Primal Wild - Magic Permutations

PRIMAL WILDMAGIC PERMUTATIONS
These rules detail the game-mechanical consequences of supernal magic on conflict resolution.

CREATED BEINGS
With the right Practices in the right Arcana, a mage can transform a character completely or create a character from scratch.

When a created, controlled, or transformed creature is the immediate result of a continuing spell, that creature acts as an extension of the mage that controls it and functions as any other spell effect does. Magical minions can boost the actions of those they cooperate with, hinder the actions of those they oppose, and inflict consequences as a function of their Potency as part of their creator’s turn, whether they’re passively sustained or actively Shaped.

Some ritual spells, however, create lasting, non-supernal beings. For instance, a Patterning Life spell performed as a ritual could permanently transform a man into a frog, and a Making Spirit spell could forge a full-fledged spirit from nothing but Mana and the proper sacrament. Such creatures are wholly natural and independent beings, controlled by the Storyteller just as any non-player character is. They can be manipulated or enslaved by magic, even from the moment of their creation, but are no easier to control than other beings of their stature would be. An artificially-created spirit might live forever, but a Patterning Spirit spell that renders it docile and compliant lasts only a scene, assuming that spell is able to bypass the spirit’s resistance in the first place.

The nature and capabilities of a permanently transformed or created being are decided by the sacraments, Arcana, and raw materials a mage brings to bear during the forging of that being. Generally, at least one mage involved in the creation ritual needs to be able to produce a given supernatural effect in order to bestow a non-supernal version of that effect to an otherwise normal creation; for instance, a mage would need some command of Forces and mastery of Life in order to conjure a pyrokinetic cryptid out of thin air. Otherwise, a supernatural power the creation is intended to have must somehow already be immanent in the kind of being the creation is or the other resources the creation ritual is drawing on. A spirit arising from the hybridization of a helion and a fire elemental probably has power over light and flames even if its creator lacks initiation in Forces, and a reconfigured ghost that could once strike fear in the hearts of onlookers might keep that power even if the necromancer shaping it has no power over Mind.

The overall power of a lasting supernatural being is limited by its creator’s Gnosis. Half the Gnosis of the most powerful mage involved, rounded up, equals the maximum effective ephemeral Rank of the created being. Ghosts, spirits, and other ephemeral creations can use the Rank attribute directly. Otherwise, Rank 1 corresponds to a normal animal, Rank 2 corresponds to a human or notably dangerous animal, and Rank 3 and up indicate increasing supernatural power. Created beings of any rank might have supernatural properties, but not necessarily very powerful or dangerous ones. How powerful a created being is for its rank depends on the quality of sacrament used in its creation. If it’s important, the creator’s player collaborates with the Storyteller to determine precisely how the being’s attributes and other traits are assigned.

Mages can and often do strive to create creatures inclined to be helpful, loyal, and generous, but most work around the fact that any created being of significant power and complexity unavoidably develops its own ambitions, appetites, and convictions. Players should buy the Retainer or Staff Merits to represent simple, manageable servants and the Allies Merit to represent more powerful beings that have maintained good relations with their makers.

THE DUEL ARCANE
The Duel Arcane is a magical contest between two mages meant to demonstrate that one combatant’s magical powers are superior to those of another. It requires that both combatants stand within the confines of a Weaving Prime “Squaring the Circle” spell, and that each spends a minute scrutinizing the spell from within. Once both mages are immersed in the notional arena the spell creates, each selects one Arcanum to be their Sword and one Arcanum to be their Shield, and the duel begins. Normal spectators see what looks like a staring contest, but anyone with Mage Sight that successfully scrutinizes the duel becomes able to see the true battle. Traditionally, duelists wait a few minutes before beginning in earnest to allow spectators time to immerse themselves.

A Duel Arcane consists of one or more rounds. Within each round, the duelists clash until one overcomes the other. Each clash lasts around a minute and consists of each duelist using their Sword Arcanum to engage other; one roll is made for each duelist, and the results are compared.

Clash Cost: To clash costs one Willpower point; a mage unable or unwilling to pay this cost can suffer a level of Resistant lethal damage as though Pattern scouring instead. Each clash, the mage sustaining the Squaring the Circle spell can use their own Willpower to allow the two duelists to clash at no cost. Up to once each round, a Hallow can cover the cost of a clash so long as the beneficiary uses their Sword in a way that matches the Hallow’s resonance.

However the cost is paid, clashing is considered a use of Willpower; it can’t be further enhanced by Willpower expenditure, and it precludes the use of Willpower on anything else. A duelist who fails to act can only passively absorb their opponent’s attack for the current clash, but can elect to act in future clashes.

Clash Dicepool: Gnosis + Sword Arcanum; one roll is made for each duelist

    Cumulative Modifiers:
    +1 to +5: One die for each consecutive clash prior to this one that the current Sword wasn’t used to attack
    -1: Any spells are being sustained on the duelist’s person
    -1 to -3: The environment surrounding the duel is noisy or distracting

Clash Results: If equal successes are scored for each duelist, the clash is a stalemate, and the next clash begins.

If one duelist overcame the other, net successes are applied as psychic damage to the loser of the clash. Psychic damage is first marked on the loser’s Shield, which can hold one point of damage per Arcanum dot. Excess damage is absorbed into the defender’s Gnosis. A duelist who suffers psychic damage in excess of what their current Shield and Gnosis can contain immediately loses the round.

Swapping Arcana: After each clash, each mage may swap either their Shield or their Sword for another Arcanum not currently in use. The player of the duelist who most recently won a clash must declare any swaps they’re making first. If all clashes have been stalemates thus far, the duelist who must declare swaps first is decided at random.

Psychic damage remains marked on an Arcanum for the duration of a round, even if that Arcanum is swapped out of the Shield role. A damaged Arcanum is no less useful as a Sword, but might make for a particularly flimsy or entirely useless Shield.

Round Results: Once a round has been decided, either through defeat or surrender, all psychic damage fades from the Arcana and Gnosis ratings of both duelists. The winner of the duel regains all spent Willpower and gains an additional Willpower point. The loser loses a Willpower point or suffers a Resistant lethal wound if they’re out of Willpower, but then regains half rounded up of the Willpower points they spent in the duel. Resistant lethal wounds suffered to fuel clashes remain and must heal at the normal rate.

Simple or low-stakes duels usually last for only one round, but important, high-stakes duels might last several rounds, ending only when one duelist either surrenders or collapses.

EPHEMERAL BEINGS
Spells of many Arcana can control, empower, or transform ghosts, spirits, and other ephemeral beings. Generally, Death affects ghosts, Mind affects untethered consciousnesses, and Spirit affects spirits, but other Arcana or combinations of Arcana might be required to deal with stranger beings, and Prime can take limited effect on almost all ephemeral beings by acting through the resonance those beings depend on. Most such beings are intangible to each other as well as to the world, so a spell that allows a mage to manipulate or correspond with one kind usually won’t work on another. Conjunctional use of multiple Arcana might allow a mage to affect multiple kinds of being at once, or to cause different kinds of being to interact.

Ephemeral beings resist attacks with their Defense traits, and use Resistance + Rank to resist hostile spells. A spell needs net successes equal to a being’s Resistance to inflict severe consequences on it. Since ephemeral beings often possess superhuman Attributes, it can be extremely difficult to impose drastic spell effects on ephemeral beings of Rank 3 or higher.

Supernal magic can boost or hinder mundane actions ephemeral beings take with their attributes, allow ephemeral beings to use Manifestations they don’t normally possess (such as Materialize or Possession), or enhance the Influences, Manifestations, and Numina spirits use by increasing success totals, widening scope, or defraying Essence cost. In all cases, a spell needs Potency at least matching an ephemeral being’s Rank to tangibly empower the being’s actions, and such a benefit only lasts while the Tenacity of the beneficial spell equals or exceeds the being’s Rank. Covert spells can easily enhance beings of Rank 1 or 2 and vulgar spells can always enhance beings of Rank 3, but empowering a mightier creature even for a moment always takes Shaping and setting up an ongoing benefit usually requires ritual or Atlantean inscription.

Powerful ephemeral beings often have multiple aspects, and might be able to benefit from spells of enhancement in a limited way. An unShaped vulgar spell can’t allow a Rank 5 spirit to materialize in its entirety, but might allow a lesser avatar of that spirit with an effective Rank of 3 to appear instead.

Reciprocity: A mage who can perceive an ephemeral being, either through an Unveiling spell or thanks to that being’s manifestation, can freely affect that being with covert spells of any kind; such a being can only affect the mage in turn if its native powers allow it to do so. A mage doesn’t need to use magic of the appropriate Arcanum to covertly affect an ephemeral being; for instance, a mage could use Mind alone to affect a ghost’s mood or Forces alone to protect a spirit from electrocution, so long as they could see their target.

Apprentice spells, usually involving Ruling or, Perfecting, allow mages to control the Manifestations of ephemeral beings, such as by forcing one to manifest or exorcising one from a host body it’s possessing. Mages need to perceive either the place or object the Manifestation is or is intended to affect in such cases, or else need to be able to perceive the being they hope to affect. Vulgar Apprentice-level magic doesn’t render a mage totally tangible to the magic’s target, but does empower an ephemeral being’s attempts to use its Influences and Manifestations on the caster.

Disciple spells, usually using the Practice of Weaving, allow mages to interact more immediately with ephemeral beings, either by directly healing, harming, or controlling them or by granting equipment or other spell effects the metaphysical qualities needed to affect incorporeal targets. Vulgar interactions of thhis kind are always completely reciprocal – mages who attempt to magically effect an ephemeral being become visible and tangible to that being as long as their magic is in operation, at least until their own next turn. Similarly, a tool or weapon’s physical or Twilight presence bleeds out to suffuse its owner when that tool is put to use. Without the Practice of Weaving, mages usually can’t cast vulgar magic on intangible targets; a twilit ghost goes unaffected by a dominating gaze, and a fireball passes harmlessly through a twilit spirit.

Empowering Ephemeral Beings: Beneficial spells can help to fuel an ephemeral being’s powers. A spell matching a being’s Rank grants the being one point of temporary Essence (or other resource), and each point of an appropriate spell’s Potency exceeding the being’s Rank produces another point. Temporary Essence doesn’t count against a being’s normal Essence total, but can only be spent on the powers being enhanced or granted and disappears at the end of each scene or hour. It doesn’t accumulate across multiple spells; if a being would gain temporary Essence from a mage spell, it chooses either to take the new total or keep its existing store. A sustained ritual delivers temporary Essence each hour as well as at its moment of Shaping, and a being can’t benefit in this way from a covert rote costing zero Mana more than once each scene.

When ephemeral beings are granted new Influences or Numina by mage spells, those powers are limited by temporary Essence. Each new power costs at least one temporary Essence each time it’s activated, and must be activated purely with temporary Essence generated by the granting spell. A mage can decide how the temporary Essence they grant is apportioned between granted powers (for instance, granting 1 Essence to use on Blast and 2 to use on Harrow), or allow their beneficiary to choose.

A mage can use an instant action to force an ephemeral being under their control to deploy one of its powers, but must pay the Willpower cost of that power themselves and completely cover the power’s Essence cost, either through the Potency of the spell of control exceeding the being’s Rank or through stores of Essence they’ve collected through other magic.

ILLUSIONS
Spells that produce concrete sensory changes in the environment, such as by changing an object’s apparent color or conjuring a holographic wall to fill what’s really an empty doorway, must be cast with vulgar aspect. This means that an illusion comes into being suffused with the nimbus of its creator and therefore obvious as a work of magic. However, the caster of such a spell can immediately elect to reduce its aspect to covert. As usual, this doesn’t reduce how burdensome the spell is to sustain, but can ensure that the spell fools future onlookers without immediately provoking Disbelief. Once it’s so settled, an illusion is only susceptible to Disbelief insofar as its appearance and actions don’t make sense in context.

LASTING ADVANTAGES
The aftereffects of spells, especially those deliberately created through ritual magic, can often translate into persistent game-mechanical advantages for players of beneficiary characters. Sometimes these represent the acquisition of totally mundane improvements or resources, and sometimes these represent helpful supernatural effects.

Wherever magic would grant increased game traits to player characters, the players of those characters should spend the experience points normally required to gain those traits. Magic can allow characters to obtain advantages much faster than they normally could, or to obtain advantages otherwise completely unavailable, or to ensure that the advantages they obtain aren’t contingent on normal states of affairs that other characters can interfere with, but doesn’t in and of itself generate free experience points. Storytellers might consider allowing a player to go into experience point debt if their character should logically obtain a trait their player can’t afford, or even to give mage players a pool of experience points specifically for purchasing the mundane advantages that magic can bring.

As above, the supernatural states of affairs that supernal magic can leave in its wake aren’t themselves supernal. Lasting spell consequences don’t have Potency or Tenacity traits and can’t directly replicate the effects of spells themselves. Generally, they grant normal capabilities to objects or entities that don’t normally possess those capabilities, or allow for normal objects or entities to interact with other normal objects or entities when they normally wouldn’t. “Normal” here includes the native supernatural inhabitants of the World of Darkness, such as ghosts, spirits, and miscellaneous cryptids. Supernal magic can’t work lasting supernatural changes on mages or bearers of other major supernatural templates, such as vampires, werewolves, and changelings.

Augmentations and Transformations: Lasting improvements made to the person of the mage or another character should be represented by increased Attributes, Skills, and Merits. The Life and Mind Arcana are particularly suited for this task; a mage might use a Perfecting Mind ritual to increase their Intelligence rating, or a Weaving Life spell to grant themselves the Striking Looks merit.

Supernatural qualities granted to characters through magic are analogous to Merits or pieces of specialized equipment. For instance, the ability to make Weaponry attacks as though always armed with a dagger might represent retractable claws, and the Trained Observer merit might represent preternatural senses. Such benefits can’t actually push a character’s traits above their normal maximum or give a character powers out of line with those they could normally acquire.

Enhanced Items: Lasting improvements made to objects can’t allow those objects to replicate the effects of sustained spells, but can give objects higher Edges than they’d normally have (up to 5, as normal) and allow objects to perform functions they usually can’t. For instance, ritual magic might make a dusty old laptop competitive with a state of the art supercomputer, or immunize an object against the effects of mortal thaumaturgy. The player of a character who continually bears and relies upon the capabilities of an enhanced item might need to buy a Merit representing the item’s capabilities – for instance, a necklace that chills and shivers in the presence of ghosts is effectively an Unseen Sense – but such objects normally don’t cost players experience to create or use.

Resources and Servants: Lasting external advantages generated by magic should be represented by social merits such as Resources, Retainer, and Staff. Mages who can conjure gold from nothing or bend the minds of other beings can easily avail themselves of lifestyles that would normally be beyond their means.

OTHER SUPERNATURAL POWERS
Supernal spells of any kind might come into conflict with Disciplines, Gifts, and other supernatural powers. Some Arcana, particularly Death, Prime, and Spirit, can more directly attempt to manipulate the ritual magic native to the fallen world, such as mortal thaumaturgy or vampiric blood sorcery.

In many cases, the Potency or Tenacity of a supernal spell straightforwardly contests successes rolled for a supernatural power, or else boosts an otherwise normal attempt to contest that power. For instance, a Mind spell might improve the Resolve + Gnosis roll made for a mage to resist a vampire’s mind control, or contest that mind control directly when Shaped.

When supernal magic is used against already-active supernatural powers, that magic’s Potency is compared against both the rolled successes, Potency, or equivalent property of the target power and against a Resistance Attribute + Supernatural Power Trait roll made for the magic’s caster. Only if the Awakened spell overcomes both can it successfully dispel, transform, or otherwise alter the target supernatural power.

When supernal magic is used to bolster or strengthen a foreign supernatural power, it can increase that power’s chances of overcoming resistance. The Potency of the supernal spell is contested by the victim of the augmented supernatural power, usually with a Resistance Attribute + Supernatural Power Trait dicepool; if the victim used Willpower or other traits to contest the supernatural power itself, they receive the same benefits when contesting the spell enhancing that power. If the spell achieves a normal or severe consequence against the victim, the augmented power can inflict an effect of appropriate magnitude, even if it failed to pierce the victim’s resistance itself.

SENSORY SPELLS
Unlike covert and vulgar spells, sensory spells don’t achieve their ends by causing any kind of functional change in the phenomenal world. Spells of covert and vulgar aspect can alter the function of a person’s senses or otherwise reveal information; for instance, Life can subtly or dramatically transform a target’s eyes and other sense organs, Mind can grant telepathy, and Death can force ghosts to manifest. Sensory magic bypasses material contingency and works by no mechanism other than supernal fiat.

Targeting: Whatever its formal target, sensory magic affects nothing but the knowledge and perception of its caster. Unveiling spells normally target the caster to enhance the scope of the caster’s senses; such spells don’t benefit from the addition of spell factors.

A sensory spell from the practice of Knowing targeted at a character, object, or area doesn’t alter or provide senses to its target, but rather actively scans its target (which might be the caster) for whatever information its caster is searching for. Sustaining such a spell allows the caster to continue to study the spell’s target or to keep watch for some phonemon’s future emergence. It’s possible to set up radar-like zones of detection that allow a caster to automatically detect and pinpoint the presence of other beings or objects, though without area factors such spells don’t extend much farther than arm’s reach.

Spell factors are often used to extend the reach or scope of Knowing spells. For example, a mage might spend Mana on target factors to listen in on the surface thoughts of multiple characters at once, or on area factors to establish a wide radius within which they will become immediately aware of some phenomenon’s presence.

Mage Sight: Since improvised sensory spells from a mage’s ruling Arcana have a base Mana cost of zero, mages benefit continuously from sensory magic within their own Paths. Unveiling spells allow mages to tell on sight the presence and general character of Path-related phenomena, and Knowing spells allow mages to scrutinize the qualities of such phenomena whenever the opportunity arises. As well, mages can automatically detect and identify Path-related phenomena that intrude within arm’s reach.

Sensory rotes are similarly constant in their effect and utility, but more limited in their specific scope – a Mastigos mage is able to investigate anything within the purview of Mind and Space, but might only know Death rotes that allow them to perceive ghosts and tell whether objects have been used to kill. Such a mage could be woken up from sleep by the exhortations of a dematerialized ghost, but would need to spend Mana to detect a gate to the underworld or tell whether they are standing in a murder scene.

Granting Sensory Magic: Sensory magic is one of the core privileges of the Awakened, and can’t easily be bestowed upon others. Covert Prime spells can be used to anchor an effect of sensory intensity in the soul of another character; failing that, covert use of Life or Mind in conjunction with other Arcana can directly key a target’s thoughts or sense organs into the presence of normally invisible phenomena, while vulgar use of Forces, Matter, or Prime might conjure representational displays of otherwise unavailable information for the benefit of those without recourse to sensory spells of their own.

Imbued Sensory Spells: When a sensory spell is imbued in its target, the result is a link between the target and the mage who cast the spell. Whenever that spell is activated, its original caster becomes newly aware of whatever information that spell was meant to deliver. In this way, imbued sensory spells can serve as ways to silently signal a distant mage. Spells used in way usually include conjunctional uses of Space as well as Sympathy spell factors so that they can get a mage’s attention without being in that mage’s sensory range.

Inviolability: Sensory magic takes place within the soul. It can’t be dispelled, countered, or even detected except by effects that could attack or scrutinize a mage’s soul directly.

Scope and Limitations: Sensory spells that use the practice of Unveiling allow for immediate surface apprehension of phenomena in their bailiwick. Mages using Unveiling spells can use their senses to detect the otherwise undetectable, but don’t actually learn anything that immediate sense impressions wouldn’t tell them; a mage might tell on sight that a creature is sapient but not know what it’s actually thinking, or see radio waves course through the air without actually hearing what’s being broadcast.

Sensory spells of the practice of Knowing can deliver concrete descriptions or explanations of targeted phenomena, but they’re limited by complexity, time and cognitive capacity. A Knowing spell can’t reveal the plot of a novel, the genetic sequence of a creature, or the life story of a person in the space of an instant action – sifting through and parsing that much information requires a period of extended study. Sensitive, secret, and closely-guarded information is usually so deeply enmeshed that sensory magic can only approximate it given scrutiny successes equal to a trait of the target’s; covert or vulgar spells are normally required to summon secrets forth or clear away the chaff that hides them.

Opposing Sensory Spells: Sensory spells can totally bypass mundane or magical attempts at stealth. For instance, a perfectly camouflaged character remains plain as day to a mage using Life to scan for present creatures or Mind to detect nearby sentient beings. Using magic, supernal or otherwise, to escape detection is often self-defeating; Forces detects the strange bending of light rays that accompanies invisibility, Space points to the spatial warp that marks an extradimensional hideaway, and so on. Nevertheless, sensory spells have weaknesses.

First, the persistent Unveiling spells that mages can use freely and constantly are mediated by the senses, which can be deceived or evaded by normal sneaking and misdirection. Targeted Knowing spells can defeat skill at hiding, but a Knowing spell that has been stretched across a wide enough area is expensive to cast or refresh and burdensome to sustain. Means of hiding which force a victim to ignore their senses, such as a vampire’s Obfuscate discipline, can render sensory magic irrelevant.

Second, while sensory magic is near-impossible to evade entirely, it’s easy to block and scramble. Spell effects of covert or vulgar aspect defeat shaping effects of sensory aspect automatically, since sensory spells have minimal Potency and Tenacity and can’t be Shaped. A sensory Mind spell can easily detect the presence of a covert Mind shield, but can’t actually bypassing that Mind shield to read the shielded character’s thoughts or emotions. Specifically, Veiling spells can change how subjects appear when viewed through Unveiling spells or use Tenacity to contest the scrutiny rolls allowed by Knowing spells, and Fraying spells can render Knowing-based arcane scrutiny entirely useless. In many such cases, magic of covert or vulgar aspect must usually used to breach or dispel a barrier before sensory magic can actually collect any information.

Veilings, Frayings, and other magical means of frustrating sensory magic carry the resonance signatures of their casters just as other spells do, so while scrutiny can’t pierce magical occlusion it can identify or at least learn about that occlusion’s source.

SPELL CONFLICT
It’s commonplace for mages to tailor spells to complement the efforts of their allies or bypass the machinations of their enemies. Multiple spells can and often do affect the same character, object, or area at the same time. When spells operate on the same target or in the same space, they might interact in several ways.

Coexistence: Many spells can coexist with each other, producing a combined effect based on how those spells are described, and one spell can often counter or invalidate another without having to engage in direct magical contest. An object rendered impossibly heavy by Matter can still float and be pushed around when shielded from gravity by Forces, and a character granted incredible strength by Life but rendered incorporeal by Death can’t lay a hand on living beings but can easily manhandle ghosts in Twilight.

The narrative effect of a spell, not the spell’s raw power, determines whether another spell can bypass or obviate it. It’s much more difficult to turn invisible than to pinpoint the location of nearby minds, or to wrack an entire field with an earthquake than to float up into the air, but in both cases the latter magic allows a character to avoid the problems posed by the former. High ratings in the Arcana often provide mages with tools that can trump the efforts of lesser spellcasters; the ability to disintegrate matter, teleport from place to place to place, or read minds can effectively thwart magical as well as mundane obstacles. Factors such as combat initiative might mean that one mage isn’t fast enough on the draw to produce countermeasures warranted by another, but otherwise many magical contests are won through pure ingenuity and lateral thinking.

Competition: Sometimes two spells work at direct cross purposes or attempt to outdo each other within the same sphere. This commonly occurs when a magically-augmented attack crashes into a magically-augmented defense, but might also mean a race, a debate, an infiltration, or an altercation between magically-created minions or proxies. In such cases, the clashing spells usually boost both sides in an opposed roll, or else have their Potencies directly compared. Absent rolls by involved characters, whichever spell has more Potency wins out by whatever margin its successes determine. Equal successes, often the result of low rolls boosted by spells of matching aspect, result in a tie, stalemate, or inconclusive outcome. Exceptional effort by one side or another is usually required to shift a status quo produced by spells in opposition.

Magic resistance and suppression via the Prime Arcanum uses these rules. A mage trying to cast a spell despite a Prime-based hindrance to magic finds their spell’s Potency automatically contested by the hindering spell’s aspect-based successes, and that anyone trying to resist the spell has their efforts boosted.

Displacement: When the effects of two spells flatly contradict each other – for instance, when two spell try to transform the same subject into different things or force the same subject to comply with conflicting orders – only one spell takes effect in the contested area. If both spells were cast simultaneously, the one with higher Potency takes effect. A new spell only displaces a standing one if the intruding spell’s Potency exceeds defending spell’s Tenacity. In the case of a stalemate, the status quo is unchanged: neither spell takes effect if both were cast simultaneously, or whichever spell was already in place remains in place.

Because spells of equal aspect naturally stalemate and stalemates favor the defender, mages usually need to Shape their spells to cancel or overrule spells that their opponents have already put into effect. The effects of Shaping last only one round, so players of other mages with stakes in a conflict can attempt to score even more successes on Shaping rolls of their own, either immediately at great cost or later at lower cost once their opponent’s Shaping successes have expired. This supernal tug of war can be very costly in Mana and Willpower, and it’s usually more efficient to circumvent or counter enemy spells than to directly countermand them.

Dispellation, countermagic, and warding performed through the Prime Arcanum usually uses the rules for spell displacement. When magic stalemates with antimagic, whichever effect was in place first remains – either an enchanted target remains enchanted, or a warded target remains free of enchantment. Dispelling a spell that is already in place usually requires Shaping, but pre-emptively shielding a target against magic means that other mages attempting to enchant that target will have to Shape their spells to overcome the warding’s Tenacity.

A spell that has been denied primacy by another spell isn’t necessarily vanquished entirely. It can still take effect on other targets or elsewhere in its target area. Spells overcome by Prime-based attempts to dispel or counter them usually are deleted outright; they cannot be sustained and must be recast to be taken further advantage of.

SPELL CONFLICT EXAMPLES

  • Circumventing One Spell With Another
    • A vulgar Forces spell with area factors blots out all light in a room, but a sensory Forces spell allows a mage to flawlessly navigate by sound alone
    • A covert Mind spell scrambles a person’s sense of direction, but a covert Fate spell ensures that whichever way that person happens to stumble turns out to be the correct one
    • A vulgar Prime spell has immunized a barricade against magic, so a mage uses a vulgar Forces spell to blast the barricade to smithereens

  • Spell Competition
    • A vulgar Life spell lends superhuman strength to a thrown punch, boosting the attack roll, but a vulgar Time spell allows the punch’s target to move and react with impossible speed, boosting the Defense roll made in response
    • A mage using a covert Mind shield walks by another mage using a covert Mind spell to deflect the attention of others; both spells have Potency 2, so the spells stalemate and the second mage is only as obvious to the first as circumstances would normally render them
    • One mage uses zombies produced by a vulgar, Potency 3 Death spell to attack a wall conjured and sustained by another mage’s vulgar, Tenacity 3 Matter spell; the zombies make no particular progress until the first mage spends Mana to Shape their zombies, increasing the zombies’ total Potency to 4 for a turn and using the zombies on that turn to tear a hole through the barrier

  • Spell Displacement
    • One mage uses a covert Space spell with Potency 2 to scry on another’s sanctum, which is protected by a covert Space spell with Tenacity 2 that wards against scrying; the scrying attempt fails, because the spells stalemate and the default state of affairs is that neither mage can see into the other’s sanctum
    • A vulgar Prime spell with Tenacity 3 has shielded a barricade against magic, but a mage is determined to use a vulgar Matter spell with base Potency 3 to disintegrate the barricade; the Matter mage spends Mana to Shape their spell, and the Matter spell’s Potency 4 overcomes the Prime warding to turn the barrier to dust
    • One mage uses a vulgar Mind spell with Potency 3 to terrify another mage whose psyche is protected by a covert Mind shield with Tenacity 2; the vulgar spell works normally, but the covert spell still boosts the defending mage’s Composure + Gnosis roll to resist the spell’s effects

SPELLS IN COMBAT
Predictably, magic is often used to kill people.

BOOSTING INITIATIVE: Some spells, especially within the arcana of Fate, Life, Mind, or Time, can augment a subject’s reaction time and therefore increase their initiative. In such cases, the ten sided die rolled to determine initiative is considered to have a minimum result equal to twice the default Potency of the spell in use – 2 for a sensory spell, 4 for a covert spell, and 6 for a vulgar spell. A mage’s player can replace a normal initiative roll with a Shaping roll instead. They add twice the Shaped spell’s total resulting Potency to their initiative modifier to determine their initiative for a fight or other conflict.

BOOSTING ATTACKS: Every Arcanum can produce effects that a sufficiently creative or desperate mage can use to injure other characters. Spells of any aspect can potentially boost an attack; a sensory spell guarantees one success by helping to select vulnerable targets, a covert spell guarantees two successes and gives dice the 9-again rule by subtly enhancing a mage’s efforts, and a vulgar spell guarantees three successes and gives dice the 8-again rule by grossly sculpting reality in a mage’s favor.

The mundane Defense trait can reduce the dicepool of a boosted attack, but not prevent the attack from enjoying its guaranteed minimum successes. A mundane victim’s only means of avoiding harm entirely is to either be appropriately armored or to devote their own Instant actions to flight or self defense; it takes supernatural power to passively and reflexively foil the perfection bestowed by supernal magic.

Armor, defensive magic, and similar protections specifically cancel out damage a boosted attack gains from its minimum successes – specifically, damage in excess of what was actually rolled. For instance, if one success was rolled for an attack with a vulgar boost, that attack would inflict points of damage, only the last two of which are considered automatic and therefore subject to direct subtraction by armor, Celerity, or similar effects.

Supernatural Durability: Vampires, werewolves, and other particularly tough supernatural creatures suffer only bashing damage from many attacks that would inflict lethal to normal humans. Covertly-boosted attacks still inflict only bashing to these beings, but attacks with vulgar boosts are powerful enough to deal lethal damage.

Magical Weapons: Vulgar spells often allow for fantastical or impossible weaponry; a mage might hurl bolts of lightning, cause the ground to erupt into jagged spikes, or lash out with razor-edged shadows. In these cases, the same spell which Boosts an attack roll also makes the attack roll possible at all, and while that spell is sustained its subject can lash out with magic turn after turn at no further cost.

Magical modes of attack offer can innately deal bashing or lethal damage and offer Edges up to +5 just as normal weapons do. The Edge afforded by the substance of a magical attack is determined as though it were a melee weapon; actively dangerous phenomena too bright, loud or voluminous to be effectively concealed offer a large Edge, while smaller, subtler, or safer conjurations grant a smaller Edge. For instance, a nimbus of blistering heat surrounding one of a mage’s hands might inflict lethal damage with a +2 edge, while an aura of roaring flame has an Edge of +5. Mages can and often do buy Specialties or instances of the Fighting Style merit related to their favored means of magical attack.

Mages fighting in this way still need to be free to move in order to wield and direct their magic. Even when the substance of a boosted attack is provided wholly by magic, that attack uses a normal dicepool: Strength or Dexterity plus Brawl, Firearms, or Weaponry. Usually, vulgar combat magic is tailored to cater to its caster’s strengths, and can transcend the usual limitations of whatever combat skill drives it; a Brawl attack might fold space to strike a distant foe, while a Firearms attack might direct roots and vines to ensnare and immobilize a target.

Multiple Targets: Multiple limbs, superhuman speed, and increased size might all increase a mage’s ability to engage several enemy characters simultaneously. Torrents of flame, nests of writhing tentacles, and other weapons capable of striking wide areas allow their wielders to attack wide areas, just as automatic weapons do. The player of a character using boosted attacks to strike multiple foes uses the usual rules, taking a penalty based on the number of targets or scope of the target area, then rolling separately for each target, taking Defense into account. These attack rolls are generally boosted by the same magic which makes them possible, making assaults on multiple mundane targets as inescapable as attacks on single foes.

Damage Factors: The special effects of damage factors, such as the infliction of aggravated damage or the recovery of Health or Mana as a byproduct of dealing damage, only apply to the guaranteed successes a boosted attack enjoys: the first 2 successes for a covert boost, and the first 3 successes for a vulgar boost. These base successes are always the first to be cancelled out by any applicable resistance of the target’s. Successes beyond those first two or three can inflict normal damage, but not the special consequences that spell factors provide.
Example: If a vulgar spell boosts an attack and grants that attack aggravated damage, only the first 3 successes scored inflict aggravated wounds; the rest deal bashing or lethal, as appropriate for the weapon. An attack with 5 successes would inflict three aggravated wounds and two more lethal or bashing wounds; if a supernatural power were to cancel out one automatic success, the attack would deal two aggravated wounds and two lethal.

SHAPING ATTACKS: A spell’s points of Shaped Potency can be applied to victims as damage. Attacks of this sort require no physical effort on the caster’s part; the attack simply happens as the mage wills it, whether it involves summoned minions, environmental hazards, or the instant and arbitrary appearance of harmful phenomena. Spells whose Potency is used to inflict harm must be of at least covert aspect, and such spells are almost always contested by Defense + Wits. Depending on their nature, their damage might be mitigated by mundane armor or the natural durability of supernatural creatures. Shaping attacks don’t necessarily deal damage; in principle, an attack spell’s net successes can be put to whatever purpose the successes scored on a normal, Defense-resisted physical attack could achieve.

A shaping attack contested by Defense + Wits always does at least as much damage as a boosted attack resisted by Defense would have; an unarmored, unshielded, and otherwise unprotected target takes a minimum of two damage from a covert attack spell and three damage from a vulgar attack spell. Armor, warding magic, and supernatural defenses such as vampire Celerity entitle a target to cancel out the spell’s automatic damage with rolled successes, and only as many automatic successes as the target’s defenses would have otherwise absorbed.
Example: An Obrimos throws a vulgar fireball at a Thyrsus with covertly enhanced reflexes. Shaped, the fireball has five total Potency, while the Thyrsus’s boosted Defense + Wits roll scores five successes. The Thyrsus suffers one point of lethal damage, because the fireball dealt three automatic damage while the Thyrsus’s defenses could only absorb up to two automatic wounds.

Spell attacks that aren’t Shaped aren’t terribly threatening to targets with sizable Defense + Wits pools. High-powered Shaping attempts, on the other hand, represent the greatest amount of instantaneous force a mage can bring to bear, since a player making a Shaping roll adds a spell’s base Potency to their rolled successes rather than using Potency as their roll’s minimum result. The higher a mage’s Gnosis, the greater a Shaping dicepool that mage’s player can construct. Even mages who normally use vulgar magic to boost mundane attack dicepools make use of pure Shaping attacks when malice or desperation outweigh the cost in Mana and Willpower of striking with maximum power.

A Shaping attack technically requires nothing more than consciousness on its caster’s part, but a mage who has been immobilized probably can’t make use of rote mudras and therefore has less Mana left over after paying their spell’s cost with which to assemble their shaping dicepool. In fact, a spell a mage is refreshing or sustaining might inflict damage on that mage’s turn even when the mage is otherwise occupied; for instance, a blizzard can continue to rage while its creator hides or flees. However, a character can’t make more than one attack in a turn regardless of their actions or sustained spells, and a spell’s Potency isn’t applied as an attack more than once per round – a mage who goes on the offensive while simultaneously sustaining a damaging spell is using the spell to boost their attack on that turn, not making two separate attacks. Using Shaping to bolster a spell’s Potency for the purpose of attacking other characters counts as making an attack, so a mage can’t supercharge a raging blizzard on the same turn that they devote an instant action to some other pursuit.

Sustained autonomous hazards like storms of fire or hordes of zombies inflict damage on any characters that enter them on that entering character’s turn, though this immediate damage can be mitigated or avoided by Defense or other resistance as normal. However, a spell’s Potency is never applied to the same target more than once in a given round, measured from the beginning of one of a mage’s turns to the beginning of their next. A target struck by a Shaping attack that leaves an environmental hazard in its wake doesn’t immediately take the hazard’s damage again as their own turn begins. As well, multiple damaging spells a mage is sustaining don’t all inflict their own damage on targets trapped with them; only the highest Potency is applied.

Shaping attacks don’t use the rules for autofire or attacking multiple targets, and only affect as many characters as the area and target factors of the spell being Shaped allow.

BOOSTING DEFENSE: Spells of every aspect can potentially Boost a mage’s Defense. A sensory spell can warn a mage of imminent danger, a covert spell can quietly blunt the force of an incoming blow, and a vulgar spell can blatantly armor a mage against harm.

Against physical attacks, a magically-protected mage has supernatural armor equal to their spell’s Potency. First, points of automatic, Defense-piercing damage equal to the spell’s Potency are cancelled; this might protect against an environmental hazard, explosive blast, or the automatic damage dealt by a boosted attack on top of that produced by the successes actually rolled. Remaining Potency is spent to downgrades points of lethal or aggravated damage to bashing, and still-remaining Potency then cancels bashing damage all together.
Example: An Acanthus aims a covertly-boosted gunshot at a Mastigos who’s covertly shielded against projectiles, rolling only one success. This would deal two lethal damage to an unprotected target, but instead one point of the warlock’s defensive Potency cancels out the automatic success netted by the witch’s boost, and the second point of the warlock’s Potency downgrades the point of damage actually rolled for the witch; the warlock takes a single bashing wound. If no successes had been rolled for the Acanthus at all, the two points of automatic damage would’ve both been cancelled out by the two points of the Mastigos’s defensive spell.

Vulgar defensive magic is particularly effective against mundane sources of harm; any such incoming damage that the spell is effective against becomes bashing, some or all of which might then be downgraded to nothing by the spell’s Potency. Supernaturally potent attacks, such as those augmented by vulgar magic or by the combative powers of other supernatural creatures, pierce this broad durability and are only mitigated by the defensive spell’s Potency rating as described above.

Against pure Shaping attacks, defensive spells provide the appropriate on the reflexive Defense + Wits roll made to avoid damage. They allow the roll made for the target to cancel as many of the spell’s automatic successes as the defense has base Potency, but don’t downgrade whatever damage manages to get through.

As with all spells, a defensive spell is only able to provide these benefits if it’s applicable to the situation in which it’s used. A spell that turns projectiles aside will do nothing against a werewolf’s claws, and a fortification against cuts and bruises is useless against fireballs. As well, some forms of mage armor require the beneficiary to take conscious advantage. Spells that enable a mage to defend themselves supernaturally well – for instance, effects granting perfect battlefield awareness or incredible speed – can’t help a character who is unable to act, but armored suits of solidified mana or crackling force fields remain effective even for totally helpless characters.

Most mages know at least one covert defensive spell as a rote, so that they can cast it for free whenever they’re conscious and therefore always benefit from an effective two points of armor against physical injury. Thanks to the Mage Sight, any conscious and mobile mage enjoys a sensory boost against Shaping attacks, since they can see and feel the magic coming.

DAMAGE IMMUNITY Some spells, usually vulgar spells using the Practices of Making or Unmaking, can completely immunize subjects against kinds of damage while still allowing those subjects to act on others. Such effects are completely effective against inanimate, unnamed, or unimportant threats, but can be overcome by important characters just as disabling magic can. A character who spends a Willpower point to enhance or enable their attack treats magical immunity as a normal (albeit magical) armor rather than an insurmountable obstacle; if they inflict at least one non-downgraded wound, they’ve willed their way past the immunity and can continue to treat it as a normal defensive spell until it’s refreshed or recast.

Characters or objects rendered incapable of interacting with others by whatever immunizes them against attack, such as a person frozen in time or an inanimate object rendered unbreakable, generally can’t be harmed in this way. Willpower is only able to breach immunity that isn’t already reciprocal.

SHAPING DEFENSE: Mages can defend themselves wholly with Shaping. This represents relying wholly on magic to turn a threat aside: stopping bullets in midair, countering an incoming spell before it can strike, or magically fortifying the mind beyond normal limits. Whenever a mage would use their Defense against an attack, they can elect to reflexively cast and/or Shape an appropriate defensive spell, applying more than the usual amount of Potency against the incoming threat. This allows spell-granted armor to downgrade more than two or three points of a normal attack’s damage, or allows a mage to substitute a Shaping roll for the Defense + Wits roll normally used to avoid damage from a Shaping attack.

The total Potency produced by a reflexive Shaping only applies against the specific attack or power which prompted that Shaping. The spell’s enhanced Potency and Tenacity can linger through the round for the purpose of making the enhanced spell harder to dispel or overwrite, but doesn’t alter the defensive spell’s ability to boost defenses against any other incoming attacks – a mage must pay for another Shaping action to magically block a subsequent threat. It takes an instant action to Shape a force field, body guard, or other defense that actively uses its Potency rating in order to deflect all incoming attacks until the mage’s next turn.

SPELL ALLOCATION IN COMBAT: A mage fighting at the peak of their capability will have ensured that both their attack rolls and Defense rolls are benefiting from a vulgar boost. Often, the same spell can serve both ends: superhuman physical capacity, telekinetic power, or destined triumph might all both inflict and deflect harm. Other spells only attack or only defend: a force field or anti-magic shield only help to block enemy attacks, while projected lightning or radiation have little defensive utility.

Whether a particular spell can boost a particular combat action depends on that spell’s description and the context of the action. For instance, a mage with extra limbs is both more dangerous at short range and more capable of parrying hand-to-hand counterattacks, but no better defended against an explosion or jet of toxic gas. Generally, dual-purpose combat spells are more limited in the scope of combat actions they can boost or oppose, while spells that can only attack or only defend enjoy a broader range of applications. A purely offensive spell might be able to strike at differing ranges, hit multiple targets, or impose a greater variety of consequences, while a purely defensive spell is harder to bypass.

As with other spells, spells that arm mages with weapons or gird them with armor must have singular, constant effects, even if those effects are achieved in elaborate ways. The means by which offensive and defensive spells inflict or block damage are specific, predictable, and tied to their subjects’ physicality – simply sustaining them doesn’t produce the level of narrative flexibility and descriptive power that the Arcana themselves allow.

Primal Wild - Magic Permutations

The Act of Hubris Ferrinus