The Act of Hubris
Mage Character Advancement
To advance their command of one of the Arcana, a mage must increase their understanding of and sympathy with the secrets that Arcanum comprises. Mechanically, a mage builds [b]affinity[/b] with an Arcanum; once that Affinity reaches certain benchmarks, that mage’s rating can grow (and that mage’s player is can spend the appropriate Experience to allow for it).
Initiate: 1 affinity
Apprentice: 3 Affinity
Disciple: 6 Affinity
Adept: 10 Affinity
Master: 15 Affinity
Sources of Affinity follow:
Path (-1 to + 1): The mage gets +1 to pursue their Path Arcana and -1 to pursue their inferior Arcanum.
Teacher (+ 1 to + 2): The mage has a Known (+ 1) or Intimate (+ 2) connection to another mage with the desired Arcanum.
A “teacher” in an Arcanum doesn’t literally have to teach it or, if they’re of the right Path, even possess it to the desired level themselves. The student mage taps into not any particular knowledge or technique possessed by the teacher, but into their sympathy to the teacher and therefore the Arcana unlocked in the teacher’s own soul. Friends, lovers, enemies, and cabal mates frequently serve as the conduits through which Arcana are learned as frequently as formal mentors do. It does help, however, for the teacher to be present for and aid with the student’s training.
Tutelage (+ 1): Someone qualified to be the mage’s Teacher is present when the mage studies or practices the Arcanum.
Training Time (- 1 to + 3 or more): The mage has spent a scene (- 1), a few days (+ 0), a few weeks (+ 1), a few months (+ 2), or over a year (+ 3) regularly studying and practicing the use of the Arcanum. For each year past the first, roll a chance die; add any successes to Affinity gained from training time, but on a dramatic failure, reduce Affinity by 1 to a minimum of 3.
Empathy (-1 to +1): The temperament and emotional state of the student is conducive to practice of the Arcanum. For instance, a practitioner of Death benefits from a somber acceptance of mortality, while a student of Time must free themselves from overly causal thinking. The player and Storyteller decide what this means for a particular character, and whether that character’s attitude is naturally conducive or needs to somehow change; most commonly, a mage has empathy with their ruling Arcana but lacks it with their inferior Arcanum. To attain empathy, the mage must undergo some experience that brings about a change in their attitude or perceptions, as judged by the player and Storyteller.
Immersion (+ 1 to + 2): Immersion involves direct experience of the Arcanum and its purview. It requires that the mage witness or suffer the effects of spells of the rank they’re seeking, or else experience phenomena analogous to a desired Practice; for instance, a prospective Mind Adept might seek out situations in which the loyalties, memories, or personalities of people drastically change. Covert magic or natural phenomena are worth +1 Affinity, while vulgar magic or the analogous powers of other supernatural creatures grant +2.
Understanding (+1): The mage has an intuitive grasp of the Arcanum’s function and place in the world. Attaining understanding of an Arcanum involves discussion, research, or meditation, and usually a mental roll.
All the above categories are cumulative with each other, but not with themselves; for instance, a mage either has immersion or they don’t. To push past these limitations, mages depend on one last source of Affinity:
Arcane Experience (+ 1 or more): As a mage perceives and engages with unique phenomena pertaining to the Arcanum they seek, their Affinity can grow unbounded. An Arcane Experience is a mystery that, when solved, reveals supernal truths about the action of an Arcanum in the fallen world. Generally, this means encountering something strange or apparently inexplicable (even to casual Mage Sight) and investigating until its nature and causes are clear; this might involve simply getting the chance to subject something to heavy arcane scrutiny, or meeting and interrogating the beings responsible, or capturing and study something otherwise elusive. Generally, the Experience helps a mage to appreciate the full scope of the Arcanum they seek, or to realize that Arcanum is present somewhere unexpected, or even to realize that Arcanum is absent where it would be expected and therefore possessed of a more specific bailiwick.
Each Arcane Experience is cumulative with any others, to no ultimate limit, but each must be experienced – simply learning of one secondhand isn’t enough. Particularly far-reaching and anomalous phenomena might well be the source of multiple Arcane Experiences spread across multiple Arcana, revealing greater mysteries as they’re engaged with and studied in increasing depth.
- 1: The phenomenon proves ultimately natural, but exceptionally rare or of occult import
- 2: The phenomenon is rooted in the action of ‘common’ supernatural beings, mages, or artifacts, though with some wrinkle or context that led to unusual results
- 3: The supernatural forces at work are somehow unique; particularly ancient, warped, or touched by normally-absent or extraplanar influences
- 4: The hands of truly momentous or esoteric forces such as spirit gods or astral aeons are at work
- 5: The direct action of unbound supernal entities is witnessed or felt
Only the greatest witnessed example of Imperial magic within the sought Arcanum counts as an Arcane Exerience for a given mage, worth points of Affinity equal to the Arcanum rating needed minus four. So, a mage with the opportunity to study a Prime 6 spell has +2 Affinity; if they then witness a Prime 9 spell, their +2 upgrades to a +5.
For whatever reason, the great powers marshalled by the Ministries, even the Ochema themselves, do not seem to serve as Arcane Experiences, either for the Seers or their enemies.
CREATING AND LEARNING ROTES
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 catalogue 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.