Pandemonium - Resolving Spell Effects

These rules describe how spell effects are applied, avoided, and opposed.

Potency measures a spell’s ability to affect the world, and Tenacity measures a spell’s resistance to attack. These traits act as automatic successes on rolls to accomplish and preserve a spell’s effects, and are often contested by rolls made for other characters. A spell’s aspect determines its base Potency, as well as its ability to boost or hinder actions.

  • Sensory Spells: 1 base Potency and Tenacity; 1 minimum success on boosted rolls
  • Covert Spells: 2 base Potency and Tenacity; 2 minimum successes and 9-again dice on boosted rolls or 2 successes to contest hindered rolls
  • Vulgar Spells: 3 base Potency and Tenacity, 3 minimum successes and 8-again dice on boosted rolls or 3 successes to contest hindered rolls

APPLICABILITY: Supernal magic can in principle achieve anything, and any dicepool based on normal Attributes, Skills, or Merits can conceivably be enhanced by the right spell. However, some dicepools and traits are beyond the ability of normal Supernal magic to affect:

  • Morality and Wisdom: Spells can’t directly influence Wisdom, crises of conscience, or other morality traits, and can’t influence a character’s ability to draw strength from an Intimacy or recover Willpower from rest while in the throes of moral crisis.
  • Gnosis, Arcana, and Rotes: Spells can’t manipulate the Gnosis, Arcana, or Rotes of another mage, or boost dicepools composed purely of those traits.
  • Mage-Specific Actions: Spells can’t boost rolls made to perform oblations, scrutinize resonance, or otherwise take supernatural actions particular to the Awakened.
  • Shaping Dicepools: Spells can’t manipulate the Shaping dicepools of other spells.
  • Supernatural Creatures: Spells can’t change the natures of vampires, werewolves, and other creatures with major supernatural templates, and can’t boost dicepools rolled for those creatures to use their powers or manage their conditions.

TIMING: Magic always takes effect in tandem with its caster’s normal effort, either on the mage’s turn or during the mage’s reflexive actions. Even spells that create minions or enthrall other characters don’t allow the mage to take or dictate the flow of multiple turns in a round. Regardless of whatever spells are active, each character’s instant action belongs only to that character. Someone being puppeteered by magic doesn’t act on their own turn; rather, they passively boost the controlling mage’s efforts or act on the mage’s turn in the mage’s stead, just as the effects of any other spell would.

Every spell has some direct narrative function that Potency enforces. When a spell has been paid for and cast, it happens as described – a character becomes able to perceive ghosts, or teleports from one place to another, or gazes into the past, or does whatever else they’ve used magic to do. Uncontested magic works like storyteller narration; it might result in characters learning information, changing location, acquiring equipment, or otherwise becoming able or unable to take certain actions.

When a spell is contested by another character or otherwise has its effectiveness called into question, each point of Potency counts as a rolled success. Potency is compared to successes rolled for other characters attempting to outdo, resist, or avoid the effects of a spell. Points of Potency in excess of the successes of a resisting character indicate the extent to which a spell has overcome its opposition, and often translate directly into wounds inflicted, Willpower points destroyed, or similar game elements. Even when a spell’s effect is partially or fully negated by successes scored by some other character or spell, it still happens – terror strikes but is pushed aside, a transformation begins only to be reversed, and so on.

Normal Skills or Attributes can’t improve on a spell’s Potency. For example, there is no Skill that can be rolled in the normal course of play to cause time to stop. Only Shaping can, at the cost of Mana, Willpower, or ritualized effort, augment a spell’s Potency and so allow that spell to overcome extraordinary resistance. Since Shaping’s effect on spell Potency are extremely transitory, a single Shaping action generally determines a spell’s immediate impact and ability to overcome resistance in the moment, but not a spell’s long-term ability to affect the scene.

Timing: The Potency of a mage’s spells is applied in tandem with that mage’s own actions, and the better of a spell’s Potency or successes rolled for the mage are used for any specific task. If multiple spells would act to the same end, only the highest Potency is used. Spells with continuing influence on the world can exert their Potency continuously for the purpose of contesting the actions of other characters, but always inflict atomic, game-mechanical consequences as though they were extensions of their casters, overlapping rather than stacking with their casters’ own efforts.

Sustaining a spell while taking an unrelated action might allow a mage to accomplish a variety of things at once, but magic never allows for multiple simultaneous tries at the same result. For instance, a mage who has trapped a foe in a Potency 3 pillar of fire and then shoots that foe for 2 damage inflicts a total of 3 lethal damage (which is probably contested by a single Defense roll), rather than dealing 5 damage at once or dealing 3 damage followed by 2 damage in the same turn.

Shaping: When Shaping increases a spell’s Potency, the new total Potency is treated as successes rolled to accomplish the Shaping’s aims. Shaped Potency might synthesize information, persuade onlookers, inflict damage, or whatever else magic can accomplish in one action.

Tenacity measures the resilience and stability of a spell’s effect. Like Potency, a spell’s Tenacity is treated as a number of automatic successes which contest any attempt to weaken, dispel, or escape a standing spell. Tenacity is fundamentally defensive in nature; it makes barriers harder to breach, enchantments harder to dispel, and minions harder to kill, but never makes a spell more damaging or harder to resist.

A target that has failed to resist a spell’s Potency must contest that spell’s Tenacity in their attempts to struggle free. Like Potency, Tenacity can’t be increased through the use of normal Attributes or Skills. Since ritual magic and Atlantean runes can increase the Tenacity of a spell for long periods of time, it’s possible to set up long-term prisons, shelters, and wards.

Timing: Tenacity is checked whenever a spell’s effects might be damaged or reversed. This requires no action on the caster’s part, although a conscious mage can reflexively Shape a spell to enhance its Tenacity in the instant that spell comes under attack.

Shaping: When Shaping increases a spell’s Tenacity, the spell’s new total Tenacity is treated as successes rolled on whatever single reflexive action was replaced by the Shaping. A spell’s surging Tenacity might deflect an attack, stave off a dispellation, or otherwise sustain the current status quo, but can’t adversely affect other characters or otherwise create something new and doesn’t affect later reflexive actions taken within the same turn.

Magic often empowers mundane actions – a hypnotic voice empowers a suggestion, ravenous zombies join in when their creator attacks, a rippling sheath of kinetic force deflects incoming blows, and so on. A spell might boost almost any action; all that’s required is that the action and spell have the same general aim in mind – to inflict or prevent harm, to unearth or conceal information, or otherwise achieve some end already within the means of normal human effort.

Any action aided directly by magic is guaranteed minimum successes based on that magic’s aspect: sensory spells guarantee 1 success, covert spells 2, and vulgar spells 3. As well, covert spells grant associated rolls the 9-again rule, and vulgar spells grant the 8-again rule. A boosted action might be blocked, but cannot fail on its own, unless the character taking it suffers a dramatic failure. Minimum successes provided by multiple, different spells (or other sources, such as armor) never stack; the highest total applicable to a particular task or roll is used.

A spell can often expand the effect, reach and scope of an action it augments as well as granting minimum successes; an attack might inflict lethal instead of bashing damage, or a pickpocketing attempt might reach across a room. Spells don’t actually change the dicepool required to accomplish some goal, but might enable a mage to bring to bear traits they otherwise couldn’t use; for instance, magic might supply the projectile needed to make a Firearms attack, render a material malleable enough to be subject to the Crafts skill, or breach the language barrier that would otherwise obstruct the use of Persuasion.

Spells that allow previously impossible actions or otherwise produce helpful outcomes don’t necessarily result in a boost. A weapon conjured by magic might itself be completely mundane in function, and the supernatural ability to understand a foreign language doesn’t necessarily render one superhumanly persuasive. Many spells do exist that boost the same sort of action they make possible at all, and mages usually use such magic when success is paramount.

Spells with largely cosmetic or sensory effects often provide no boost at all, but instead obviate a Difficulty or produce a mundane Edge. A spell has to materially and immediately enhance some action to boost that action’s roll – a vulgar spell that lights a darkened room might free characters from penalties associated with acting blind, but won’t guarantee three successes and the 8-again rule on every action taken that happens to benefit from eyesight. Sensory magic only rarely guarantees success on uncontested physical actions; automatically spotting handholds isn’t the same thing as being strong enough to climb a wall.

A character doesn’t have to be the target of a spell for it to boost their actions. Environmental effects can enhance the rolls of any characters who take advantage, and a curse or debility might boost rolls by made by any character to harm or disadvantage the curse’s target. Often, effects that hinder an action simultaneously boost attempts to oppose that action.

Timing: Boosts have no particular timing limitations and might be applied to any kind of action. A boosted action is usually the result of taking a normal action to accomplish something that a spell is already doing, such as attacking a character a spell is damaging or persuading a character a spell is manipulating. Rolls made for lengthy, long-term actions only enjoy boosts if the character taking the action was aided by an active spell in each scene of effort.

The guaranteed minimum successes a supernal boost provides are equivalent to the default Potency of whichever spell is granting the boost, and it’s often the case that a character unable to take an action that would receive a boost can still benefit from the Potency of whatever spell would be helping them instead.

Shaping: Shaping doesn’t change a spell’s aspect and so doesn’t change the boost a spell provides. Shaping a spell can often replace an action of the mage’s that would otherwise be boosted, but doesn’t change how that spell boosts subsequent actions of the mage or the actions of other characters.

The physical, mental, or spiritual manifestations of spells often interfere with action. The flip side of boosts, hindrances can take almost any form – writhing plants make a forest floor nigh impassable, oppressive calm renders weapons hard to draw, and so on. In all cases, hindrances make something a character already had a chance to do harder to accomplish.

A spell’s ability to hinder action is based on its aspect: covert spells apply 2 automatic successes for the purpose of interfering with the actions of others, and vulgar spells apply 3. Since sensory spells have no tangible effects on the world, they normally can’t hinder the actions of other characters.

Actions which normally require rolls to complete are contested by a hindering spell’s successes, and are only carried out if their successes exceed the spell’s. As usual, only a contested action’s net successes are applied towards whatever end the action would achieve, and an action contested by multiple forces (such as several hindering spells, or a hindering spell and the reflexive action of another character) only has to overcome the highest single success total it’s faced with.

Actions which normally succeed automatically, such as walking across a room or speaking intelligibly, require rolls to complete if a spell would hinder them. If the successes rolled for the acting character equal or exceed those of the hindering spell, the character can act normally. Otherwise, their action is blocked.

The same spell can boost some of a character’s actions while hindering others, or boost all actions that would achieve a certain end while hindering actions that would oppose it. Since multiple attempts to contest the same action don’t stack, whether or not an action is being hindered matters little if that action is also being contested by a spell or a character enjoying a spell’s boost. Usually, a spell that hinders an action simultaneously boosts attempts to contest that actions.

Timing: A spell’s hindrance requires no action on its caster’s part, and applies during the turn of any character whose actions are interfered with. Only logistical constraints such as area of effect or number of targets limit the number of characters one spell can hinder at a time.

A spell’s hindrance is usually only resolved once in a given turn. If a character fails to overcome a spell’s obstruction with a minor action, they can’t try again in the same turn, but are free to attempt other actions the spell doesn’t interfere with. An instant action that is caused to fail by a hindering spell is wasted, ending the acting character’s turn as normal. Whether a character succeeded or failed to overcome a spell’s hindrance in their last turn has no bearing on their ability to act despite the spell’s constraints in their next turn unless they’ve since removed themselves from the spell’s influence.

Shaping: Shaping doesn’t change a spell’s aspect and so doesn’t change the spell’s ability to passively hinder the actions of others. A hindering spell is often Shaped so that it directly disables one or more of the characters it’s affecting, but that doesn’t change how the spell hinders subsequent actions.

When a spell is used to adversely affect another character, that character resists reflexively. The character’s player rolls a dicepool composed of the appropriate traits and compares the roll’s successes to the Potency of the spell being resisted. If the spell’s Potency exceeds the successes rolled, that spell is able to affect the target in proportion to its margin of victory. The difference between the spell’s Potency and the character’s successes is the spell’s net successes.

Each target of a spell resists that spell’s effects separately, and one target’s success or failure in escaping the effects of magic usually has no direct bearing on another’s. The degree to which a spell’s effects are resisted by its target has no bearing on that spell’s Potency, Tenacity, or other parameters.

Resistance Dicepool: The dicepool used to resist a spell varies with that spell’s effect. Defense + Wits is commonly used to avoid damage or entrapment, while Strength + Stamina resists brute force and Strength + Dexterity maintains grip and balance. Effects that alter a character’s pattern directly, such as by changing the target’s shape or controlling the target’s mind, are resisted with Stamina, Resolve, or Composure plus the target’s supernatural power trait, if any. Some spells might call for stranger resistance pools, such as Intelligence + Resolve rolls to navigate a labyrinth or Manipulation + Empathy to discern the falsity of an illusory being.

If a spell’s effect is so bizarre that no normal trait could have anything to do with escaping it – for instance, a target is being frozen in time, cursed with bad luck, or teleported against their will – it should be opposed by a supernatural power trait plus the resistance attribute appropriate to the spell’s parent Path: Resolve for Forces, Mind, Prime, and Space, and Composure for Death, Fate, Life, Matter, Spirit, and Time.

Applicability: In many cases, normal characters are helpless to gainsay the effects of a spell; there is little that a mortal can do about a wall rising to block their path or their target vanishing from sight. However, a character is always entitled to resist magic that would affect their immediate person. Even if a spell formally targets a character’s held or worn possessions, surrounding air, or supporting ground, the target is given the benefit of the doubt; they might leap out of a cage as it forms around them or pull their weapon away from a still-forming aura of corrosive power. A character can always attempt to protect themselves or their gear against a spell’s effects, but can’t necessarily prevent consequences to their environments, so a car’s engine will still have melted into sludge even if its driver manages to avoid the ensuing crash.

A spell doesn’t have to inflict tangible or immediate harm for its target to be able to resist it. Attempts to spy on a someone through a scrying window, read someone’s thoughts, or haunt someone with ghosts are all unconsciously contested.

A spell with net successes equal to an Attribute or other appropriate trait of the target’s inflicts severe consequences on that target, achieving completely whatever end the caster intended. Otherwise, successful spells inflict normal consequences. Spells with stakes that aren’t dramatically higher than those of regular attacks don’t need to pass that benchmark; only one net success is required to inflict normal damage, push a target out of the way, or otherwise accomplish some task within the scope of normal, mortal effort.

Consequences imposed by a spell that overcomes a target’s resistance usually last until a target takes some action to escape them. The effects of spells which are still in force and being sustained by their caster are more difficult to escape, as detailed below.

The specific description of a spell’s effect usually determines what traits are used to resist it and which Attribute the spell’s net successes are compared to to determine what kind of consequences it inflicts. If the spell is specifically meant to disable or degrade some other trait of the target’s, such as a Skill or a Merit, the target can opt to use that Skill or Merit in place of their Attribute to determine the spell’s consequences. The player of the target can suggest alternatives to the Storyteller if they think of some unconventional means of escape, but the Storyteller ultimately decides what traits or countermeasures are appropriate.

If a spell is targeted at an object or place without any particularly relevant traits, assume its Attributes equal two plus its effective Fame rating for the purpose of divining information, reaping resources, or otherwise gauging how far a spell’s Potency takes it. This Attribute rating isn’t actually rolled to resist any spells, just compared to Potency to determine whether a spell inflicts a severe or normal consequence. At the Storyteller’s prerogative, the effective resistance Attribute of a particularly unusual or noteworthy inanimate target might be lower or higher.

Boosts: When a spell boosts some offensive action on its beneficiary’s part, only its underlying Potency counts for the purpose of imposing any supernatural consequences. Further, only a boosted attack’s first two (if covert) or three (if vulgar) successes count for the purpose of transmitting the Potency of a spell; if they’re somehow cancelled out by active resistance or a supernatural power on the victim’s part, the spell might take weak or no effect despite the fact that the attack scored damage. If spell Potency is successfully applied, it’s contested by appropriate traits of the victim and may or may not impose consequences, as above.
Example: A mage with a petrifying touch (a vulgar spell with Potency 3) throws a punch at a Sleeper, scoring 4 successes. 4 bashing wounds are inflicted, but the Sleeper’s Stamina is only rolled to to contest Potency 3. If the Sleeper had spent their prior action evading the mage’s touch, garnering two successes in the process, the Sleeper would suffer 2 bashing wounds and contest only 1 point of Potency for the purpose of resisting petrification.

POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES: A mage’s player chooses which one game-mechanical consequence a spell inflicts each time the spell is cast or Shaped. A mage willing to recast or Shape a spell from turn to turn can repeatedly subject a target to one consequence or even a series of differing consequences, depending on the flexibility of the spell. Usually, Shaping is required to build a spell’s Potency high enough to inflict a severe consequence on a powerful opponent.

The following list isn’t comprehensive, and attempts chiefly to standardize supernal magic’s ability to affect Health, Willpower, Mana, and other core game resources. A mage’s facility with the Arcana determines what specific consequences that mage can inflict or ameliorate with magic.

  • Control: The spell attempts to limit, remove, or usurp the target’s ability to act, whether by restraining their body, bending their mind, teleporting them to a different location, or otherwise denying them agency over themselves.
    • Resisted By: Strength + Dexterity or Defense to avoid physical restraints; Gnosis + Resolve, Stamina, or Composure as appropriate to avoid magical domination or transformation
    • Severe Consequences: The target is controlled as intended. This might result in the target immediately attacking another character, fleeing the scene, or otherwise acting in accordance with the spell’s effects; additionally, a successful disabling spell usually sharply constrains the actions available to its target on the target’s own turn, potentially denying the target the chance to do anything but struggle to escape the spell.
    • Normal Consequences: Appropriate actions of the target are hindered by the spell, and appropriate actions of other characters against the target are boosted.
    • When Active: A controlled target is affected for as long as the spell remains in effect. However, the target of such a spell only needs to successfully resist (or, after failing to resist, successfully struggle free of) that spell once. Even if the spell continues to be sustained or refreshed, the incapacitating effects of such a spell aren’t re-applied to a target that has resisted or escaped them unless that spell is Shaped or recast. New targets that enter the spell’s area of effect can be affected, however.

  • Damaging Attack: A spell is used to strike the target with some hazardous phenomenon, such as a jet of flame or swarm of bats. Damage factors might be used to cause the spell to also attack other resources or heal the caster or another target.
    • Resisted By: Defense normally, sometimes Strength + Stamina or Strength + Dexterity
    • Normal Consequences: The target takes one damage per net success.
    • While Active: Spells that threaten damage can do so over multiple rounds, for as long as they’re sustained or refreshed, possibly requiring targets to make Defense rolls on each turn. This damage happens on the turn of the spell’s caster as part of the caster’s overall instant action, is never applied to the same target more than once per round, and boosts the caster’s other attempts to harm the target rather than stacking with them. An ongoing damage spell might also hinder the actions of those it damages, or boost actions taken against its victims.

  • Direct Damage: The spell rots its target’s flesh, shreds its target’s Pattern, commands suicide, or otherwise cuts out the middle man to cause instantaneous harm that’s unavoidable by conventional means. Spells which bid a character not to defend themselves against attack use these rules to determine just how much harm the subject can be compelled to sit still for. Damage factors might be used to cause the spell to also attack other resources or heal the caster or another target.
    • Resisted By: Stamina, Resolve, or Composure + Gnosis
    • Severe Consequences: The target takes one point of damage per net success.
    • Normal Consequences: The target takes one point of damage per net success of a less severe kind than severe consequences would have inflicted (lethal instead of aggravated, or bashing instead of lethal), or takes half the net successes rounded up in bashing damage if the spell deals bashing damage by default.
    • While Active: Spells that conjure harm directly can do so for as long as they’re sustained or refreshed, until their subjects resist them completely. The spell’s damage is dealt each turn as part of the caster’s instant action, is never applied to the same target more than once per round, and might boost the caster’s other attempts to harm the target but never stacks with them – the single best damage total is used, not the sum of both. The victim can roll to resist the spell each turn the spell is sustained, reducing damage normally and escaping the spell for good if their successes match or exceed the spell’s. The victim can also opt use their own instant action to attempt to struggle free of the spell. An ongoing damage spell might also hinder the actions of those it damages, or boost actions taken against its victims.

  • Healing: The spell attempts to mitigate a target’s wounds. This always takes at least an instant action and cannot affect Resistant damage. Spells which heal one target in the course of damaging another thanks to damage factors apply their healing according to these rules.
    • Resisted By: The number of wounds of a chosen type (bashing, lethal, or aggravated) on the target’s health track
    • Severe Consequences: If the spell’s Potency at least equals the total number of wounds of the chosen type, all non-Resistant wounds of that type are downgraded to the next less severe form: aggravated to lethal, lethal to bashing, and bashing to nothing. Excess Potency is then compared to total wounds of the new, less-severe type (both freshly-downgraded and previously-existing), downgrading them if possible. This repeats until remaining Potency is insufficient to affect remaining wounds or until no wounds as or less severe than those targeted remain. Even if the spell in use can only heal some of the subject’s wounds, its Potency must match all wounds of that type for the spell to function.
    • Normal Consequences: No immediate healing.
    • While Active: A healing or regeneration spell, even if it failed to downgrade any wounds when cast, bolsters its target against further malady by boosting Defense or other rolls to avoid damage or sickness. The same spell cannot be used to downgrade wounds more than once; it must be recast, refreshed, or Shaped to do so, and applied to its target with an instant action.
    • Damage Factors: A sustained spell that heals by inflicting damage on others can only attempt to downgrade a target’s wounds once until it is recast, refreshed, or Shaped. This attempt is considered to be made as soon the spell’s automatic successes are applied to and contested by a target while the spell’s beneficiary is wounded, whether those successes boost a normal roll or operate independently and whether the target is able to wholly or partially resist. Such magic must attempt to downgrade all wounds of the same type simultaneously, just as a normal healing spell would. Whether or not the beneficiary’s wounds are downgraded, they are still bolstered by the healing attempt, enjoying a boost on attempts to resist damage, sickness, or poison for as long as the spell remains active.

  • Investigation: The spell attempts to spy on an unwilling target or seize information a target wants to keep hidden.
    • Resisted By: Resolve or Composure + Gnosis depending on the Arcanum and nature of the spell; sometimes Dexterity + Larceny or Stealth, Manipulation + Subterfuge, or some other dicepool appropriate for active concealment
    • Severe Consequences: The target is perceived clearly, or the caster learns a number of pieces of relevant information per net success.
    • Normal Consequences: The target is perceived dimly or hazily; or the caster learns one piece of relevant information per net success rounded up, but this information can at best hint at spirit bans, secret identities, or other crucial secrets
    • While Active: While the spell is sustained, its caster can continue to watch, listen to, or otherwise spy on the target with whatever clarity they achieved. If the spell yielded immediately actionable information, the caster’s attempts to leverage that information might be boosted while the spell is sustained. A spell must be Shaped or recast to attempt to clarify its image of the target or to pull more pieces of information from the target.

  • Plunder: The spell attempts to access, sabotage or steal something the target holds, guards, or owns, such as a piece of equipment or an external Merit
    • Resisted By: Strength + Dexterity to keep physical hold of something; Gnosis + a resistance Attribute or an appropriate dicepool to retain control of a targeted Merit (such as Presence + Persuasion to keep a retainer’s loyalty), and net successes are compared to the higher of the target’s relevant Attribute or Merit rating to determine consequence severity
    • Severe Consequences: The target is bypassed, disarmed, or otherwise disadvantaged. If a social or otherwise external Merit of the target’s is under attack, the target loses access to that Merit, and loses one dot of that Merit plus another dot for each net success over the Merit’s rating.
    • Normal Consequences: The spell hinders the target’s attempts to defend or use whatever the spell threatened and boosts the actions of other characters appropriately. Alternatively, a targeted Merit external to the character loses one dot until the end of the scene. Alternatively,
    • While Active: Hindrances and boosts produced by a plundering spell last for as long as the spell is sustained, as do any magical restrictions on the subject’s ability to use whatever has been plundered.

  • Resource Drain: A spell attempts to destroy or steal the target’s Mana, Willpower, temporary Destiny points, or other game-mechanical resources
    • Resisted By: Gnosis + Stamina, Resolve, or Composure depending on the Arcana in use and the nature of the spell
    • Severe Consequences: The target loses one point of Mana, Willpower, or other resource per net success.
    • Normal Consequences: The target loses half the spell’s net successes rounded up in points of Mana, Willpower, or some other targeted resource.
    • While Active: Mana, Willpower and other expendable traits are only destroyed or stolen once. A spell must be Shaped, refreshed, or recast if it is to plunder its target’s game-mechanical resources a second time. The spell might still boost or hinder actions related to the resource it attacked.
    • Damage Factors: A sustained spell that plunders Mana, Willpower, or other game mechanical resources as a function of inflicting damage can only attempt to do so once. This attempt is considered to be made as soon the spell’s automatic successes are applied to and contested by a target, whether those successes boost a normal roll or operate independently and whether the target is able to wholly or partially resist.

  • Wound Transfer: The spell transfers wounds from one target to another. This always requires a ritual.
    • Resisted By: The total number of the donor’s wounds of one or more chosen types; Stamina + Gnosis by each unwilling recipient
    • Severe Consequences: If the spell’s Potency equals or exceeds the total wounds to be transferred, any or all of those wounds can be transferred to the spell’s other targets. However, no unwilling target can receive more wounds than the spell’s net successes over that target’s resistance.
    • Normal Consequences: If the spell’s Potency doesn’t match the donor’s total wounds of the chosen type or types, or if every recipient resisted completely, no transfer can occur.
    • While Active: A ritual that transfers wounds from one subject to another can attempt to work turn after turn for as long as it’s sustained or refreshed after the initial Shaping, as long as its remaining Potency is able to overcome both the wounds of the donor and the resistance of the subject.

ADDED DAMAGE: A control or plunder effects might deal damage to its subject on each of their caster’s turns, starting with the turn following the effect’s casting. This damage is always equal to the spell’s base hindering successes – 2 for covert or 3 for vulgar – and is contested reflexively by the subject. If the subject ever avoids such a spell’s damage completely, they reflexively escape the spell.

TEMPORARY HEALING OR DAMAGE: Some spells inflict or downgrade wounds temporarily, usually until the end of the scene. When temporary damage is undone, wounds that were pushed off the health track by more severe damage are ignored, while wounds that were upgraded by less severe damage lessen to the less severe type. When temporary healing expires, downgraded wounds are upgraded to their original severity; if fewer can be upgraded than were downgraded, the difference is inflicted as damage of the more severe type on the character. Temporary damage can’t reap Mana, Willpower, or health; damage factors which cause an attack spell to simultaneously generate resources are useless unless that spell’s damage is lasting.

DELAYED DAMAGE: Some spells don’t inflict their damage immediately, instead lying latent until triggered. For instance, a curse’s damage might only be applied in tandem with the attack of some other character, or a poison might lie dormant until its carrier exerts themselves. In these cases, the Potency and Tenacity of the delayed spell are calculated as normal (if the spell was Shaped, the Shaping roll is made at its casting), but not applied until the appropriate time. The target’s player rolls Defense or other traits to contest the spell at the moment damage is applied, which might mean that they end up dodging two separate attacks in the same turn or otherwise resisting many adverse influences at once. While it lies latent, delayed damage can be ablated or dispelled by appropriate magic, but has its full Shaped Tenacity to resist such efforts.

ONGOING DAMAGE: Some spells deal their damage piecemeal rather than all at once, such as through slow-acting poison, disease, or irradiation. Such spells are Shaped, and resisted as normal, but only inflict one wound per turn, scene, day, or other time period until their total net successes have been applied. A spell whose damage interval is at least a day long can inflict more than five total wounds over its course, but pauses and waits if it would inflict a wound that leaves its victim more hurt than they would have been if, at the spell’s casting, they simply took five wounds at once.

REAPING HEALTH, MANA, OR WILLPOWER: Appropriate damage factors can cause a spell to heal wounds or restore resources by inflicting damage. Such spells heal more efficiently when they deal Resistant damage, and can only convert a victim’s health boxes into expendable resources such as Mana or Willpower by dealing Resistant damage to living, sapient targets such as humans, vampires, or spirits. Once a Resistant wound has produced a resource for some character, it can’t produce another. For instance, the wounds of a victim who suffers Resistant lethal damage from being fed on by a vampire can’t simultaneously generate Mana or Willpower for a nearby mage.

SYMPATHETIC MAGIC: A spell cast from out of sensory range needs enough sympathy factors to be able to reach its most distant target. Once that spell has been resisted or escaped, a new spell with sufficient sympathy factors must be cast to affect the target again. If a spell uses sympathy factors to directly bridge the gap between two characters, such as by opening a standing portal, those two characters can interact freely until the connecting spell ceases to function.

A sympathetic connection degrades by one step for magical purposes whenever it is tapped against the will of either party it connects, and can only improve towards its old rating by one step per day that it goes untouched by hostile magic. Sympathetic connections to inanimate objects or places only recover in this way if their subjects want them to. This means that repeated sympathetic attacks against the same target become increasingly expensive unless the attacker has a number of connections to exploit.

RESISTING MULTIPLE SPELLS: Generally, a character must resist or escape every spell they’re targeted with on an individual basis. If multiple spells are being used to block or interfere with the same action by the same character, though, the character only needs to match or exceed the strongest single spell, not all the spells in total. As usual, Edges, Difficulties, and separate attempts to contest the same action don’t stack; only the greatest of each apply to a single roll.

If a single mage is using multiple means to damage someone in a one turn that must be resisted by different dicepools, such as by sustaining a direct damage spell while also making a normal attack, each source of damage is resisted separately, but only the best total is applied: the target can’t take more overall levels of damage than the best number of net successes the mage achieved, and the target can’t take more levels of damage of a particular kind than any single source could have dealt after resistance.

RESISTING FREE SPELLS: Spells that control or plunder targets and that can be cast with a Mana cost of zero, or whose cost is paid completely by a Hallow or other source of unlimited free Mana, can only attempt to affect a given character once per scene – a mage can’t attempt to freely and invisibly read someone’s mind or poison their luck over and over. If at least one Mana is paid during an otherwise free spell’s casting – whether to Shape the spell, give the spell factors, or simply to fulfill this requirement – the spell has another chance to take normal effect.

ATTACKING SPELL EFFECTS: Some spell effects can be damaged, destroyed, or undone even without recourse to magic. For instance, it might be possible to physically destroy a conjured creature or to talk a mesmerized character out of obeying their orders. Even if a spell effect can’t be wiped away, it might be blunted or warded off. Attempting to sabotage a spell in this way is almost always an instant action.

A character with some means of undermining a spell effect can roll a dicepool appropriate to their efforts, using their successes to contest the Potency of a spell. Until the character’s next turn, rolled successes then oppose the spell’s effects somehow – any other character that resists or struggles to escape the spell might be able to use the better of the character’s successes or their own, or the overall effect of the spell on the environment might be lessened momentarily. Someone receiving this kind of help still needs to spend a Willpower point to attempt to struggle free of a spell’s severe consequences and make use of the donated successes.

If the attacking character’s net successes over the spell’s Tenacity equal or exceed the spell’s Tenacity (so if raw successes equal or exceed double the target spell’s Tenacity), and the spell’s effects exist in some concrete, targetable form, the character might succeed in actually destroying the spell in whole or at least in part. Sufficient successes might break a hole in a barrier, cure a poisoning, destroy an ally’s restraints, slay a creature, or otherwise remove some conjuration from the field. This usually only affects a spell on a personal scale, so spells with area, size, or target factors might continue to operate despite losing some constituent part.

A spell’s caster can often use reflexive Shaping to buffer the spell against attack, or simply recast the spell at their next opportunity. Many spells are too abstract or ephemeral to be opposed in this way at all, and it’s up to the Storyteller to decide whether a given nonmagical countermeasure has any chance of being effective.

Controlling spells which inflict severe consequences can strip characters of the ability to act. This isn’t necessarily crippling, especially for mages – one of the Awakened can simply will improvised spells into being even if they’ve been completely paralyzed. Some spells, however, really can completely destroy the victim’s will and ability to take any independent action whatsoever. Characters so disabled can count on at least this much:

  • Not Defenseless: A disabled character’s player can still roll Gnosis + Stamina, Resolve, or Composure for their character to resist adverse effects. A controlled character might still have access to their Defense, but if they don’t, they’re incidentally armored by whatever holds them immobile – the telekinetic pressure, constricting serpent, or circle of binding makes them harder to attack somehow. Some control effects, such as the temporal stasis available to powerful Time mages, render subjects totally invulnerable.
  • Not Hopeless: A disabled character regains one Willpower point per day from “rest”, even if they’re kept awake, tortured, or don’t technically experience the passage of time. This requires that they cease their struggles for as long as it normally takes them to sleep or recharge and might still be stymied by a crisis of conscience, though as usual the character can degenerate rather than accept Willpower loss. The character can expressly use a regained Willpower point to make an instant and uninterruptible attempt to struggle free, even if their captor or some other force is lying in wait in hopes of immediately draining the recovered Willpower.

STRUGGLING FREE OF CONTROL: Characters prevented from taking actions by sustained spells, whether partially or totally, are always entitled to attempt to free themselves of those spells and regain control of themselves. Struggling free isn’t a purely conscious decision, but an automatic effort by the character’s Pattern to reestablish primacy and autonomy – even characters frozen in time or stripped of free will can make the attempt.

On their turn, as their instant action, a struggling character’s player rolls a dicepool (usually the same one they first used) to contest the spell afflicting them. A Willpower point must be spent to add 3 dice to this pool or otherwise bolster the escape attempt (such as by using Words of Power), or else the roll can’t be made. The character can attempt to struggle free of multiple spells at once, in which case their lowest applicable dicepool is used.

The character escapes the hold of each spell whose Tenacity is lower than the struggle’s rolled successes. This frees the character to act when they previously couldn’t, but doesn’t actually cause the escaped spell to end or prevent that spell from having aftereffects beyond the current scene. Struggling can reclaim a character’s autonomy, but not save a character from being attacked, hindered, spied upon, or otherwise affected by a sustained spell.

Appropriate spells can boost the roll made to struggle free of magic, and a mage otherwise able to cast spells can replace their struggle with a Shaping action if they have an applicable spell at hand. The extent to which magic can actively aid in struggle varies with the circumstances – a mage trapped in a bubble of fractured space has their full repertoire to draw on, but a mage suffering full-body paralysis can’t shape rote mudras and a mage rendered comatose can’t form an Imago at all. Even totally helpless mages can continue to benefit from boosts stemming from their sustained spells, unless those spells are totally inapplicable or stripped away by other magic.

Sometimes, characters are fraught with consequences imposed by spells that are no longer in effect – for instance, a character might still be entangled in vines even if those vines have ceased to be magically animated. In that case, the consequences are no more severe than those any normal action on another character’s part can inflict, and require only one success on an instant action to reverse or escape.

The consequences of a spell’s casting can linger beyond that spell’s lifespan, becoming part of the fallen world. The straightforward lasting effects of a spell might include damage that spell inflicted, environmental features that spell reshaped, Merits the spell eroded, or resources that spell collected.

Lost Traits: When a spell or a spell’s aftereffect causes a character to lose dots of game traits (most commonly superficial or external Merits such as Striking Looks or Resources) on a lasting basis, that character’s player regains the experience points those traits cost to buy. If they were experience points spent at character generation, they can only be re-spent in the same category they were liberated from. However, a player can’t simply spend the freed experience points to regain the lost traits without successful effort on their character’s part to escape or undo whatever magic befell them.

Supernatural Aftereffects: Spells that inflict severe consequences in the scene they’re cast can leave lingering supernatural effects in their wake. A spell might leave someone cursed with bad luck, fraught with memory loss, or haunted by ghosts. If such a spell used the practice of Making or Unmaking, its lingering effects can last as long as their caster likes, even indefinitely. Otherwise, the maximum duration of these effects is based on the number of net successes the spell achieved above and beyond its victim’s resistance Attribute (or Skill or Merit, if they’re relevant and higher):

  • Net successes equal to relevant trait: One day
  • 1 net success over the relevant trait: One week and one day
  • 2 net successes over the relevant trait: One month and one day
  • 3 or more net successes over the relevant trait: One year and one day

If a spell is targeted at an object or place without any particularly relevant traits, assume its Attributes equal two plus its effective Fame rating for the purpose of timing lingering supernatural effects. At the Storyteller’s prerogative, the effective resistance Attribute of a particularly unusual or noteworthy inanimate target might be lower or higher.

Aftereffects aren’t spells and don’t inflict damage, boost or contest actions, or otherwise apply Potency ratings. They have narrative effects adjudicated by the Storyteller. Someone cursed with bad luck doesn’t suffer constant penalties to dice rolls, but is more likely to be stymied by random coincidence and otherwise run into trouble owing to Storyteller narration. Aftereffects can produce concrete Edges or Difficulties at Storyteller discretion, but usually not more than once per scene. Generally, no more than one such consequence manifests to game-mechanical effect in a scene, though multiple consequences can affect that scene’s framing.

Some aftereffects can cause traits to decay. At some time interval, usually each day or each week, a threatened trait or dicepool (such as Strength, Resources, or Perception) is rolled; on success, that trait or dicepool loses one point. Rituals or more powerful spells might immediately decrease traits instead. Lost traits can’t be regained until the spell effects that caused their loss end or are dealt with. Beneficial spell effects usually justify the purchase of new traits.

Defeating a spell’s aftereffects usually requires magic or prolonged narrative effort. Tormenting spirits might be exorcised, bad luck might be paid off karmically, and brainwashing might be undone through hypnosis and therapy. Other supernatural powers can sometimes dispel aftereffects. Rarely, sleeper thaumaturgy can do the same, or at least divine how a curse might be overcome.

Character-Ending Consequences: Magic can potentially inflict lasting effects on a character that render that character effectively unplayable. Soul extractions, lobotomies, and banishments to other planes are all within the power of mages with sufficient time, resources, and facility with the Arcana. Many of the gruesome fates that supernal magic can bestow upon its victims can theoretically be reversed by more supernal magic, but otherwise represent indefinite and often crippling debilities.

A spell using an appropriate Arcanum that produces enough net successes to kill its target outright (not simply incapacitate them, but mark an aggravated wound in the target’s last health box) can instead inflict a consequence of this nature. Otherwise, permanent and disabling transmogrifications of this kind can only be worked through ritual magic, always require that the victim be present at the ritual anchor for the ritual’s entirety, and always require that a ritual spell’s climactic moment of Shaping produce enough Potency to inflict a severe consequence on the victim.

Pandemonium - Resolving Spell Effects

The Act of Hubris Ferrinus