The Act of Hubris
Arcadia - Spell Design
ARCADIA – SPELL DESIGN
These rules detail how spells are constructed, described, and cast.
Each spell is a single movement in the world, driven by will and desire. The overall intent underlying a spell is crystallized in the Imago, the image in a mage’s mind of what a spell will do. Forming an Imago isn’t really an intellectual process; it more closely resembles making a wish than devising a formula, and relies on imagination and instinct rather than systematic planning.
Scope: Each spell has an overall and coherent purpose, a single end to which a mage’s Arcana provide the means. The actual mechanism by which a spell operates might be quite complex, especially if that spell makes use of multiple Arcana, calls upon multiple Practices, or both, but as complex as a spell’s means may be, its end represents the result of a single action, the realization of a single desire. Ritual magic can, through time, effort and constant elaboration, fuel spells with complex, layered, and multi-pronged effects, but even rituals can’t do multiple unrelated things.
Constancy: The caster of that spell can usually direct that spell’s effects to some extent, but the specifics of a spell’s description remain constant for as long as that spell lasts. To replace, reformat, or reallocate the effects of a spell – to create a weapon with different properties from the one currently conjured, transform a character into a different creature from the one the mage has transmogrified them into, or to conjure more of some substance a mage has already conjured in a different location – a mage must cast a spell anew or cast a second instance of the original spell while sustaining the first, often making a shaping roll in the process.
Granting Powers: Spells often bestow upon their targets extraordinary abilities or states of being – an enchanted character might fly, breathe fire, or transmute whatever they touch to solid gold. Like other spell effects, spell-granted powers can usually be aimed or wielded with some degree of finesse but always do the same overall thing, requiring the casting of another spell to reconfigure. Powers granted by spells aren’t activated by silent will and desire as spells themselves are; they act as extensions of their subject and sometimes require rolls to use to fullest effect in the same way that normal game traits and pieces of equipment do.
Spell-granted powers never approach the flexibility and control offered by the Arcana themselves. The effect of a spell shouldn’t be worded such that it grants the power to cast spells – a spell itself causes some change in the world, rather than granting the contingent ability to cause other changes in the world. A single spell might allow its subject to fly, but not to freely bestow or withhold the power of flight and control the flight paths of nearby objects. A spell might grant the ability ignite inert matter with a touch, but not to create, douse, or sculpt fire at will. In both cases, the latter state of affairs is an outgrowth of actually being able to cast spells rather than of being the beneficiary of a single spell.
If the Arcana are nouns, Practices are verbs. As a mage attains more power over a particular Arcanum, that mage gains the ability to apply an increasingly wide library of increasingly powerful Practices to things in that Arcanum’s purview. Each Practice describes something a mage can do to the Arcanum in question, not with the Arcanum in question; creativity is often needed to leverage Practices to direct pragmatic advantage in the wider world.
A single spell might call on the same Practice from several Arcana, multiple Practices within one Arcanum, or some combination. For instance, a single spell might use Weaving to change something’s shape and Perfecting to strengthen and fortify that shape, or Ruling to dismiss a shroud of occlusion and Knowing to analyze whatever was being veiled. There’s no extra cost attached to the use of multiple Practices in tandem, but every Practice incorporated in a spell has to serve the singular purpose flowing from that spell’s Imago, as described above.
Each Arcanum offers the same Practices at the same rate of progression, but a mage can only use a Practice on the Arcanum that grants it. Knowing a powerful Practice for one Arcanum doesn’t allow a mage to apply that Practice to any other Arcana.
PRACTICES BY ARCANUM RATING
Below is a list of each Practice’s general function. The specific feats a Practice makes possible with each Arcanum is listed in that Arcanum’s description.
Initiate (Arcanum Rating ●)
The first dot of an Arcanum grants awareness and communion. Initiates become cognizant of undercurrents of hidden information within the fallen world, perceiving the mark that an Arcanum leaves on reality and leaving their mark on that Arcanum in turn.
- Knowing spells grant their casters immediate information about phenomena within their Arcanum’s purview. Knowings don’t produce sensory information, but deliver knowledge and understanding directly to their casters. Spells which use Knowing alone are always of sensory aspect, but spells of covert or vulgar aspect might invoke more powerful Practices to unearth information which Knowing is then used to apprehend. Knowing spells can be used to determine the precise functions of spells of the same Arcanum.
- Signifying spells reveal the presence and nature of things in the purview Arcanum. They make purely cosmetic changes that don’t obscure or interfere with their source, but do reflect the will of their caster or the properties of their subject. Covert signifying spells can leave subtle marks and messages only intelligible to other mages using sensory magic, subtly alter the tenor of something within an Arcanum’s purview such that even Sleepers notice it, or enable the caster to communicate with entities whose nature an Arcanum comprises. Vulgar Signifying spells cause information to directly manifest, sending blatant messages through the medium of an Arcanum or branding otherwise ordinary phenomena with a supernatural aspect. Signifyings of either aspect might summon forth indications of bans, banes, or other immanent mystic secrets, but must overcome the resistance of their targets to do so.
- Unveiling spells reveal hidden phenomena through the medium of their casters’ senses. A mage using Unveiling can see, hear, or otherwise perceive an Arcanum’s purview through no material mechanism. Unveiling spells are always of sensory aspect unless they also include more powerful Practices which call forth or uncover hidden information. In particular, the Mage Sight experienced by the Awakened is composed in part of a constellation of constantly active Unveiling spells.
Apprentice (Arcanum Rating ●●)
The second dot of an Arcanum offers tangible authority over an aspect of Creation. Apprentices can give orders to the fallen world and watch the fallen world obey, but they can’t do the truly impossible and are reliant on their surroundings.
- Ruling allows a mage to command an Arcanum’s purview, imparting direction and intentionality to otherwise aimless phenomena. Ruling spells don’t allow their targets to do things they otherwise couldn’t and can’t sustain normally impossible states of affairs, but can finely control if, when, and precisely how those targets do what they could have done anyway, even if those targets could not normally have acted under their own power or could not normally have resisted the influences controlling them,
- Perfecting spells optimize and repair an Arcanum’s purview, fortifying it against damage or correcting the flaws that prevent it from functioning at full capacity. Perfecting spells don’t actually add to the size or strength of the phenomena they target, but instead work to eliminate wear, tear, waste, and injury. Covert Perfecting spells are common in the repertoires of most mages, and are used to subtly enhance the operation of their casters’ bodies, possessions, or environments.
- Veiling magic can obscure or disguise phenomena within an Arcanum’s purview. A Veiling spell can’t actually change something’s substance or function, but can obscure its nature from observers, hiding it from view or making it seem to be something different. A mage needs the Veiling Practice from multiple Arcana to disguise something as something else under a different Arcanum’s purview.
Disciple (Arcanum Rating ●●●)
The third dot of an Arcanum allows one reshape the world. Disciples of an Arcanum can treat the things around them not as subjects to be commanded but as clay to be molded; though they still depend on their environment to give them raw material with which to work, they no longer need concern themselves with what specific form that material takes, since they can reshape it with an act of will.
- Fraying spells damage or weaken an Arcanum’s purview. Their effects are impermanent and non-absolute; a Fraying can exhaust or destabilize a targeted phenomenon, but not tear it apart or remove its ability to function.
- Weaving spells can bend and warp the patterns of their subjects. Phenomena might bend and move as if under their own power, stretch or fold into new forms, or otherwise change their parameters. Weaving spells can’t change a subject’s substance or fundamental nature, but can otherwise dramatically repurpose their target to the caster’s specifications and alter the world in impossible ways.
Adept (Arcanum Rating ●●●●)
The fourth dot of an Arcanum goes beyond forms to affect essences directly. Adepts can transmogrify phenomena completely, forging whatever they need from whatever’s at hand and flaying apart whatever offends their sensibilities.
- Patterning can change something’s nature and substance wholesale, reformatting the pattern of a target to transform it from one thing to another. Patterning spells can also exchange a target’s properties with those of something else in its governing Arcanum’s purview, creating unnatural beings, substances, or places. With access to the Patterning practices of multiple Arcana, a mage can transmute phenomena in the domain of one Arcanum into phenomena in the domain of another, or combine traits accessible through multiple different Arcana in the same target.
- Unraveling spells cut away at their subjects’ essential natures, ruining function and coherence. Not all Unraveling inflicts lasting damage, but always spoils or sabotages some property of its target. An Unraveling spell might disable something’s powers, weaken something’s structure, or shred something’s pattern top to bottom and leave a scrambled ruin in its wake.
Master (Arcanum Rating ●●●●●)
The fifth dot of an Arcanum grants godlike power of creation and destruction. Masters can conjure wonders from nothing or scour things from the face of reality. Arcanum Mastery frees mages from the vagaries of their surroundings; masters have whatever they want, whenever they want it, wherever they are.
- Making spells bring forth something from nothing. They are exactly as simple as they sound; whatever is desired simply comes into being, provided that it falls within the purview of the Arcana in use and that enough Area, Size, or Target factors have been incorporated into the spell. Making spells can also add to existing phenomena, granting subjects entirely new properties or increasing subjects in strength or magnitude. Making spells can produce phenomena of arbitrary complexity or power, allowing for feats and occurrences of mythic proportions; spells of the Practice of Making can often bypass or overrule those of lesser Practices thanks purely to the immense creative license that Making allows.
- Unmaking spells negate their subjects utterly. Unmaking doesn’t rely on deflection, dispersion, or sabotage, but executive decision; targets simply lose the capacity to act or exist. Unmaking magic isn’t necessarily destructive, but is always subtractive. It might straightforwardly delete something from existence, or it might make normal things into impossible ones by stripping away away specific properties, behaviors, or weaknesses. Unmaking spells can often overcome other spells from the same Arcanum through sheer semantic primacy, trumping whatever force any Practice lesser than Making can exert by simply erasing that Practice’s means of operation.
If spontaneous spells are idle whims, ritual spells are elaborate wish-fulfillment fantasies. Supernal ritualists hold onto their Imagos rather than loosing them immediately upon the world, embellishing and elaborating on a single desire until it robustly describes an intricate web of interlocking enchantments. A magical sacrament fortifies the spell that Imago describes, so that the spell’s caster can become attuned to a ritual spell and prolong that spell’s effects for so long the ritual ceremony is performed. An attuned ritualist accumulates Shaping potential each hour, and eventually discharges this accumulated power to Shape the ritual spell; this act of Shaping can be performed only once in a ritual spell’s lifespan, but grants a ritual lasting Tenacity and might have dramatic results.
DESIGNING RITUALS: A ritual can be sensory, covert, or vulgar in aspect and incorporate any number of Arcana and Practices. A would-be ritualist must determine what a ritual’s overall effects will be and how much mana that ritual will cost.
- Imago: All of the effects a ritual produces must serve a single coherent desire, but the means by which a ritual achieves its purpose can be elaborate and multi-pronged. A ritual to besiege a rival’s sanctum might send forth a storm of fire along with a horde of zombies, while a ritual to seek out treasures could send animals searching through the physical world while spirits are dispatched to rove through the nearby Shadow.
- Rote Applicability: A mage who knows a spontaneous spell as a rote can cast that rote as a ritual, so long as the ritual’s effects are concomitant with those of the rote. Some rotes can only be cast as rituals; these usually offer a much broader library of potential effects to their casters, and are often cast from grimoires rather than personal knowledge.
- Ritual Range and Targeting: A ritual uses the same range and targeting rules as a spontaneous spell, taking effect within its caster’s sensory range unless its caster uses the Space arcanum or other means to bridge sympathetic distance. Even rituals without sympathy factors can eventually reach beyond sensory range, however; conjured minions, weather patterns, or other phenomena must appear in or around the caster’s ritual anchor, but can be spurred by the Imago that originated them to venture forth into the world to work the ritualist’s will.
- Mana Cost: A ritual’s Mana cost is identical to that of a normal spell, and is paid in the same way; spells with high Intensities and many factors cost more Mana, spells cast as rotes cost less Mana, and pattern scouring and similar activities can pay part or all of a spell’s cost on behalf of the caster.
Mages casting rituals usually take the opportunity to use pattern scouring, places of power, words of power, and other sources of free Mana to cast spells with many spell factors and therefore very high Mana costs. Normally, such spells are too expensive to sustain and dissipate after a turn, but ritual spells are prolonged by the caster’s continuing ceremony rather than passively sustained by the caster’s nimbus, and so can take continuing effect despite their huge scope.
PREPARING RITUALS: A ritualist needs a place or object to anchor their ritual, a sacrifice to fuel their ritual, and a ceremony to sustain their ritual.
- Ritual Anchor: Each ritual spell is too complex and weighty for a nimbus alone to support it, and needs a stationary anchor to the fallen world. To prepare a place or object as a ritual anchor, a mage must first discover at least one of its resonance qualities and then ensure that it is somehow separated from its surroundings. This demarcation need not be lengthy or elaborate – smearing a section of wall with blood, scratching a circle in the dirt, or chalking a diamond’s corners onto asphalt can all outline a ritual anchor. Mages can save themselves even that effort by using naturally distinct objects and spaces as ritual anchors, such as mushroom rings, standing stones, baseball diamonds, and cubicles. That said, ritual anchors are often flashy and intricate affairs, and are commonly girded with Atlantean runes, centered in the caster’s consecrated workspace, or otherwise embellished.
An anchor’s form and demarcation doesn’t need to relate to an individual spell’s effects, and a mage can use the same object or place as an anchor for multiple different rituals. Multiple casters can even tether simultaneous and distinct rituals to the same anchor. However, an anchor can’t be a larger object or wider space than a ritual spell’s size or area factors can cover; if it’s too big, the initial hour of ceremony goes to waste and the spell can’t actually be cast. As well, an anchor must be immobile for the duration of the ceremony it supports. Portable objects make serviceable anchors, but only if they stay put while actually in use.
- Sacrament: A sacrament is an object that reflects the content of a ritual’s Imago and that is sacrificed at a ritual’s outset. It is the sacrament that makes the difference between a ritual and a spontaneous spell; only the ceremonial destruction of a sacrament anchors a spell to the world in a way that allows that spell’s effects to be prolonged through multiple scenes.
A mage doesn’t choose a ritual’s sacrament so much as discover it it. In the course of dreaming up a ritual, a mage usually intuits what kind of sacrament that ritual needs, though determining the sacrament of a particular outlandish or significant ritual might require intensive meditation, research, or soul-searching. A sacrament must evoke the Arcana a ritual uses (rituals that use many different Arcana sometimes end up requiring sacraments that are collections of objects), and the amount, rarity, or value of a sacrament grows with a ritual’s complexity and power.
A sacrament isn’t automatically consumed by a ritual’s magic. In the course of instantiating a ritual, a mage must break, burn, dissolve, or otherwise destroy their chosen sacrament, whether through magical or mundane means. A ritual works just as well if mechanisms or minions destroy the sacrament in the ritual caster’s stead, but the sacrifice must take within sensory range of both the ritual caster and the ritual anchor to be effective.
At the Storyteller’s prerogative, unusually rare or potent ritual sacraments can refund one or more points of Mana to the ritual caster upon their sacrifice. This refund only replaces points of Mana that the caster spent out of their personal pool, not points of free Mana derived from pattern scouring, a place of power, or words of power. A ritual caster is aware of how much Mana a valuable sacrament can restore before it’s sacrificed, and can adjust how much of their own Mana they’re pouring into a ritual accordingly.
- Ceremony: A mage casting a ritual must somehow draw on or interact with their ritual anchor. For some, this boils down to silent meditation or prayer at an altar or other significant location, but other mages use art, dance, exercise, mortification, or other overt activity in the course of ritual magic. Whatever the ceremony entails, it consumes the mage’s instant action, prevents the mage from dynamically reacting to or engaging with other characters except as a proscribed part of the ceremony, and must leave the mage in sensory mage of the ritual anchor at all times. High Speech incantations, rote mudras, and physical grimoires or sympathetic links must all be incorporated into a ritual ceremony if the spell to be cast involves them. Oblations can be incorporated into ritual ceremonies, so a mage whose ritual space contains a Hallow can draw Mana from that Hallow while casting or sustaining a ritual.
A mage performing a ritual ceremony remains aware of their surroundings and can spare minor actions to perform short, simple tasks; taking a drink of water, throwing a light switch, or saying a few words won’t interrupt a ritual ceremony. Any strenuous, distracting, or violent action that isn’t part of the ceremony itself will cause the ceremony to end. Ritualists can cast spells that don’t violate these guidelines while performing a ceremony, and can continue to passively sustain spells for as long as those spells would normally last. Ritualists commonly use Atlantean runes to maintain important spells that can’t easily be incorporated into a ceremony.
If a ritual spell’s anchor is destroyed, removed, or otherwise ruined, the ceremony becomes impossible to continue and is considered to have stopped immediately. It’s possible to repair or replace an anchor in time to save a dissipating ritual spell, but the new anchor must have roughly the same physical properties as the old one and must, more importantly, have a resonance signature at least similar to that of the old anchor.
CASTING RITUALS: The ceremony and sacrament bind a ritual spell to a ritual anchor and to a casting mage’s nimbus.
- Beginning a Ritual: A ritual caster with everything on hand must spend at least an hour of ceremony envisioning and perfecting the Imago of their ritual. Once the Imago is fully realized, the ritual caster destroys the chosen sacrament and pays the ritual’s cost in Mana. The spell is then cast, its effects emanating immediately from the ritual anchor.
The player of a ritual caster declares a ritual’s targets, spell factors, and sympathetic links as their character begins the ritual’s ceremony. These parameters can’t then be changed without restarting the ritual from scratch.
- Attunement: A ritualist becomes attuned to a ritual spell as soon as that spell is cast, and remains attuned for as long as they continue their ritual ceremony. While attuned to a ritual spell, a mage can reduce or dismiss the spell, direct the spell’s effects, and attempt to accumulate the power required to Shape that spell.
If a ceremony is interrupted or abandoned – for instance, if the ritualist needs to defend themselves against attack or run next door for a cup of coffee – the ritualist’s attunement is broken. The ritual spell does not dissipate immediately, but cannot be controlled, dismissed, reduced, or Shaped. An uninterrupted hour of ceremony allows a ritualist to reattune themselves fully and regain control of the spell. Only a ritual’s caster can attune themselves to a ritual in this way.
- Duration: A ritual is sustained and continues to take full effect for as long as its caster remains attuned to it. A ritual spell without an attuned caster remains in effect for one scene or hour, and then ends.
If a ritual spell’s caster is able to resume an interrupted ceremony, the ritual’s dissipation is paused. If the ritualist is able to reattune themselves by performing the ceremony for at least an hour, the ritual spell’s hour-long time limit is reset. Otherwise, a ritual spell’s lifespan continues to elapse as soon as its ceremony is halted.
Example: A ritual spell that has gone unattuned for fifty minutes will last only ten minutes more. If that ritual’s caster is able to return to the ritual anchor and perform their ceremony for half an hour before being interrupted, the unmoored spell will end ten minutes following the interruption. If the caster is, instead able to perform a full hour’s ceremony before being interrupted, they revivify the ritual and ensure that it will last at least another hour on its own.
SHAPING RITUAL SPELLS: As soon as the spell is cast, and and after each hour of attunement, a ritual spell accumulates a point of Shaping potential. The ritual can store as many points of Shaping potential as its caster has dots of Gnosis, and that caster can expend all the gathered potential at any time to Shape the ritual spell. After a ritual spell has been Shaped, its caster caster can’t gather more Shaping potential without first repaying the spell’s Mana cost and destroying another fitting sacrament.
Spell effects which can only be accomplished through ritual magic, such as the creation of a lasting being or the extraction of a mortal soul, only complete themselves at the moment a ritual spell is Shaped. Other ritual spells first act in a diffuse or incomplete form, only to be focused or actualized at the moment of Shaping. Such rituals still exert Potency and therefore have tangible magical effects as they build power; building storm winds can become a rampaging tornado, an air of grogginess can suddenly thicken and impose a deathlike sleep, and a soul extraction is preceded by a terrible, grasping pressure. Even against an unresisting subject, at least one point of Shaping potential must be gathered and expended to complete a ritual spell.
MULTIPLE RITUALISTS: More than one mage can participate in the casting of a ritual, so long as each mage possesses the Arcana required to cast the spell. Each participant must be present at the beginning of the ritual and take part in the first hour’s ceremony. One mage must pay the ritual’s full cost in Mana, and each other mage separately pays Mana equal to the ritual spell’s base Potency – 1 if it’s sensory, 2 if it’s covert, and 3 if it’s vulgar – to harmonize their nimbus with that of the primary caster. Sources of free Mana can help pay this separate cost.
From them on, the ritual is sustained for as long as any of its initial casters continue the ceremony, though as usual a participant who withdraws from the ceremony needs at least an hour of ceremony to reattune themselves to the spell. When the ritual spell is Shaped, each ritualist’s Shaping dicepool is rolled, and the best roll is used to determine the Shaping’s power. Every attuned ritualist can intuitively sense what other ritual participants are willing the ritual spell to do. In case of conflict, whichever mage has spent more Mana on casting or harmonizing themselves to the ritual gets their way. Any attuned ritualist can choose to spend additional Mana to reflexively increase the size of their buy-in, but each other attuned ritualist can detect this action and potentially respond.
RESOLVING RITUAL EFFECTS: A ritual takes effect as any other spell, applying automatic successes equal to its Potency in order to achieve its aims as well as boosting rolls that the ritual would logically empower. The effects of Potency are applied round after round, as though by a sustained spell taking the ritualist’s instant action, and refreshed each scene as though the ritual spell were being cast anew. This means a ritual which harms or heals can affect a target repeatedly until that target leaves the ritual’s reach, but a ritual which attempts to control or plunder needs to be resisted only once each scene. A ritual that acts at sympathetic distance will eventually become unable to, once the sympathetic link it exploits is frayed beyond the ability of the ritual’s sympathy factors to overcome.
Ritual effects can be opposed, stalemated, and destroyed by other spells as normal, but a ritual cannot be completely quashed unless its caster’s ceremony is ended. A dispellation must directly target every attuned ritualist or the ritual anchor itself to negate a ritual spell entirely, and otherwise only wipes away whatever effects the dispellation’s spell factors allow for. For as long as the ceremony itself goes uninterrupted, a ritual’s effects will restore themselves to full prominence at the beginning of each scene.
Rituals meant to accomplish great tasks or overcome powerful resistance, such as attempts to heal grievous wounds or pierce the spells guarding another mage’s sanctum, succeed or fail in the moment they are Shaped. The spell’s enhanced Potency is compared immediately to whatever rolls or other traits represent opposition to the ritual’s ends, and the Tenacity that a ritual spell enjoys in the wake of its Shaping ensures that any results the spell achieves are difficult to countermand or reverse.
RITUAL PARADOX: A ritual generates paradox as though it were a normal spell being cast anew at the beginning of each hour. A ritual’s Shaping causes paradox separately.
Covert rituals normally don’t threaten any paradox, but vulgar rituals make at least a one-die paradox roll each scene. If a paradox is already present, each scene’s paradox roll will contribute to that paradox’s duration. A vulgar ritual on its own is unlikely to produce much more than a corona or aurora over the course of several hours, but unless its caster has flawless Wisdom the resulting stain on the fabric of reality could last weeks or months.
If multiple mages cast a ritual collaboratively, the Wisdom rating of the mage who has spent the most Mana on the ritual spell is used to determine how paradox duration grows. If multiple ritualists qualify, they can choose amongst themselves.
Rotes are bodies of lore and regimens of training that enable mages to cast specific spells more cheaply. Spontaneous rotes have specific, prescribed effects and can be used with any kind of spell, while ritual rotes are much broader in scope but only effective when incorporated into a ritual ceremony. Every rote has a mudra, a sequence of bodily motions its caster uses to cast it. The intricacy and obviousness of a rote mudra increases with the aspect of the spell effect it produces, and a mage unable to perform the required mudra cannot cast a rote.
Each rote specifies minimum Arcanum ratings required to create or learn the rote. Some rotes can be cast to greater effect by mages with higher Arcanum ratings. Mages can learn rotes from grimoires or from other mages, and often have access to additional rotes through their merits. Creating a rote is more difficult than learning it from another source, and usually requires great effort and sacrifice on the creator’s part.
DESIGNING ROTES: Sample rotes are listed in each Arcanum’s description, but aren’t meant to be comprehensive. Players and Storytellers should feel free to design rotes for their characters to use or seek out in play. To design a rote, one must determine the following:
- Objective: A rote is defined by its intended end result. The designer of a rote must specify what state of affairs that rote brings about each time it is cast. A rote might conjure a specific creature, issue a certain command, transfigure a subject in a particular way, or reshape a single material.
- Aspect: A rote’s desired effect determines whether that rote is sensory, covert, or vulgar.
- Primary Arcana: A rote’s designer must determine which Practices in which Arcana are required to realize that rote’s effect. A mage cannot learn the rote without Arcanum ratings high enough to perform the Practices a rote uses.
Different Practices make for different rotes, even if the effect is largely the same. For instance, a Matter rote which uses Weaving and Patterning to condense air into solid gold is different from a spell which uses Making to conjure solid gold, and a master of Matter might know either or both. Mages often work to replace roundabout, low-Arcanum rotes with straightforward, high-Arcanum rotes as they advance towards mastery.
- Additional Arcana: Access to the Practices of other Arcana might allow a rote to affect a wider variety of targets. Rotes that directly control or transform the patterns of their subjects won’t function unless the caster has access to the relevant Practices in the Arcana that govern those subjects. Additional Arcana might also be needed to project a rote’s effect into another realm of existence or across a sympathetic link.
- Mudra: Each rote requires a mage to perform certain gestures and bodily movements. A mage that has been completely bound, paralyzed, or otherwise disabled can’t cast any rotes, and must rely on improvised spells. Usually, an attack meant to prevent a mage from performing rote mudras must at least equal the higher of that mage’s Strength or Dexterity in net successes.
- Action: The action used to cast a spontaneous rote varies with the way that rote is being deployed, just as with an improvised spell. Some rotes almost always involve the same kind of action, but others vary from use to use, depending on how the rote spell’s effect is leveraged by its caster.
- Effect: The particulars of a rote’s effect are chosen each time that rote is cast. Some rote effects are totally proscribed or dependent largely on the target, but others produce phenomena whose precise size, shape, and direction are determined on the spot. Spell factors can be used for the usual cost to alter a rote’s scope, reach, or damage, although some rotes might require specific spell factors to work at all.
- Shaping: Rote spells can be Shaped as easily as any other spells. As usual, Shaping grants a mage license to reconfigure or embellish a spell’s effects or to replace with raw Shaping an action that a spell would normally only boost.
- Grimoire: A mage with a grimoire on that person can cast one of the grimoire’s rotes even if they don’t know the rote themselves, so long as they possess the requisite Arcana. This is a slow process: a mage must consult and interact with a grimoire for at least a minute immediately before casting one of that grimoire’s spontaneous rotes, and must incorporate the grimoire into their ceremony in order to cast a ritual rote. Once the rote’s been cast, it can be sustained and refreshed without reference to the grimoire. It’s therefore possible to cast a sensory or covert rote out of a grimoire and then sustain it on one’s person through the day.
RITUAL ROTES: Ritual rotes are designed and purchased as normal rotes, except they can only be cast as ritual spells and their objectives are open-ended. A ritual rote always produces the same general sort of result – it might create a living creature, conjure raw material, or alter the weather – but its caster chooses, through the specifics of their ritual ceremony and sacrament, what specific effect the rote has each time it is cast.
LEARNING ROTES: Mages can learn rotes from other mages or from grimoires, magical objects containing the secrets to one or more rote spells. A player whose character learns a rote can either spend experience points to add it to their character’s other rotes, or replace one of their character’s current rotes with the new one at no experience point cost.
By default, a rote takes as many days to learn as it requires total dots of Arcana to cast, each day containing roughly eight hours of study. An Attribute + Skill roll is made for the mage at the beginning of each day’s lessons; the rote is mastered by the day’s end if successes equal the days remaining, and each extra success halves the remaining time. A mage who knows the rote being studied can roll to impart information and guidance to the student, adding their successes as an Edge to the student’s pool.
The traits a student rolls depend on the style of rote being studied; a rote that takes the form of a martial arts technique might require Dexterity + Brawl or Weaponry, while one based on scholarship might use Intelligence + Occult or Academics. An instructor might use the same dicepool as the student does, or roll a different one that represents their ability to teach.
A mage can always teach sensory rotes using only their ruling Arcana to other mages. For instance, a necromancer can teach a warlock how to see ghosts despite the fact that the necromancer has never had or required any formal training in the subject. Mages from multiple Paths can collaboratively design and teach each other sensory rotes that combine Arcana from all Paths present.
CREATING ROTES: To formalize a spell they can cast into a rote, a mage must first seek out occult knowledge and experiences pertaining to the intended rote’s effect. For instance, a mage might cast the rote-to-be under a variety of different conditions at a variety of different targets, or seek out and catalog unusual manifestations of the phenomena the intended rote will produce, or study foreign supernatural powers whose effects the rote will mimic. Generally, the more Arcanum dots a rote requires, the lengthier or more difficult unlocking its secrets is. The Storyteller decides what kind of research a given rote requires, though players should be ready with suggestions.
Once the mage has understood how to harmonize their intended supernal effect with the fallen world, they can attempt to create the rote itself. This resembles the process of learning a rote, except that the creator decides what dicepool is rolled to speed up the process and must spend one Willpower dot at its completion.
CREATING GRIMOIRES: A mage who knows a rote and is at least an Initiate of Prime can create a grimoire for that rote or add that rote to an existing grimoire. The mage must cast an improvised ritual spell using the Signifying Practice of Prime to inscribe the rote into the chosen object. This ritual spell only succeeds if it achieves a total Potency equal to the highest Arcanum rating required to cast the rote, at which point the caster must spend a Willpower dot to complete their working.
Grimoire creation rituals are usually covert, but can be vulgar to both ensure sufficient Potency to capture an Adept or Master-level rote and to bestow lasting supernatural properties on the grimoire to be. A mage must have discovered at least one of an object’s resonance qualities before inscribing a rote in that object, and the sacrament required to create a grimoire must be one that evokes the effects of the rote being inscribed.