The Act of Hubris
Stygia - Places and Objects of Power
STYGIA – PLACES AND OBJECTS OF POWER
These rules describe the physical relics and manifestations of Awakened magic in the fallen world.
Artifacts are supernal objects that cast or sustain one or more specific spells. Artifact creation is beyond the power of known Awakened magic, and artifacts are found, not made.
Artifact Design: It’s important to specify what kind of object that artifact is, what spells that artifact holds, how those spells are activated, and if those spells can be Shaped.
An artifact can hypothetically hold any number of spells with any number of factors, but artifacts that cast a variety of high-powered spells are vanishingly rare. Most artifacts can produce a single spell, or two or three related spells. Each spell an artifact can produce has a predetermined effect, selection of factors, and target. For instance, an artifact ring might enchant any being that wears it, while an artifact monolith might radiate a spell with three area factors at all times.
Artifact spells treat the artifact as the caster, not the wielder of the artifact, so any sensory spells an artifact uses only increase the artifact’s own abilities to perceive or target otherwise unseen phenomena. An artifact that bestows sensory magic on its wearer or target must cast a spell of at least covert aspect to do so.
Some artifacts can Shape their own spells, and gain a number of points of Shaping potential each day which can be used to enhance the artifact’s spells. How many points of Shaping potential an artifact stores, which spells those points can Shape and to what ends, and what conditions must be met to use an artifact’s Shaping potential are decided by the artifact’s designer.
The dot rating in the Artifact Merit that an Artifact is worth is equal to the total Mana cost of all spells within that Artifact, plus the total points of Shaping potential that Artifact can use each day. The Mana cost of an Artifact’s spells includes the cost of any spell factors those spells enjoy. Artifacts aren’t considered to have ruling Arcana or to know any rotes, so all spells are costed as though being improvised from the caster’s common Arcana.
Artifact Activation: Each artifact has its own means of activation. Some artifacts automatically and continuously radiate one or more spell effects, while others lie dormant until certain conditions are met. For instance, a gemstone could transmute any inert matter it touches into gold, while a wand could ignite anything it’s pointed at by a conscious wielder.
Unlocking and applying an artifact’s Shaping potential might have its own, separate requirements. Sometimes it’s as easy as concentrating or speaking a command word, while at other times it requires exacting circumstances or sacrifices. Some artifacts allow points of Shaping potential to be spent freely and in any amount, while others only allow one point to be used at once, or always use all their Shaping potential in a single burst. Artifacts that can spend more than five points of Shaping potential at once are exceedingly rare.
Artifacts don’t need Mana to release their spells; as long as their activation conditions are met, they can cast spells freely and sustain those spells indefinitely. Some artifacts themselves cast spells that generate or store Mana, and Mana can in principle be part of an artifact’s activation conditions, and some artifacts for whatever reasons have been known to burn out or stop functioning, but in general artifacts are self-powered and inexhaustible.
An artifact refreshes itself to its maximum store of Shaping potential each day, usually at a set time. Some artifacts can’t restore their Shaping potential unless certain conditions are met first.
Artifact Spell Resolution: Any spell an artifact casts has Potency and Tenacity based on that spell’s aspect: 1 for sensory spells, 2 for covert spells, and 3 for vulgar spells. An artifact’s spells can boost or hinder the actions of affected characters normally. An artifact whose magic has been dispelled or overruled only remains dormant for so long as the spell suppressing it is sustained.
When an artifact’s Shaping potential is used, a pool of dice is rolled appropriate to the number of points spent and the aspect of the spell being Shaped: 1 die per point for sensory magic, 2 dice with 9-again for covert magic, and 3 dice with 8-again for vulgar magic. The wielder of an artifact can’t spend Willpower to increase an artifact’s Shaping dicepool.
The results of a Shaping roll made for an artifact mirror those of the Shaping roll for a ritual spell: the Shaped spell’s Potency increases by one per success for one turn, the spell’s Tenacity increases by one per success for the rest of the scene, and afterwards the spell’s Tenacity is increased by the number of points of Shaping potential used until the spell ends. The effects of a new Shaping overwrite the last, and the benefits of Shaping vanish if the Shaped spell is successfully dispelled, even if the artifact reactivates immediately afterward.
Artifact Timing: The spells of an artifact that’s controlled or wielded by a particular character are treated as though they were cast by that character for timing purposes. Offensive spells require instant actions to activate or bring to bear, damaging hazards are assumed to act in tandem with the artifact’s wielder rather than on their own initiative, and so on. Shaping an artifact’s spells has the same timing limitations as Shaping spontaneous magic, requiring an action appropriate to what that Shaping is meant to accomplish.
An artifact that affects a scene while not under any character’s control might be assigned its own actions and initiative by the Storyteller. By default, such objects “act” at the end of a round, before any extant paradox. It’s up to the Storyteller whether to treat multiple uncontrolled artifacts as independent actors or to treat the collective as a single character.
Artifacts and Disbelief: Artifact spells can be shut down by Disbelief just as normal spells can. The wielder of an artifact can spend Mana to stave off Disbelief as that Disbelief takes effect, buying off each Disbelief success with a point of Mana. Even unAwakened characters can use pattern scouring for this purpose, voluntarily suffering one Resistant lethal wound per Mana point spent.
If successes aren’t bought off, a successful Disbelief roll forces an artifact into dormancy for at least a scene and renders that artifact impossible to reactivate until no Sleepers are in position to perceive that artifact’s effects.
Artifacts and Paradox: Artifacts don’t cause paradox normally when they cast or sustain their inherent spells. Instead, an active artifact is always the epicenter of a Corona paradox with area factors equal to the highest Potency among that artifact’s active spells. This Corona always reflects the nature of the artifact and the artifact’s powers. An active artifact counts as an individual mage for the purpose of increasing a paradox’s Shaping dicepool.
When an artifact spell is Shaped or subject to Disbelief, it adds dice to the collective paradox roll. Unfortunately, artifacts can’t use magical tools and have no Wisdom score. When Shaped, they lengthen paradoxes in the same way Wisdom 0 mages do.
Artifact Durability: By default, an artifact enjoys armor against all attack based on the best default Tenacity of any of its active spells: 1 for sensory, 2 for covert, and 3 for vulgar. It requires net successes equal at least to an artifact’s total Merit rating to damage that artifact such that it stops functioning, and double that many total net successes to destroy an artifact all together. At the Storyteller’s discretion, some artifacts might be unusually fragile or nigh indestructible.
Mages can use Atlantean runes to anchor a standing spell, bolstering that spell’s duration and Tenacity. A set of runes meant to anchor at least one spell is considered a single inscription. An inscription always encloses the area it is meant to affect, delineating the boundaries of a space rather than filling that space.
TYPES OF INSCRIPTION: Each Atlantean inscription is either simple or complex.
- Simple: A simple inscription describes a single spell. Any mage with knowledge of the High Speech can read a simple inscription to tell what spell that inscription is meant for, and any mage can activate a simple inscription so long as they know the High Speech and can cast the spell the inscription describes. Simple inscriptions are easy to activate, but only remain activated for as long as their creators remain nearby.
- Complex: A complex inscription can anchor multiple predetermined spells at once, up to one more than its creator’s Gnosis rating. As well, it can ensure that the spells it holds stretch over a wide area, granting those spells minimum area factors. Another mage can tell on sight which Practices and Arcana a complex inscription’s spells involve, but requires detailed scrutiny to determine exactly what those spells do. Only the creator of a complex runic inscription can activate it. Complex inscriptions are taxing to activate, but remain activated indefinitely.
DESIGNING INSCRIPTIONS: Before a mage can actually lay down a runic inscription, they must conceive of what specific shapes and symbols that inscription will consist of. At the outset of an inscription’s design, a mage determines the inscription’s size, shape, and location, as well as which spell or spells that inscription will serve to anchor.
- Simple: A simple inscription requires a minor action to design. Knowledge of the High Speech, ability to cast the desired spell, and apprehension of the target area allow a mage to intuit after a moment’s observation what marks to make and where.
- Complex: The specifics of a complex inscription vary with the character and resonance of the area that inscription is meant to occupy. A mage must spend at least a scene scrutinizing the resonance of an area or object and determine at least one resonance quality to figure out how to correctly inscribe the complex runes describing a single spell. If the resonance of an inscription’s intended location changes significantly before the inscription can be completed, the mage must familiarize themselves with the target area’s new resonance and start the design from scratch. Once a complex inscription has been laid down in full, it harmonizes itself with the resonance of its surrounding area and remains usable even if the area’s resonance shifts dramatically.
At any time after the scene of initial scrutiny has been completed, a mage’s player can make a Gnosis roll representing an hour’s contemplation on the mage’s part. Once total accumulated successes on such Gnosis rolls equal the number of additional spells the inscription is intended to hold, the mage has finalized their inscription’s design and can begin to implement it.
Multiple mages can collaborate on the design of a complex inscription, as long as those mages can collectively cast the spells the inscription is meant to hold; the Gnosis of each mage is rolled, and the best result is tallied. Once the description is finalized, any of its designers could potentially create the physical runes, but only mages with Gnosis at least equal to the inscription’s additional spells can activate it.
Disjoint Inscriptions: If a spell that links multiple separate areas is to be anchored onto an inscription, such as a Spirit-woven portal through the gauntlet or a Space-based co-location of several distant rooms, that inscription’s runes must appear in each place the spell will reach. Every set of runes is designed and activated as a single inscription, and damage to any individual set of runes disrupts the entire system.
Mobile Runes: A complex inscription can be designed to interact with runes marked on articles of clothing, pieces of furniture, patches of floor, or other discrete objects or places within the inscription’s delineated area. Symbols matching those of the inscription itself might serve to determine which items or characters are affected or unaffected by whatever spells the inscription anchors, and in what way. For instance, a standing spell might bar entry to an area to anyone not wearing the appropriate symbol or power any device ringed by a correctly-drawn mandala.
Overlapping Inscriptions: It’s possible for more than one inscription to be laid down in the same space, but such inscriptions are harder to design, even their dimensions differ enough that their perimeters don’t need to physically overlap. After each period of initial study of the target area – a turn’s minor action for a simple inscription, or an hour for a complex inscription – the designer’s Gnosis is rolled. Once successes have been accumulated equal to the total number of spells any pre-existing inscriptions are capable of supporting, the new inscription has been conceived in full and can be laid down or further elaborated on.
If multiple mages intending to produce overlapping inscriptions collaborate before laying any runes down, the design is expedited. Each mage’s Gnosis is rolled, and the best success total is tallied. Once accumulated successes equal the number of spells intended for the target space, the design is complete and every mage is able to aid in the physical preparation.
Though many inscriptions might be readied for use, a single mage can’t activate more than one complex inscription and one simple inscription in the same space. It takes multiple mages to create a place in which multiple complex inscriptions are active.
Studying Inscriptions: Any mage who knows the High Speech can intuit the meaning and function of a simple inscription at a glance. It’s similarly easy to tell which spells a complex inscription supports, but fully comprehending a complex inscription such that one can make use of it or deactivate it is harder: the scrutinizer’s Gnosis is rolled at the end of each hour until accumulated successes equal the number of spells the inscription can support.
PREPARING INSCRIPTIONS: Runes can be laid down by any means that leaves a mark, such as chalk, paint, or carving. Rather than being drawn or etched on the spot, an inscription can appear on a series of seals, prayer strips, or other objects that are prepared elsewhere and then brought to the required area. An inscription’s medium is a matter of convenience and preference, but must be consistent throughout the design. Runes hastily drawn in dust with a fingertip are much more fragile than runes scored into solid stone, but just as potent in magical terms.
The time required to finish a set of runes varies with the means of writing and the area to be covered, and can be shortened dramatically by magic. Symbols scored in an eyeblink by a Forces or Matter spell are just as effective as those written or carved by hand. A finished inscription doesn’t need to be obvious or even visible to be effective, but a mage must know where an inscription is and what it looks like to make use of it.
An inscription works so long as it remains fully intact and immobile. If any of the symbols comprising the inscription are erased, broken, defaced, or moved out of place, the entire inscription ceases to be usable until the damage is repaired. Any mage who knows the High Speech can restore a simple inscription that has been damaged, a complex inscription must be repaired by its designer.
ACTIVATING SIMPLE INSCRIPTIONS: A mage within or adjacent to a simple inscription can activate it by spending a Willpower point as a minor action, so long as they know the High Speech and can cast the inscription’s spell.
A simple inscription remains active until the mage that activated it spends an hour outside its immediate vicinity.
- Duration: An active simple inscription’s specified spell can be sustained indefinitely, and does not need to be refreshed after each hour.
- Tenacity: An active simple inscription increases the Tenacity of its spell by one. This Tenacity increase only applies during turns in which the inscription’s spell does not benefit from Shaping.
ACTIVATING COMPLEX INSCRIPTIONS: A mage within or adjacent to a complex inscription can, as a minor action, spend one Willpower dot to activate it. The mage must have designed, helped to design, or studied and fully understood the inscription’s workings, and they must have Gnosis at least equal to the additional spells the complex inscription can support. If the mage can’t cast every spell the inscription describes themselves, they must be assisted by other mages who understand the inscription and can cast those spells; each assistant spends a Willpower point.
If multiple mages activate the same inscription, each spending the requisite Willpower, the inscription’s ability to stretch the spells it holds over a wide area increases.
A complex inscription remains active indefinitely.
- Duration: An active complex inscription’s specified spells can be sustained indefinitely, and do not need to be refreshed after each hour.
- Tenacity: The Tenacity of the inscription’s spell or spells is increased by the activator’s Gnosis score. This Tenacity increase only applies to any given spell during turns in which the inscription’s spell does not benefit from Shaping.
- Area Factors: The inscription’s spells or spells can, after being sustained for at least a scene, develop area factors at least up to half the activator’s Gnosis rating, rounded up. These area factors don’t stack with existing Area factors, but also don’t increase the spell’s Mana cost, and only allow the spell to stretch within the limits of the inscription. If multiple mages contributed to the inscription’s activation, their Gnosis ratings are summed, but can’t provide more than five total minimum Area factors.
ACTIVATED INSCRIPTIONS: Activated inscriptions only provide their benefits to the specific spells those inscriptions describe that have been cast by mages who fully comprehend the inscription, and only within the areas of the inscriptions themselves. An active complex inscription provides its full benefit to any or all of its described spells whenever any are active within its boundaries. Inscriptions don’t require the direct attention or even consciousness of their creators to remain active, and so are often used to protect mages who are asleep, engrossed in ritual ceremony, or otherwise indisposed. An inscriptions can play host to spells whose only function is to protect the physical inscription itself.
Spells must still be sustained by their casters to benefit from active inscriptions, counting normally against the maximum total Mana cost in spells that a mage’s nimbus can support. Ritual spells are sustained by continuing ceremony, so Atlantean runes can fortify them but not make them last any longer than normal. If more than an hour has passed since a spell’s casting, that spell ends upon leaving the inscription that fortifies it unless it’s immediately refreshed by its caster.
Unless they’ve been designed to work together, two or more inscriptions can’t be activated in the same place at the same time, so a mage intending to supplant a currently active inscription must first find a way to deactivate it. As well, a single mage can only overlap one simple with one complex inscription; it takes multiple mages to layer inscriptions of the same kind on each other. The Mage Sight allows a character to immediately recognize that an area of space is within the influence of an active inscription and to gauge how much Tenacity that inscription affords.
INSCRIPTION PARADOX: While at least one vulgar spell is being sustained by an activated inscription in an area, that area’s paradox Intensity has a minimum value of 1. This suffuses the area of the inscription with a Corona paradox that reflects the nature of the spells present and the nimbus of their caster.
DEACTIVATING INSCRIPTIONS: The mage who first activated an inscription can deactivate it with an act of will. This takes a minor action and requires that the mage be inside or adjacent to the inscription and that the inscription be intact.
A mage who knows the High Speech can study another’s inscription to determine how to safely deactivate it by erasing or scratching out specific marks. This requires that the mage can see a contiguous zone of runes in full. One minute of study will tell a mage how to deactivate a simple inscription. A complex inscription is harder to crack: its scrutinizer’s Gnosis is rolled at the end of each scene or hour of study, and the analysis is only complete once total successes have been achieved equal to the number of spells the inscription can hold.
Once an inscription deactivates for any reason, it ceases to benefit the spells within it. Spells previously empowered end when they normally would have unless their casters refresh them, meaning immediately if more than an hour has passed since their casting. Willpower points or dots invested in a deactivated inscription are lost, and must be spent anew if the inscription is to be reactivated and returned to full strength.
UNSTABLE INSCRIPTIONS: If any part of an active inscription is carelessly marred or moved out of place, the inscription becomes unstable. It ceases to provide Tenacity, and deactivates automatically after a number of minutes equal to the Tenacity it should provide. If the inscription’s damage is repaired before this time runs out, the inscription and the spells it protects return to full function.
If a damaged inscription deactivates, its power escapes violently. A paradox roll is made with dice equal to the local paradox Intensity plus the lost Tenacity of the inscription plus the number of vulgar spells the inscription was sustaining. The mage who first activated the inscription is considered to have created any paradox that results.
DEDICATED MAGICAL TOOLS – IMPLEMENTS AND WORKSPACES
Props symbolic of a mage’s Path, Order, or Legacy can more smoothly integrate Shaping into the fabric of the fallen world. Magic channeled through an implement isn’t any more powerful than raw, bare-handed sorcery, but threatens less paradox when pushed to its limits.
There are several types of magical tool:
- Personal Implement: Each mage can consecrate one dedicated implement. The specifics of this object are determined by the symbology it draws upon. Path and Legacy implements are usually objects of obvious religious or symbolic significance, but Order-based implements can much more easily be passed off as normal, utilitarian objects.
A mage can also consecrate one object to each Arcanum they possess. Each Arcanum’s implement corresponds to the Arcanum itself rather than to the mage’s magical style. Arcanum implements are often easy to mistake for found objects or random curios rather than sorcerous tools.
- Personal Workspace: Each mage can consecrate one dedicated workspace. A workspace reflects a mage’s Path, Order, or Legacy and can’t stretch wider than a spell with as many area factors as half the mage’s Gnosis rounded up. A workspace always has an apparent function at least slightly out of the ordinary – the bizarre machines and equations that populate the laboratory of a scientific Free Councilor might not serve any function that a Sleeper could understand. If a personal workspace is reflects a particular Legacy, all members of that Legacy can use it.
The personal workspaces of two or more mages can coexist, but the shared workspace must be arranged so as to reflect each mage’s magical style without undermining any other’s. Workspaces meant to fuse multiple magical praxes require lengthy calibration, and long histories of collaboration can ease the design of a communal workspace considerably. Multiple mages can sum their Gnosis scores to consecrate a single shared, personal workspace, but can’t consecrate a workspace more than five total area factors in size.
- Public Workspace: Members of magical Orders with the proper level of initiation can create workspaces general to their Orders. Each public workspace must be attuned to the needs of a single Order, and the Order in question determines how the workspace looks and which mages can make use of it. Unlike personal workspaces, public workspaces are taxing to create. However, one mage can potentially create multiple different public workspaces if they’re willing to strain themselves.
Magical tools have no intrinsic supernatural properties of their own (though they might be invested with some through ritual magic) but can be detected by the Mage Sight as objects tinged with supernal power. While a magical tool remains consecrated, it has an Intimate sympathetic connection to its creator and can be scrutinized to reveal its creator’s resonance qualities.
Creating a Magical Tool: Consecrating an implement or personal workspace requires an hour’s ceremony, which can double as an oblation. Upon completion, the consecration of any former tool of that type is revoked.
One Willpower dot must be spent after an hour’s ceremony to consecrate a public workspace. A public workspace can’t have more effective area factors than half its consecrator’s Gnosis rating, rounded up. Multiple mages of the same Order can sum their Gnosis scores to consecrate a single large workspace, but must each spend a Willpower dot and can’t consecrate a workspace more than five total area factors in size.
Using a Magical Tool: Using an implement to cast a spell doesn’t take any extra time, but requires that the implement be somehow interacted with – it’s not enough to just have an implement on one’s person. A dedicated implement can be used for any spell, while an Arcanum-specific implement can only be used for spells using the Arcanum it’s dedicated to. Only one implement can benefit a mage at a time.
A mage must be within a workspace to gain its benefits, and must interact with the workspace in the course of performing magic, which takes at least a minute of uninterrupted effort right before the casting of any spell. Mages can and often do draw on their workspaces at the same time as they wield one of their implements. If a personal workspace is reflects a particular Legacy, all members of that Legacy can use it.
Magical Tool Benefits: A consecrated implement and workspace each cancel a die a mage would’ve added to the pool by Shaping a vulgar spell, effectively forgiving one or two of that mage’s Gnosis dots. They don’t stop that vulgar spell from adding a die to the pool for having been cast or refreshed in the first place.
Magical Tool Durability: Magical tools remain effective through ordinary wear and tear, but cease to work if burned, snapped in half, or otherwise destroyed. A workspace’s elements need to be intact and functional for the workspace to benefit its users – it’s fine for a bookshelf to fall over or for a firing range’s wall to be peppered with bullets, but serious architectural damage requires a workspace to be rebuilt and re-consecrated.
Mages can imbue spells in objects or creatures. Imbued spells lie dormant in their targets until used, but are burdensome to maintain and taxing to activate. The costs in health and Willpower of bearing and evoking an imbued spell can prove ruinous to an unAwakened being.
Imbuing a spell into a target requires at least Apprentice rank in conjunctional Arcana appropriate to a mundane target, or Disciple rank in conjunctional Arcana appropriate to a normally ephemeral target; for instance imbuing a spell in an inanimate object requires Matter ●●, while imbuing a spell into a ghost requires Death ●●●. Spells can’t be imbued in totally abstract or intangible targets; Mind magic might allow an astral body to hold a spell, but a stray thought or even an entire mind could not.
Imbued Spell Creation: A mage casting, refreshing, or sustaining a spell on a target can spend a Willpower point to imbue that spell into its target. For the next day, that spell exists in latent form in the target’s pattern, and can be rekindled for a scene by any character capable of paying the cost. Unless the mage elects to continue sustaining the imbued spell or to pay its activation cost immediately, the spell won’t necessarily be active in the scene in which it’s imbued.
Almost any spell can be imbued in its target for the sake of prolonging that spell’s immediate effects, but Prime ●● is usually needed to gift a being or object with activated magical powers. For example, a Life ●● spell alone could endow a sleepwalker with the ability to call on superhuman strength, but a combination of Life ●●, Matter ●●, and Prime ●● would be needed to imbue a belt which can grant superhuman strength to whoever wears it. A sensory spell in an imbued item delivers sensory data to that spell’s original caster, assuming the spell has enough sympathy factors to reach.
Imbued Spell Maintenance and Activation: Any character who is subject to an imbued spell or in possession of an object carrying an imbued spell can pay a Willpower point to extend the imbued spell’s lifespan by another twenty four hours. An imbued spell’s original caster can instead pay a Willpower dot to extend the spell’s lifespan by a month. An imbued creature or object might exhibit supernatural properties while the spell it plays host to while dormant, but only exercises supernal power in scenes in which its activation cost has been paid.
While an imbued spell lasts, its bearer can reactivate it by paying its Mana cost in full. Pattern scouring, places of power, and words of power can pay part or all of an imbued item’s activation cost. Pattern scouring is an especially efficient way to kindle imbued spells: Any character, even if not Awakened, can use pattern scouring to pay for an imbued spell’s activation cost, and the first health level scoured to activate an imbued item produces two points of free Mana rather than one.
By default, only concentration is required to spend Willpower to maintain an imbued item’s lifespan. Characters imbued with magic or bearing activated imbued items can instinctively sense that the spells they wear or hold require Willpower to stabilize and health to activate, but inactive imbued objects aren’t necessarily obvious in function; the mage who creates an imbued item decides the means by which that item is activated or maintained. A spell imbued across a wide area or multiple targets might be activated only through specific targets or locations in the area, or by anything or anyone the spell touches, at its caster’s whim.
Imbued Spell Cost: The Mana cost of an imbued spell is calculated as though that spell was improvised. Cost reductions from rotes or ruling Arcana do not apply. This means that sensory and covert imbued spells usually cost their bearers one point of Resistant lethal damage per scene of use, while vulgar imbued spells cost two. Imbued spells with spell factors are even more taxing to use, and Hallows render imbued items easier to activate even for the unAwakened.
Imbued Spell Timing: Activating an imbued spell requires an action appropriate to the end that spell is being used for: minor actions enhance the spell’s wielder, reflexive actions protect the spell’s wielder from harm, and so on. An imbued spell lasts for a scene when activated and does not need to be sustained. Imbued spells can’t be Shaped. The activator of an imbued spell cannot add or subtract factors, but can wield the magic within the limits defined by whatever mage first created the spell.
Imbued Spells and Disbelief: Imbued spells can be shut down by Disbelief just as normal spells can. The activator of an imbued spell can spend Mana to stave off Disbelief as that Disbelief takes effect, buying off each Disbelief success with a point of Mana. Even unAwakened characters can use pattern scouring for this purpose, voluntarily suffering one Resistant lethal wound per Mana point effectively spent.
If successes aren’t bought off, a successful Disbelief roll immediately deactivates an imbued spell and renders that spell impossible to reactivate until no Sleepers are in position to perceive the spell’s effects.
Imbued Spells and Paradox: Activating an imbued spell threatens paradox in the same way that casting that spell would. The Wisdom rating of that spell’s original caster at the time the spell was imbued is used to determine how severely resultant paradoxes are lengthened. For the purpose of increasing a paradox’s Shaping dicepool, an active imbued spell counts as though cast by its original caster, and doesn’t stack with other spells created by the same mage or the spells of its creator in person.
A Hallow is a nexus of magical energy, a place at which supernal power filters into the fallen world. Within a Hallow, Awakened magic is easier to cast and Mana can be collected and absorbed.
Though all of creation is woven from Mana, the vast majority of that Mana is curdled and ossified, locked into the Pattern of some static element of fallen reality. For Mana to suffuses a mage’s nimbus and fuel a mage’s spells, it must be fluid, dynamic, and attuned to that mage’s own soul. A Hallow’s resonance is abstract and vibrant enough that the Hallow can serve as a conduit through which a mage can draw and assimilate the Mana of Creation.
- Location: Each Hallow has a specific, unchanging location, and can’t normally be moved.
- Rating: Each Hallow has a rating from 1 to 5 that measures how much potential Mana it can store and how powerfully it can support an oblation ceremony.
- Resonance: Each Hallow has a primary resonance, usually expressed as a single adjective or short phrase. This resonance is immediately apparent to any character with Mage Sight, and requires no roll to discover.
A Hallow can hold up to its rating in points of potential Mana. Each day, at a time particular to the hallow, a Hallow regains one point of potential Mana, up to its maximum amount. A Hallow’s potential Mana can’t be replaced with Mana from a mage’s Mana pool – potential Mana only collects naturally, with time. The Mage Sight allows a mage to gauge a Hallow’s rating, and how much potential Mana that Hallow currently holds.
A Hallow’s potential Mana can be siphoned away rapidly by Prime magic. Each point of potential Mana ripped directly from a Hallow becomes a normal point of Mana in its acquisitor’s pool.
Oblations: If a Hallow holds any potential Mana, a mage with no Legacy can perform their daily oblation there. At the oblation ceremony’s completion, one point of the Hallow’s potential Mana is consumed, and the higher of the mage’s Gnosis or Path Resistance Attribute is rolled. Each success on this roll generates a point of Mana for the mage. Whether the roll succeeds or fails, the mage gains three plus the Hallow’s rating additional Mana.
A Hallow can support multiple simultaneous oblations, but only oblations which successfully consume a point of the Hallow’s potential Mana can generate Mana. If more oblations would be performed than points of potential Mana remain, no oblation can be completed.
Place of Power: The magic suffusing a Hallow supports the casting of any spell that doesn’t oppose the Hallow’s resonance, paying up to one point of that spell’s Mana cost. So, deathly Hallows don’t aid in healing the living or banishing the dead, and fiery Hallows don’t make it easier to freeze water or dull passions. This free Mana point isn’t multiplied if multiple Hallows are somehow made to overlap, but probably becomes easier to qualify for.
Soul Stones and Sustained Spells: A mage can attune their soul stone to a Hallow at the culmination of an oblation ceremony. From then on, for as long as the soul stone remains within the Hallow’s borders, the stone remains attuned and can channel and sustain its creator’s spells. This attunement breaks if the soul stone is removed from the Hallow for longer than an hour, at which time any of the Hallow’s sustained spells dissipate. Otherwise, sustained spells operate indefinitely with no need to be refreshed.
When a mage is within a Hallow their soul stone is attuned to, they can cast improvised spells through the Hallow. Such spells treat the Hallow itself as their caster for range and targeting purposes and don’t need any area factors to affect the entire Hallow at once, but can’t be Shaped and must be sustained by the Hallow rather than the mage. A Hallow attuned to a soul stone can sustain spells with a total Mana cost of its Hallow’s rating or the Gnosis rating of the attuned soul stone’s creator, whichever is lower. A Hallow used to sustain spells in this way still generates Mana and tass at its usual rate.
Sensory spells sustained by a Hallow grant sensory capabilities to the Hallow itself, which normally has no effect but might enable the Hallow’s other spells to detect and react to certain stimuli. A Hallow’s spells belong to the Hallow itself for timing purposes and are applied at the end of each combat turn as though by a character’s instant action, but can only impose a consequence other than boosting, hindrance, or damage up to once per day on a given target.
Vulgar spells fixed in a Hallow cause paradox normally when cast, but don’t provoke paradox rolls afterward. Instead, they set the local paradox Intensity to a minimum of 1, suffusing the Hallow with a Corona that reflects whatever spells are present and the nimbus of their caster. Disbelief can dispel a Hallow’s spells normally, and the original caster of those spells must be present in the Hallow to resist Disbelief by spending Mana.
Multiple soul stones can be attuned to the same Hallow. Each new stone can only be attuned in the presence of every mage whose stones are already attuned, and each stone is apportioned a share of the Hallow’s total rating up to Gnosis of the stone’s creator for the purpose of sustaining improvised spells. Only a stone’s creator can cast and fix spells through that stone.
Tass: If a point of potential Mana goes unharvested for a week, it leaves its Hallow’s pool to crystallize into a piece of tass. Tass is Mana in concrete form, and takes a shape appropriate to the Hallow that generated it. A mage that consumes or breaks a piece of tass liberates the power within it, gaining a point of Mana. If nothing capable of storing Mana is nearby to absorb the energy that broken tass releases, the Mana rapidly dissipates.
Tass can’t last long in the fallen world, and goes dead after spending more than an hour outside the bounds of its native hallow or another hallow whose resonance isn’t opposed to that of the tass. Prime spells using the practice of Perfecting can be used to keep tass viable, safeguarding points of tass on the caster’s person or in the spell’s area of effect equal to the spell’s Potency. Mages who know the right covert rote can therefore freely hold and transport up to two Mana points’ worth of tass for as long as they remain conscious.
SOUL STONES, DEMESNES, AND FAMILIARS
SOUL STONES: Soul stones are taxing to create and dangerous to lose hold off, but serve a number of magical purposes. As physical shards of an Awakened soul, they can strengthen a mage’s sway over the fallen world.
Soul Stone Creation and Reintegration: A soul stone takes one Mana, one Willpower, and one minute’s concentration to make. A completed soul stone usually materializes in its creator’s hands or as part of its creator’s exhaled breath, and has an appearance reflecting its creator’s Path, nimbus, and Legacy. Reabsorbing a held soul stone takes an uninterrupted hour of focus followed by the expenditure of one Willpower dot and points of Mana equal to the mage’s Gnosis rating.
A mage can’t maintain more soul stones than half their Gnosis rating rounded up or their maximum Wisdom rating, whichever is less – a mage at their limit simply finds it impossible to materialize a new stone. Each soul stone takes a part of its creator’s nimbus with it, and a mage’s maximum Mana capacity is reduced according to the number of soul stones that mage has:
- 1 soul stone: -1 maximum Mana
- 2 soul stones: -3 maximum Mana
- 3 soul stones: -6 maximum Mana
- 4 soul stones: -10 maximum Mana
- 5 soul stones: -15 maximum Mana
The order in which a mage’s soul stones are created, reabsorbed, or destroyed doesn’t affect the impact those stones have on their maker’s Mana pool. However and whenever the number of a mage’s soul stones changes, that mage’s maximum Mana capacity changes accordingly.
Soul Stone Durability and Destruction: Soul stones are indestructible by conventional means, but can be damaged and destroyed by powers capable of attacking an Awakened soul directly. If a mage’s soul stone is somehow deadened or destroyed, that mage’s maximum Mana capacity is restored immediately, but their maximum Wisdom rating drops by one. This damage is lasting, and can leave a particularly unfortunate mage stuck at Wisdom 0 and incapable of producing soul stones, but might be repaired by powers capable of rebuilding an incomplete soul. Soul stones also die when their creators do, losing their durability and magical properties.
A mage whose soul is lost or destroyed is still linked to their soul stones by their nimbus, but loses the ability to sustain those stones as their nimbus degrades. Each time the mage’s Gnosis score drops such that they can’t maintain their current number of soul stones, the soul stone they’ve interacted with the least recently goes dead, permanently losing its power and damaging the mage’s Wisdom appropriately. A mage fallen to zero Gnosis can’t create or maintain soul stones at all.
Soul Stone Powers: Soul stones have the following special properties:
- Eternal Sympathy: A soul stone always has an Intimate sympathetic connection to its maker, no matter how often and how violently that connection is exploited by magic. Space magic can block a soul stone’s sympathetic connection but never degrade or destroy it.
- Mana Conduit: Each of a mage’s soul stones can be used, once per day, to steal that mage’s Mana. Following a minute’s concentration and physical contact with one or more soul stones, the thief’s Path resistance Attribute plus the victim’s Gnosis rating is rolled, and contested by the victim’s Path resistance Attribute alone. For each net success of the thief’s, one point of Mana is transferred. Only mages or other characters able to manipulate Mana can tap soul stones in this way. A familiar is always considered to be in contact with the soul stone it has merged with and can tap its creator’s Mana if it’s a creature that could naturally do so.
- Paradox Dissipation: Once per day for each of their soul stones, a mage can use their own soul stone to avoid causing paradox. Touching their soul stone and drawing on its materiality, the mage ensures that neither casting or refreshing vulgar spells nor Shaping a spontaneous spell will cause any paradox dice to be rolled. This effect lasts for only one round and doesn’t protect against Disbelief or other sources of paradox.
This action causes the substance of a mage’s Path to ripple through the physical world, extending outward from the stone with area factors equal to half the mage’s Gnosis score rounded up. Characters within this area, even Sleepers, enjoy the mage’s Mage Sight for one round, rendering all nearby magic obvious to those characters and potentially vulnerable to Disbelief.
Once a soul stone has been used in this way, it’s exhausted, and can’t be used to dissipate paradox, anoint a familiar, attune to a Hallow, or power a Demesne. Each time a mage performs a successful oblation with any of their soul stones on hand, they can bring one of those soul stones back to full strength.
DEMESNES: Master mages can use soul stones to form Demesnes, zones of space powerfully attuned to the Realms Supernal. Demesnes free mages from some of the limitations of the fallen world, but are extremely vulnerable to Sleeper Disbelief.
Demesne Creation: A Demesne can emanate from one to five soul stones, and is created through a vulgar improvised ritual spell using the Making practice in at least one of its caster’s ruling Arcana. At least one of the caster’s soul stones must be present at the ritual anchor. Up to four other stones can join it, but must be accompanied by their creators. The creator of each additional soul stone must remain in at the ritual anchor, participate in the ceremony, and pay 3 Mana to harmonize themselves with the ritual spell even if they can’t actually cast or attune themselves to it.
If, upon being Shaped, the ritual spell achieves a Potency at least equal to the number of soul stones present, a Demesne is created. The Demesne emanates from the ritual anchor and stretches outward to a size and shape determined by the primary caster, but can’t cover a greater area than would be allowed by a number of area factors equal to the number of soul stones used in the ritual. The Demesne is not a spell, but a lasting supernatural effect – it does not have a Potency or Tenacity and does not need to be refreshed or sustained. The Demesne lasts indefinitely, even if the ritual anchor it grew from is destroyed, but loses size if its constituent soul stones leave its boundaries until those stones are replaced, and winks out for good if all of its soul stones are removed. The creators of a Demesne can determine the pattern according to which a Demesne will lose size as its soul stones are removed. The soul stones that power a Demesne can still be attuned to Hallows and used to tap their creator’s Mana, but can’t be merged with familiars – they must remain discrete and inanimate.
New soul stones brought into a Demesne have no special effect, but rituals can be used to knit new soul stones into a Demesne currently powered by less than five stones, or to replace one of a Demesne’s constituent soul stones with a new one.
Demesne Effects: Demesnes are magical places that reflect the Paths of the soul stones that fuel them. They take on otherworldly qualities appropriate to the Arcana they embody, and also offer several concrete mechanical benefits to those within:
- Arcanum Affinity: Once each turn for each mage, a point of Mana a spent from a mage’s personal pool to Shape a spell that uses only a Demesne’s Arcana is immediately refunded.
- Mage Sight: Every creature within a Demesne benefits automatically and continuously from the Mage Sight associated with each of the Demesne’s empowering soul stones. Unfortunately, this benefit extends even to Sleepers.
- Paradox Free: No spells cast or Shaped within a Demesne’s boundaries ever cause paradox dice to be rolled or existing paradoxes to lengthen in duration. Already extant paradoxes are physically displaced, pushed to the boundaries of the Demesne as the Demesne forms, and only flow back into position if the Demesne recedes or dies.
Demesne Destruction: Demesnes are supremely vulnerable to Sleeper Disbelief. From the outside, a Demesne might simply look unusual to a Sleeper onlooker, but as soon as a Sleeper steps inside and acquires the Mage Sight their Quiescence works immediately to reject and destroy the supernal energy present.
Every turn, each mage whose soul stone powers a Demesne must pay 1 Mana per Sleeper in the Demesne’s boundaries. If they don’t, one of their soul stones that power the Demesne is severed from the Demesne: the stone is no longer considered to be among those powering the Demesne, causing the Demesne to lose size immediately. For each stone severed, paradox dice equal to the Gnosis rating of the stone’s creator are rolled to generate a new paradox in the ground the Demesne has lost. Fortunately, Demesnes that lose ground to Disbelief usually retract away from the Sleepers invading them.
FAMILIARS: An hour’s ceremony allows a mage to merge one of their soul stones with an animate being, turning that being into the mage’s familiar. Animals, humans, ghosts, and spirits can all become familiars, but mages, creatures with major supernatural templates, and creatures that share or inherit the powers of creatures with major supernatural templates cannot. A mage willing to create multiple soul stones can create multiple familiars, devoting one soul stone to each.
The supernal power submerged within the body of a familiar still counts as one of its creator’s soul stones for the purpose of the creator’s maximum Mana capacity. An hour’s contact followed by the expenditure of a a Willpower dot and Mana equal to the creator’s Gnosis allows a mage to withdraw a familiar’s anointment as though reabsorbing a soul stone, restoring the mage’s Mana capacity and leaving the former familiar bereft of supernal power but otherwise unharmed.
A familiar serves as an arcane conduit to its creator in the same way that a loose soul stone does – it has an unwavering Intimate sympathetic connection to its creator, it can be used by its creator to dissipate paradox, and it can be used by others to drain its creator’s Mana if captured and subdued. Magic capable of removing an Awakened soul can forcibly extract a soul stone from a familiar, and if a familiar is killed, its creator’s intact soul stone congeals somewhere within the corpse.
A mage and their familiar usually grow increasingly similar to each other, but the familiar bond itself has no power to enforce obedience or even basic etiquette. Powerful creatures that become a mage’s familiar often gain as much leverage over the mage as the mage gains over them, so mages usually make familiars from trusted friends, servants, and pets. In game terms, a familiar is usually a Retainer. Retainer dots represent that familiar’s core competence; the additional powers familiars gain are paid for by the costs and risks involved in creating a soul stone.
Familiar Powers: Familiars gain these advantages:
- Mage Sight: A familiar has its creator’s Mage Sight. Sleeper familiars receive an incomplete Mage Sight – they can recognize when Path-related phenomena are being supernaturally altered or when supernal magic is being used as a vague sense of something unusual going on, but can’t discern specifics or perform arcane scrutiny.
- Spell Delivery: A mage touching their familiar can grant their familiar one or more improvised spells. The mage spends the same action and Mana as the spell would normally cost, but the spell is stored by the familiar rather than taking effect. A familiar can store any number of spells indefinitely, but each stored spell lowers the mage’s maximum Mana capacity by its Mana cost until it’s cast by the familiar or reflexively and remotely revoked by the mage.
A familiar can cast a spell it’s holding at any time a mage could. Familiars can’t Shape spells they deliver and can only make use of the spell factors the mage gave them, but can target, control, dismiss, and reduce factors from spells they’ve cast normally. A mage can feel whether or not their familiar wants them to sustain or refresh an active spell, and can reduce, dismiss, refresh and sustain a familiar’s spell through the familiar, even if the mage is nowhere nearby.
Spells cast by a familiar are considered to have been cast by that familiar’s creator and are applied as part of the creator’s turn if both mage and familiar are acting together in a combat time.
- Spell Sharing: Any spell a mage casts on themselves can simultaneously affect that mage’s familiar at no additional cost, so long as the familiar is close at hand.
Becoming a mage’s familiar doesn’t free a Sleeper from the Quiescence. A Sleeping familiar still causes Disbelief, aggravates paradox, and fails to grasp the truth of magic, although they can be trained to unwittingly release covert spells (or, with some risk, vulgar spells) on a mage’s behalf.