anything creatable by a Sleeper or most Mages. What is more commonly referred to as AI are complex electronic calculating systems. These do not have true minds, and so can not be directly affected with mind. However, see the next question. Q) How does a Mage break a computer? Opinion: Very easily. A computer is composed of forces, matter and a complex system (entropy) and any of these can be targetted with the second level of each sphere. And, of course, computers are subject to destruction by spirits and Prime draining as all patterns are. Q) How does a Mage control a computer? Opinion: Not as easily as he can destroy it. First, a combination of forces 1, mind 1, and a working knowledge of computers allows reading of data directly off a computer. Mind 1 is neccessary to interpret the vast amount of information presented in a format not conductive to human comprehension. Without extensive knowledge of computers (at least 3 dots), Mind 4 (comprehend alien thought) is neccessary to directly "read" a computer. The above, plus Forces 2, allows programming of a computer. The above, plus Entropy 2, allows for very subtle "malfunctioning" of the computer to produce a desired result without ever tampering with the programing. Any of the above should require taking your time, or boosting your Wits well above 5 (making the effect Vulgar) with a specialty of "Quick Calculator". A wits or intelligence + computer roll at high difficulty may be appropriate as well. All of the above can be avoided by awakening a computer's spirit with Spirit 2 or by getting the aid of a computer or electronics oriented spirit to do what you want for you. If you want to do this quick and without oweing favors, you'll need spirit 4 to bind them. Copying data from a computer to another storage device for later analysis is Forces 2 or Forces 1 + Matter 3. Memorizing it without comprehension is Forces 1 + Mind 1. Q) How does Friction Curse work? Opinion: No two people agree and there are no canon mechanics for it. Without getting too complicated, the following rules seem decent to me: The effect is Vulgar. This is a direct pattern attack. Send successes for targeting and duration. Spend 2 success for the damage. Every additional successes reduces the target's dice pool for all physical actions by 1. In addition, the target takes 1-3 health levels of aggravated damage. This depends on how much the target tries to move (see fire rules on p. 249 of MRev). Even if the target attempts to keep still, tiny movements (such as breathing, keeping their balance) will result in 1 level of damage, but the soak difficulty will be only 3. The difficulty of soaking this damage is 3+ 2* number of physical actions taken in the turn by target + successes put to reducing target's dice pool. The maximum is 10.

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Don't forget to have the target's clothes or fur catch on fire. This can result in continueing damage and penalties even after the effect ends. This means that a 5 success Friction Curse (1 for target, 1 for duration:scene, 2 for the damage and 1 for -1 die to physical actions) , the weakest possible, is certain death in 7 turns or less to any being unable to soak aggravated. Q) How can I become immortal? Canon: Life 3 allows a mage to adjust his/her physical age. Every 100 years you live causes you to acquire 1 point of permanent paradox. There is a Lichdom rote in Dead Magic. Frankly, it sucks to be a lich. You can become a vampire. Frankly, this sucks even more. Opinion: Once you reach what should be your natural old age, this will be equivalent to increasing your stats/eliminating a flaw and cause Pattern Bleed. The natural progression of aging can be halted using Life 3 / Entropy 4. At this point, as long as you maintain the effect, you are unaging. If you don't want to bother maintaining the effect all the time, your GM may allow you to develop/be taught a ritual to gain the Unaging merit (probably charging XP). Another option, popular among some Sons of Ether and Technocrats, is immortality via mind transfer. Either grow yourself a mindless clone (Life 5), prepare someone else's body (Life 4 also), or build yourself a mechanical body(Life 3, Matter 4). Then put your brain in it (Life 3, Mind 1).This, however, has it's own problems. Acquiring new mental or physical flaws and drops in some stats (primarily perception and dexterity) is almost certain, as you must learn to adapt to your new body. The body itself may be paradoxical. And for god sakes, don't fail. A less literal "Mind transfer" can allow a Mage to possess another being, essentially becoming a mental and spiritual parasite controlling that person's body. This requires Mind 5 and Spirit 2. The main drawback to this method is your vulnerability to being excorcised and the resistance of your host. Personality contamination is a distinct danger. None of these is true immortality in the sense of not being killable by any method. A clever mage aiming for an immortal life will have to devise his own defenses against the infinate ways, magical and mundane, he could come to harm.

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