Aether - Core Traits and Spellcasting

These rules detail the core traits and mechanics necessary to play Awakened mages.

Path: Each mage Awakens onto one of five Paths. A Path grants the following:

  • Ruling and Inferior Arcana: Two of a mage’s Arcana are considered ruling, and one is inferior.
  • Scrutiny Skills: Each Path’s Mage Sight allows its users to use Skills besides Occult in arcane scrutiny.
  • Nimbus: Each mage has a unique nimbus reflecting their Path and disposition.
  • Bolstered Resistance: Each mage’s Path favors either Composure or Resolve.


  • Gnosis: Gnosis determines a mage’s facility with Mana and resistance to supernatural power.
  • Mana: Mages spend points of Mana to cast spells.
  • Arcana: A mage’s ratings in the ten Arcana determine the effects a mage can weave into their spells.
  • Rotes: Rotes are specific spells which a mage can cast with greater ease owing to study and secret lore.
  • Wisdom: Mages use Wisdom instead of Morality.


  • Mage Sight: The Awakened automatically perceive things beyond the reach of normal human apprehension. Despite its name, the Mage Sight works through all of a being’s senses – a mage might find that an object smells enchanted, or that a handshake feels fateful.

    • Arcane Scrutiny: A mage or other character with Mage Sight or the use of a Knowing spell can magically study an area, creature, or object to learn the scrutinized subject’s qualities.

    • Damage Cap: A mage can’t take more than five wounds from one source in one instant. This applies before armor or other effects which act on damage received.

    • Sensory Magic: Mages benefit from all sensory spells of their ruling Arcana, and so can perceive the presence and surface characteristics of appropriate phenomena, and can tell if and how those phenomena are being affected by the supernatural. Mages similarly perceive phenomena unveiled by any known sensory rotes. It costs a mage one Willpower to gain the ability to reflexively suppress or reactivate their Path-based awareness for a scene. A mage can freely choose to eschew their sensory rotes.

    • Supernal Awareness: A character with Mage Sight can immediately detect the operation of supernal magic with their senses, seeing or otherwise perceiving the caster’s nimbus in both covert and vulgar spells. Mage Sight doesn’t tell a character exactly what a spell they witness does, but it does allow the viewer to tell where a spell originates and what that spell affects, as well as which Arcana of the viewer’s the spell incorporates. Mage Sight can also identify soul stones, activated Atlantean inscriptions, dedicated magical tools, and other supernal paraphernalia. As well, Mage Sight of any kind can detect unmoored souls by the subtle Arcana those souls contain, but specialized magic is required to detect or analyze souls with physical anchors.

    • Soul Loss: If a mage’s soul is lost, their nimbus begins to collapse. After each day, a soulless mage’s Gnosis score is rolled. If this roll succeeds, the mage loses a dot of Gnosis. This roll is only made once per week for a soulless mage with Gnosis 1. This Gnosis loss happens in addition to the consequences soul loss has for unAwakened human characters.

      A mage whose Gnosis is reduced to 0 loses the ability to store Mana, cast spells, and sustain the Mage Sight, effectively becoming a Sleepwalker. If their original soul is restored, a mage can regenerate their nimbus. With each successful Oblation they perform, they regain one lost Gnosis dot.

    • Willpower Dots: Mages naturally recover lost Willpower dots at a rate of one per month, but with some difficulty. A Gnosis roll is made when a mage would regain a Willpower dot in this way, and the dot is only regained on a success. Otherwise, the mage must wait another month. A mage can’t spend Willpower to add dice to this roll, although at the Storyteller’s discretion favorable mystical circumstances can provide an Edge.

    • Wisdom: Unlike Morality, Wisdom can be lost involuntarily. The player of a mage in crisis tracks how many times a crisis’s roll has been failed as well as how many times it has been succeeded on. If, after a failed crisis roll, the number of failed rolls equals or exceeds the crisis’s associated dicepool, the mage automatically degenerates, losing a dot of Wisdom but ending their crisis and regaining rather than losing Willpower. Accumulated failures remain if a sin causes an extant crisis of conscience to be replaced by a new one without being resolved.

      A mage’s Wisdom rating determines the most severe kind of paradox that mage can inadvertently lengthen:

      • Wisdom 5: None
      • Wisdom 4: Corona
      • Wisdom 3: Aurora
      • Wisdom 2: Anomaly
      • Wisdom 1: Maelstrom
      • Wisdom 0: All, simultaneously

    SPECIAL ABILITIES: All mages possess the following capabilities.

    • Blood Sacrifice: A mage can ritually sacrifice a living creature to reap Mana proportionate to the sacrifice’s size: 1 point for a small creature such as a cat or rabbit, 2 points for a larger creature such as a dog or goat, and 3 points for a human being or a large creature such as a bull. This requires at least a minute’s uninterrupted ceremony, and must end with the mage striking a killing blow on the sacrifice.
      Sacrificing a human being or other living, sapient creature with a Morality score generates 3 additional Mana per success on a Morality (or equivalent trait) roll made for the sacrifice at time of death. The sacrifice can’t prevent or sabotage this roll, but can spend Willpower to enhance it if they choose to.

      A mage gains Mana from a sacrifice’s size only once per day, but there is no limit on the amount of additional Mana that can be gained from Morality rolls made for sapient sacrifices.

    • Oblation: A mage can perform one oblation per day. An oblation is a ceremony related to the mage’s Path or Legacy taking at least one hour in which a mage pulls Mana from the fallen world and into their personal Mana pool. At the ceremony’s completion, a roll is made for the mage and the mage gains one point of Mana per success. An oblation that’s interrupted can be begun anew, but once the oblation roll has been made a mage’s daily oblation is spent.

      A mage without a Legacy can only perform an oblation in a Hallow, and must exhaust one point of a Hallow’s potential Mana upon their ceremony’s completion. Their oblation dicepool is equal to their Gnosis or their Path resistance Attribute, whichever is higher. A mage using a Hallow to oblate gains one Mana per success, plus additional Mana equal to the three plus the Hallow’s rating.

      A mage with a Legacy can perform an oblation anywhere, and uses an oblation ceremony and dicepool particular to their Legacy; generally, this dicepool consists of two mundane traits, and gains a bonus die for each dot of Gnosis past the fifth. On completing an oblation, a Legacy mage receives three Mana plus one more per success. However, their oblation does not benefit from a Hallow in any way. Mages with Legacies can still exploit Hallows in other ways, but do not and cannot use them for oblations.

    • Arcane Scrutiny: A mage’s Intelligence plus an appropriate Skill is rolled when that mage magically scrutinizes a target. Occult is always applicable, but mages can use other Skills based on their Path, Order, and Legacy. This roll receives an Edge equal to the number of rolls to the same end preceding it, to a maximum Edge of +5.

      Scrutiny might be performed through the generalized awareness offered by the Mage Sight or through a specific Knowing spell, whether improvised or rote. In the former case, each success rolled reveals something notable or unusual about the target having to do with the mage’s ruling Arcana. In the latter case, each success rolled reveals a piece of information the Knowing spell in use is designed to find. As well, scrutiny successes might become an Edge on a future attempt to leverage knowledge about the subject. With successes equal to a relevant trait of the target’s, scrutiny can hint at but not directly reveal deeply hidden secrets such as the bane of a spirit or the ban of a destiny. Additionally, rolling at least one success allows a mage to learn the scrutinized subject’s resonance.

      Once in a turn, a mage using a Knowing spell can instantly and automatically apply a single scrutiny success as a minor action, learning the most immediate answer to a question the spell poses. To learn more, the mage must observe their subject for at least a minute, at which point a scrutiny roll is made. Scrutinizing a subject means focusing on it intently and uninterruptedly, so a mage unable to stare at, listen to, handle, or otherwise investigate their subject for an extended period won’t be able to scan its resonance. Further investigation doesn’t require such total meditative focus, but does require mostly uninterrupted proximity to the object of scrutiny and plenty of time to think.

      An hour of scrutiny allows for a second roll with a +1 Edge. Two more hours allow for another roll with a +2 Edge, and half a day’s concerted effort allows another roll with a +3 Edge. Beyond this, each full day of observation allows the investigator’s player to make another roll with 1 more Edge than the last, up to a maximum Edge of +5. These rolls don’t total their successes. Each represents another shot at rolling many successes at once and therefore discovering particularly subtle details.

      The time increments of rolls only increase if a mage is attempting to learn increasingly subtle facts about targets they’ve already scrutinized. A mage with multiple different Knowing spells at hand can use them in rapid succession, and only needs extra time if they want more chances to unearth information of a sort they’ve already begun to glean. However, only the first scrutiny roll of each time increment on a given subject counts towards investigating that subject’s resonance.

      • Resonance is a Pattern’s abstract metaphysical fingerprint, detectable through any of the Arcana. Mages detect resonance in the course of using Knowing magic, perceiving the subtle, characteristic idiosyncracies of whatever information their magic reveals to them. Resonance doesn’t reveal a subject’s direct tangible properties, but reflects its history, nature, and personality relative to its environment and other creatures, objects, or places of its kind. Once a mage knows something or someone’s resonance, they can recognize it elsewhere, therefore identifying a gun’s holster, a creature’s lair, or another mage’s spells. Learning a place’s resonance is usually the first step in preparing that place to play host to long-term magic.

        Mages automatically learn a subject’s resonance in the course of scrutinizing that subject through their Mage Sight or any Knowing spell, gleaning resonance in addition to whatever information their scrutiny reveals. The first roll made to scrutinize that subject in each time increment (the first that took a minute, then the first that took an hour, and so on) determines how detailed the mage’s apprehension of the subject’s resonance is. One success is sufficient to learn the unique resonance signature of the subject, and further successes allow the mage to recognize other resonance signatures lingering on the subject due to past contact. The more successes rolled at once, the fainter the resonance the mage can detect.

        Knowing spells using Prime and Spirit can reveal resonance directly, gleaning a subject’s own resonance signature in a single minor action. Detecting other resonance signatures on the subject requires scrutiny as above.

        • 1 success: The mage learns the unique resonance signature of the subject, and also of whatever creature, structure, or place the subject was recently severed or harvested from

        • 2 successes – Intimate: The mage detects the resonance of things that interacted with the subject closely, repeatedly, and for appreciable time (a story, by default).

        • 3 successes – Known: The mage detects the resonance of things that have interacted frequently with the subject, and at least once in the past week.

        • 4 successes – Acquainted: The mage detects the resonance of things that have interacted with the subject briefly and occasionally, and at least in the past month.

        • 5 successes – Encountered: The mage detects the resonance of things that have met, held, or encountered the subject once in the past year.

        • N/A: – Unknown Resonance signatures more than a year old, or that has been rarefied by Occultation or similar means past Encountered level, cannot be gleaned

        An active and sustained spell has the same resonance signature as its caster does. The aftereffects of a mage’s spells are Intimate to the caster when instantiated, but become Known after a week, Acquainted after a month, and Encountered after a year. Otherwise, things affected transiently by a mage’s magic carry that mage’s resonance based on frequency and intensity of contact, as above.

        A mage must actually remember a resonance signature they’ve encountered before in order to recognize it, and the Storyteller might require mental rolls for a character to recognize a signature that they haven’t seen in a while or that has drifted in tenor. Drastic or long-term changes to something’s nature or circumstances might change that thing’s resonance beyond recognition, so no memorized resonance signature is guaranteed to remain useful in pereptuity.

    • Soul Stone Creation: A mage can spend a point of Mana and a point of Willpower after a minute’s concentration to create a soul stone. A mage’s maximum Mana capacity decreases based on 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

      A mage can’t maintain more soul stones at a time than the lesser of their maximum Wisdom rating (usually 5) or half their Gnosis rating rounded up. A mage holding onto their own soul stone can spend points of Mana equal to their Gnosis rating and a dot of Willpower after an hour’s concentration to reintegrate that stone into their soul, replenishing their maximum Mana capacity.

      Soul stones can be used to dissipate paradox, claim familiars and Hallows, and power Demesnes. One mage can use another’s soul stone to remotely drain the Mana of the soul stone’s creator. Soul stones are indestructible by conventional means, and have sympathetic connections to their creators that never degrade with use. If a mage’s soul stone is somehow destroyed, the mage regains their maximum Mana but is spiritually crippled: until the mage finds some way to repair their fractured soul, their maximum Wisdom is reduced by one.

    A Sleeper’s soul ties the elements of a person’s Pattern into a coherent whole but interacts not at all with the outside world. The soul of an Awakened mage is different: it has a nimbus, an aura of power and influence that extends beyond that mage’s person. An Awakened nimbus provides leverage by which the will can shape the world directly, imposing supernal law on fallen reality and subjugating fact to desire.

    Aspect: Each spell is has an aspect, a description of how much raw supernal power that spell exerts against the world. The more blatant a spell’s aspect, the greater that spell is in effect, but the more costly it is to cast and the more violent is fallen reality’s backlash against it. There are three possible aspects: sensory, covert, and vulgar.

    • Sensory spells represent the most fundamental privilege of the Awakened – to know the secrets of the world. Sensory magic might allow a mage to perceive something otherwise imperceptible, understand something previously unintelligible, or learn something otherwise inaccessible. Sensory spells sometimes expand the scope of a mage’s senses and sometimes bypass the senses to deliver information directly. Mage Sight itself represents the most basic sort of sensory magic: a passive, continuous awareness of phenomena to which one of the five watchtowers grants access. Magic of this aspect can’t dredge up dark secrets, wrench forth spirit bans, or access other deeply hidden information; more powerful magic is usually required to push past the barriers that guard sensitive, private knowledge.

      Sensory spells are private workings of the soul – they affect only their own caster, and cannot be imbued into their targets as spells of stronger aspect can. The function of sensory magic is totally undetectable by normal means and involves no change in the world whatsoever – spells of this sort don’t rely on any kind of probe or sonar, but rather widen the gates of their caster’s perception to allow for instant psychic apprehension of their target phenomena. Intense metaphysical scrutiny might note the casting of sensory magic as ripples in the caster’s soul, but otherwise sensory spells are beyond even magic’s ability to detect. Similarly, sensory spells cannot be countered or dispelled.

      Sensory magic never aggravates or causes paradox and is never subject to Sleeper Disbelief. Rotes of sensory aspect are internal and incessant; each one is a lasting expansion of the mage’s perception, lost only if the mage forgets, replaces, or ceases to practice the rote. Scrutiny through sensory rotes sometimes uses facial mudras, but more often involves thought experiments, pondered koans, and visualization exercises designed to lend a mage access to a perspective normally offered by a foreign Watchtower. Mages never need to learn sensory rotes for spells from their ruling Arcana, since they can already cast all such spells at no cost.

    • Covert spells subtly bend the world to the mage’s will. Covert spells can be very significant in effect – telepathic messages, power outages, or spirit summons can make huge differences, in the right place and at the right time – but don’t exercise dramatic and overt supernatural power.

      Covert spells are in principle detectable by mundane means – thermal scanners might detect inexplicable heat fluctuations, horoscopes might shift minutely, and so on – but look more like the effects of faulty equipment or blind luck than of miracles. Other magic can detect or interfere with covert magic by locking onto or hindering the means of its operation.

      Sleepers who make use of specialized equipment or bear witness to repeated freak coincidence might cause covert spells to fail. Covert magic doesn’t cause paradox on its own, but standing paradoxes can react adversely to the presence of covert spells. The mudras of covert rotes are usually circumspect and low-key, easily mistaken for mundane gestures or idle displacement activity.

    • Vulgar spells blatantly transform the world in accordance with their caster’s desire, causing supernal law to trump fallen law and imagination to become reality. Vulgar spells allow their casters to instantly and sometimes violently change the world around them, or to bring impossible states of affairs into being; objects vanish or levitate, space-time bends and warps, the dead walk, and minds are untethered from bodies.

      Vulgar spells are marked by the nimbuses of their casters. Some might be imperceptible to bystanders because they affect unseen or supernatural targets or act to directly hide things from view, but to those in position to watch vulgar magic is obviously supernatural in nature. Vulgar spells can be hindered or countered just as covert spells can, though their greater power makes them more difficult to resist.
      Vulgar spells always cause or aggravate paradox and are always eroded by Sleeper apprehension. Vulgar rotes tend to be bold and dramatic, calling for mudras of obviously ceremonial or theatric significance.

    Mana: Spells are fueled by Mana, the raw stuff of creation. The more blatant or wide-ranging a spell is, the more Mana that spell requires. Improvised spells using only a mage’s ruling Arcana require less Mana than usual, and rote spells of any kind require less Mana still. Generally, only the sensory magic of a mage’s ruling Arcana and rotes of sensory or covert aspect are free to cast. Mages can draw on places of power or their own will or vitality to help satisfy a spell’s cost.

    Shaping: All spells enjoy a baseline, automatic level of success based on their aspect, but have the potential for more. A mage can flood a spell with power as they cast or sustain it, spending Mana over and above the spell’s normal cost to increase the force with which that spell transforms the world; an act of Shaping might represent zombies leaping to attack with a burst of newfound vigor, a standing wall of flame surging forward like a tidal wave, or an atmosphere of disquiet suddenly sharpening to spark a riot. Shaping gives a mage license to repurpose, embellish, or otherwise improvise on a spell, but its effects are as fleeting as they are dramatic.

    Transience: Supernal magic cannot survive long exposure to fallen reality. Though the consequences of a spell’s casting might be long-lasting, the magic of the spell itself withers and dies without its caster’s continued exertion. When supernal spells are made to persist beyond their castings, it requires a sacrifice on the part of the caster, the subject, or both, and even subtlest and most benign of blessings strains and burns its vessel.

    A single, coherent working of supernal magic is called a spell. A spell might incorporate one or many of the ten Arcana and have several game-mechanical consequences. A spell can be cast at anything in sensory range, and by default can affect one being or object not much larger than a car, or an area about a yard in diameter. Covert spells can target and affect anything the mage can perceive, even if the mage and target are intangible to each other, while vulgar spells can only affect targets tangible to the caster.

    A player whose character casts a spell declares which of that character’s Arcana are being used to which effect, and then determines the spell’s action, aspect, method, and factors. These traits determine a spell’s cost. Each method, listed below, specifies its base Mana cost, but as a rule of thumb: A spell’s cost scales with aspect from one to three, minus one if the spell is improvised and uses only its caster’s ruling Arcana or minus two if the spell is cast by rote.

    All the Mana in a spell’s cost must be spent simultaneously, so a mage’s Gnosis trait limits the amount of power that mage can bring to bear at once. Sources of free Mana such as pattern scouring, places of power and words of power can make a spell’s Mana cost easier for a mage to pay.

    Once a spell’s Mana cost have been paid, that spell is successfully cast and takes automatic effect. Aspect determines a spell’s Potency and Tenacity, which measure a spell’s ability to affect the world and resist attack. Certain actions and circumstances, most commonly Shaping, can temporarily increase a spell’s Potency and Tenacity. Aspect also determines an active spell’s ability to boost or hinder other actions.

    Once cast, spell continues to operate until its caster’s next turn begins. While a spell is in effect, its caster can choose to sustain it, causing its effects to last until the end of the scene. A mage can’t sustain spells whose total cost exceeds that mage’s Gnosis score.

    SPELL ACTION – Spontaneous or Ritual: A spontaneous spell takes a single instant, minor, or reflexive action and can be cast anywhere, while a ritual spell requires at least an hour of ceremony, a sacrament, and a dedicated ritual anchor.

    • Instant Actions: Spells that directly harm, impede, heal, or otherwise significantly affect the mage or another character require instant actions, as do spells that dramatically alter the environment of a scene, engage with narratively important objectives, unearth hidden information or provide in-depth analysis of some phenomenon. Instant spells are assumed to take direct effect upon casting, so summoned minions act right away, conjured hazards deal immediate damage, and so on.
      Examples: cursing someone with bad luck, reading someone’s mind, plunging a room into darkness

    • Minor Actions: Spells that set the mage up to take instant actions they otherwise couldn’t, augment the mage’s normal efforts, or expand the range of the mage’s senses are cast as minor actions. A mage can cast as many minor action spells as their Mana allows and then proceed to take the rest of their turn with whatever benefits those spells provide.
      Examples: locating nearby spirits, gaining superhuman strength, phasing through a wall

    • Reflexive Actions: Spells affecting only a mage’s own reflexive actions can be cast out of turn. Reflexive spells are almost always protective in nature and are usually used to augment or replace a mage’s use of Defense or a resistance trait to mitigate the effects of an attack. Reflexively cast spells might affect whatever character or force is threatening the caster, but almost never significantly alter other characters or the scene as a whole.
      Examples: deflecting bullets, preventing one’s self from being scried, shrugging off mind control

    • Rituals: Spells with particularly wide-ranging, long-lasting, or world-altering effects usually need to be cast as rituals. Ritual spells require at least an hour’s uninterrupted effort to begin and then take effect for as long as their ceremonies continue. Some Arcanum effects can only be produced through rituals, but mages can also use ritual magic to enhance the duration of a spell they could cast normally, extending for hours an effect so costly it would normally last only a turn. In-depth rules for ritual casting are found below.
      Examples: brainwashing, soul theft, weather working

    SPELL ASPECT – Sensory, Covert, or Vulgar: A spell’s aspect describes the extent to which the spell must alter reality to achieve its aims, and therefore how costly, obvious, and powerful the spell is.

    • Sensory (Potency 1, Tenacity 1) – 1 Mana to improvise, 0 Mana to improvise from Ruling Arcana only or cast by rote,
      Boost: 1 minimum success

    • Covert (Potency 2, Tenacity 2) – 1 Mana to improvise, 0 Mana to cast by rote
      Shaping Dicepool: 9-again, 2 dice per Gnosis dot
      Boost: 2 minimum successes, 9-again on dice
      Hindrance: 2 opposing successes

    • Vulgar (Potency 3, Tenacity 3) – 2 Mana to improvise, 1 Mana to cast by rote
      Shaping Dicepool: 8-again, 3 dice per Gnosis dot
      Boost: 3 minimum successes, 8-again on dice
      Hindrance: 3 opposing successes

    Some spells make impossible changes of the world to produce ongoing effects that aren’t in particular contravention of natural law. For instance, transforming into a natural animal or instantly conjuring violent weather out of a clear sky are impossible in the fallen world, but the resulting bear or thunderstorm are not. Vulgar Improvised spells or rotes can be designed such that their sustained effects are considered covert rather than vulgar. Such spells still have the Mana cost of vulgar spells and are subject to Disbelief when cast, but in turns past the first are mechanically equivalent to covert spells and don’t trigger Disbelief when seen by Sleepers.

    SPELL METHOD – Improvised or Rote: Aspect and method together determine a spell’s base Mana cost. Rote spells are easier to cast, as are improvised Sensory spells using only a mage’s Ruling Arcana.

      Sensory (Ruling Only): 0 base Mana cost
      Sensory or Covert: 1 base Mana cost
      Vulgar: 2 base Mana cost

      Sensory or Covert: 0 base Mana cost
      Vulgar: 1 base Mana cost

      SPELL FACTORS: A spell might have no spell factors, or it might have one or several. Spell factors determine a spell’s reach, size, or scope and persist for so long as that spell lasts. A mage can’t freely add, subtract, or swap the factors of an extant spell – they must cast a spell anew to reconfigure it to that extent. Each spell factor of any kind increases a spell’s Mana cost by one.
      • Area factors increase the total area a spell can affect.
        0: An adult’s armspan
        1: A hallway or living room
        2: A lecture hall or tennis court
        3: An apartment building floor or suburban house
        4: A football field or mansion
        + 1: Further area factors each roughly double the total area

      • Damage factors alter a spell’s ability to inflict or repair wounds, or to affect a target’s resources. A spell can’t reap more than one resource in the course of inflicting damage on a target; a single wound dealt can produce either healing, or Mana, or Willpower. If a spell’s factors allow it to do both, its caster or wielder chooses which resource is generated by each wound caused.
        0: The spell inflicts or heals bashing or lethal wounds, or the spell destroys a target’s Essence, Mana or Willpower, or the spell makes wounds a target already has become Resistant.
        + 1: The spell inflicts one point of damage for each point of Essence, Mana, or Willpower it destroys
        + 1: The spell inflicts or heals aggravated wounds.
        + 1: The spell inflicts or transfers Resistant wounds.
        + 1: Damage dealt also heals the caster or another target; every two non-Resistant wounds, or each Resistant wound inflicted or upgraded, allows the spell to heal one wound of the same or a less severe type.
        + 1: Resistant lethal or aggravated damage reaps Mana or Willpower for the caster or another target; each Resistant wound inflicted or upgraded generates one point of Mana or Willpower. Temporary damage can’t generate resources this way.
        + 1: Damage destroys the target’s Essence, Mana or Willpower; every two non-Resistant wounds or each Resistant wound inflicted subtracts one resource point.
        + 1: Mana or Willpower that the spell would destroy is instead transferred to the caster or another target

      • Precision factors allow spells to overcome targeting obstacles. Area factors or special senses can obviate the need for precision factors.
        0: The mage clearly perceives the target and their location (normally with sight or touch) and is in the target’s vicinity
        + 1: The target is heavily obscured and can only be pinpointed by guesswork or Knowing magic
        + 1: The target is very distant

      • Size factors allow spells to take effect on larger single targets.
        0: A grizzly bear or passenger car
        1: An elephant or train car
        2: A barn or whale
        3: A suburban house or large yacht
        + 1: Further size factors each roughly double the total possible size

      • Sympathy factors allow spells to reach across sympathetic distance between the target and the caster. Spells with multiple targets need only enough sympathy factors to reach the single most distant target, so a spell targeting two Intimate characters and one Encountered character needs 4 sympathy factors. A spell that exploits a sympathetic connection against the will of at least one of its endpoints degrades that connection by one step; this wear and tear heals by one step for each day a sympathetic connection goes untouched by magic. Connections to inanimate objects or places only regenerate if their sentient endpoints want them to.
        0: Sensory – the subject is in sensory range
        1: Intimate – the caster has closely interacted with the subject for appreciable time (a story, by default), or is targeting the subject through a piece of their physical substance
        2: Known – the caster has frequently interacted personally with the subject, or is targeting the subject through live electronic communication or through an important friend or possession
        3: Acquainted – the caster met and interacted with the subject casually, distantly, or occasionally, or is targeting the subject through a photo or other accurate representation
        4: Encountered – the subject has been met, held, or touched by the caster once
        5: Described – the caster has never encountered the subject but knows about them
        N/A: Unknown connections are beyond the reach of sympathy factors
        + 1: The subject has at least two dots of Fame or Occultation, and isn’t otherwise Intimate or better
        + 1: The caster doesn’t know the subject’s real name

      • Target factors each double the number of discrete objects, characters, or zones of space a spell affects.
        0: One target
        1: Two targets
        2: Four targets
        + 1: Double the previous number of targets

      SPELL EFFECTS: Potency and Tenacity measure a spell’s ability to affect the world and withstand assault. As well, a spell can usually boost actions aligned with its aims and hinder actions that would oppose it.

      • Potency: Potency is a number measuring a spell’s raw power, effectively serving as automatic rolled successes enforcing the spell’s effect. A spell derives its base Potency from its aspect: sensory spells have base Potency 1, covert spells base Potency 2, and vulgar spells base Potency 3. Shaping can temporarily increase a spell’s Potency.

      • Tenacity: Tenacity is a number measuring a spell’s resistance to attack or sabotage, effectively serving as automatic rolled successes contesting attempts to dispel or destroy the spell, or attempts by targets the spell has already affected to escape the spell’s hold. A spell derives its base Tenacity from its aspect: sensory spells have base Tenacity 1, covert spells base Tenacity 2, and vulgar spells base Tenacity 3. Shaping and Atlantean runes can temporarily increase a spell’s Tenacity.

      • Boost: Many spells enhance normal actions, whether deliberately or incidentally. A spell’s aspect determines the degree to which that spell improves appropriate rolls: sensory spells guarantee 1 minimum success, covert spells guarantee 2 minimum successes and grant the 9-again rule, and vulgar spells guarantee 3 minimum successes and grant the 8-again rule.

      • Hindrance: Many spells create obstacles to action, whether deliberately or incidentally. A spell’s aspect determines the degree to which that spell opposes the actions of other characters: covert spells hinder with 2 successes, and vulgar spells with 3 successes. A hindering spell might use its successes to directly contest rolled actions, or it might make actions that normally succeed automatically instead require rolled successes at least equal to the hindering spell’s.

      A mage uses Shaping to increase the force with which a covert or vulgar spell acts on the world. Spontaneous spells and ritual spells are Shaped in different ways, but in both cases effort on a mage’s part temporarily increases the Shaped spell’s Potency. Sensory spells can’t be Shaped; they act in the soul of their user, not on the substance of Creation.

      • Spontaneous Shaping: A mage uses Mana to Shape spontaneous magic. A spontaneous spell can only be Shaped on the same turn that it’s been cast or refreshed. Within that turn, the spell can be Shaped multiple times if its caster has Mana to spare.

        The cost of Shaping a spell is based on that the mage’s familiarity with that spell:

        • Rote Spell: 1 Mana
        • Improvised Spell using Ruling Arcana only: 1 Mana
        • Improvised Spell using Ruling or Common Arcana: 2 Mana
        • Improvised Spell using Inferior Arcanum: 3 Mana

      • Ritual Shaping: Mages use time and ceremony to Shape ritual spells. As soon as a ritual is cast, and after every subsequent hour of ceremony, a ritual spell stores a point of Shaping potential, up to points equal to the caster’s Gnosis rating.

        At any time, a ritual’s caster can expend all that ritual’s points of stored Shaping potential to Shape the ritual spell. Thereafter, the ritualist cannot attempt to gather or spend Shaping potential without first repaying the ritual’s full Mana cost and destroying another appropriate sacrament.

      SHAPING ROLLS: When a mage Shapes a spell, whether spontaneous or ritual, a Shaping roll is made to determine how effectively that mage can direct the gathered power. The Shaping dicepool is based on the mage’s Gnosis rating:

      • Covert: 2 times Gnosis dice; all dice gain 9-again
      • Vulgar: 3 times Gnosis dice; all dice gain 8-again

      A Shaping roll always enjoys the rote action quality: failed dice are re-rolled, and the player chooses whether the original or the new success total is used. The Shaping roll made for a ritual is always considered to have generated at least as many successes as the points of Shaping potential expended.

      A Willpower point may be spent to add 3 dice to a shaping roll, just as to the roll made for a normal action. Otherwise, Shaping dicepools don’t suffer Difficulties or gain Edges in the course of normal events, whether from mundane or supernatural sources.

      SHAPING ACTION: Any kind of action can be used to Shape a spell, and the kind of action used determines what ends Shaping can achieve.

      • Spontaneous: Empowering a spontaneous spell requires an action appropriate to the Shaping’s end goal: attacking someone through Shaping requires an instant action, defending one’s self by Shaping is a reflexive action, and so on. This doesn’t have to be the same kind of action that the spell being Shaped originally required to cast, so a spell instantiated as a minor action might be weaponized as an instant action or leveraged defensively as a reflexive action. A spell might be Shaped reflexively for no other reason but to oppose a dispellation.

        Sometimes a Shaping roll is made when a player would have otherwise simply declared the effects of a spell being cast. At other times, Shaping rolls take the place of those made for normal actions, replacing whatever dicepool would have been rolled for the mage. A Shaping roll might replace an Athletics roll to evade attack, a Resolve + Gnosis roll to shrug off mind control, or a Strength + Brawl + Edge roll to attack another character. Instead of relying on the laws of the fallen world and the capabilities of their own mind and body, the mage wields their nimbus directly against reality.

      • Ritual: A ritualist with at least one point of Shaping potential can use it at any time, even as a reflexive response to some other character’s action. Once they’ve done so, however, they can’t attempt to accumulate Shaping potential or Shape the ritual spell again without repaying all the ritual’s costs, including the sacrament.

      SHAPING RESULTS: Successes on a Shaping roll immediately increase a spell’s Potency and Tenacity, though usually not for very long.

      • Spontaneous: Each success on a Shaping roll made for an instant or minor action increases the Potency and Tenacity of the spell being Shaped by 1 until the beginning of the mage’s next turn. The spell’s new Potency is treated as the successes rolled for whatever action of the mage’s the act of Shaping replaced.

        Each success on a Shaping roll made for a reflexive action increases the Tenacity of the spell being Shaped by 1 until the beginning of the mage’s next turn. The spell’s new Tenacity is treated as the successes rolled for whatever defensive or reactionary action the mage’s act of Shaping replaced.

        Each Shaping roll made for the same spell overwrites the last; only the most recent success total is added to the spell’s default Potency or Tenacity. Either way, the effects of Shaping only last until the mage’s next turn, at which point the spell’s Potency and Tenacity fall to their base value.

      • Ritual: Each success on the Shaping roll (which is considered to have scored at least as many successes as the caster used points of Shaping potential) increases the ritual spell’s Potency by 1 until the end of the ritualist’s turn, and increases the spell’s Tenacity by 1 until the end of the scene. Afterwards, until the ritual spell ends or is Shaped again, Tenacity is increased by 1 for each point of Shaping potential expended.

      Paradox: Shaping a vulgar spell, whether spontaneous or ritual, always adds dice to the collective paradox roll made at the end of the round equal to the caster’s Gnosis. Use of magical tools can mitigate the risk of paradox.

      SPELL COST: The total Mana cost of a spell is equal to its base Mana cost plus the total number of its factors. Cost reductions from rotes and ruling Arcana don’t stack; a mage casting a spell simply uses the most advantageous base Mana cost they can access. A spell’s Mana cost can’t fall below zero. Shaping a spell doesn’t increase its cost and therefore does not make it more difficult to sustain.
      Example: A vulgar improvised spell that deals aggravated damage to three targets has a Base Mana Cost of 3, one Damage factor, and two Target factors, so it costs 6 Mana to cast. Most mages can’t summon that much power without injuring themselves in the process.

      Free Mana: Certain actions or advantages can contribute Mana towards the casting or Shaping of a spell, or towards other efforts that require Mana such as activating an imbued item or fighting through Disbelief. These sources of power effectively spend points of Mana alongside a character or in the character’s stead. Sources of free mana can don’t reduce a spell’s actual Mana cost, so they don’t make spells cast with their aid any easier to sustain.

      • Pattern Scouring (1 free Mana per wound suffered): A mage can reflexively take Resistant lethal wounds as they cast a spell, paying off one Mana point of that spell’s cost per wound incurred. A mage can’t scour more points of health than they have available empty or bashing health boxes. This damage is applied immediately after the spell it fuels is cast, and can’t be transferred or otherwise affected by the same spell it pays for. Mages incapacitated by pattern scouring don’t begin to bleed out.

      • Place of Power (1 free Mana when in a Hallow): Hallows and similar places automatically pay one point of the Mana cost of any spell cast within their borders. Spells that oppose local resonance don’t benefit from a Hallow. Multiple overlapping places of power can make this benefit easier to qualify for, but don’t increase its size.

      • Words of Power (1 free Mana for 1 Willpower): A mage with the proper training can spend one Willpower point fuel an incantation in the Atlantean High Speech, paying one point of a spell’s Mana cost.

      Example: A mage with Gnosis 3 wants to cast a spell that costs 6 Mana. They can only spend 3 points of Mana at once on their own, but can use a Willpower point to utter a High Speech incantation that contributes 1 more Mana to the spell, and suffer two Resistant lethal wounds to pay the final 2 Mana points required. The spell’s actual Mana cost is still 6, so it’s too powerful for the mage to sustain through the scene.

      A spontaneous spell’s effect lasts until the beginning of its caster’s next turn. A mage can instinctively sense the status of spells they’ve cast and intuit exactly when those spells will naturally end. At any time during their turn, even immediately upon a spell’s casting or at the instant a spell would expire, a spell’s caster can reduce, dismiss, refresh, or sustain that spell. A mage must be conscious to take these actions, but can take more than one and in any combination; for instance, a mage might dismiss two sustained spells, reduce a spell cast last turn to a manageable size, and then sustain that spell rather than refreshing it all at the beginning of their turn.

      Reducing a spell means removing factors, releasing affected targets or areas, or lowering the number of successes a spell applies to boost, hinder, or inflict other consequences. The caster chooses which spaces or targets a spell releases if area or target factors are reduced. Reducing factors lowers a spell’s Mana cost, making that spell easier to refresh or sustain. Factors and targets released in this way cannot be reclaimed unless the spell is recast, but a reduced spell can be reflexively restored to full strength at any time during its creator’s turn.

      Dismissing a spell means willing that spell to end. A dismissed spell ceases to boost or hinder actions or impose magical consequences on targets, though it may have aftereffects.

      Refreshing a spell means repaying that spell’s full Mana cost to buy that spell another round of operation. This works like casting a spell anew: sources of free Mana can help to pay the spell’s cost, any targets meant to retain the spell must be within the range of the caster allowed by the spell’s factors, and paradox is triggered as normal. Targets out of the caster’s sight and whose sympathy to the caster has degraded beyond the spell’s allotted therefore cease to be affected even when a spell is refreshed. Otherwise, a refreshed spell doesn’t need to overcome the resistance of its unwilling targets all over again, and continues to impose consequences on characters whose defenses it already overcame.

      Sustaining a spell means anchoring that spell in the caster’s nimbus. A sustained spell takes continuing effect for the remainder of the scene, or roughly an hour, unless it’s dismissed earlier. After that, it must be refreshed before it can be sustained further. Sustained spells last through the scene even if their casters lose consciousness, but end if their casters die.

      A mage can’t sustain a greater total Mana cost in spontaneous spells than that mage has dots of Gnosis. Some spells are simply too powerful to sustain and others might require currently sustained spells to first be dismissed. A mage is free to cast new spells while sustaining others, and can freely dismiss older spells to make room to sustain newly cast spells.

      The presence of a sustained spell might mean that a mage can continue to exert superhuman strength or hurl bolts of flame, that animated or summoned servants persist and act in future turns, that magically-sculpted features of the environment remain in place, and so on. A mage can broadly direct the ongoing effects of a spell they are refreshing or sustaining, but can’t change that spell’s effects or add to its area, size, targets, or other factors without casting the spell anew. Since a mage must be conscious to refresh a spell, even if that spell is free to cast, a matrix of sustained spells usually doesn’t outlast the first hour or so of its caster’s sleep.

      Free Spells: Sensory rotes, covert rotes, and sensory improvised spells of a mage’s Path Arcana have a base Mana cost of zero. A mage that is conscious and free to act can always assume themselves to have cast and be sustaining any sensory or covert spell that they can use with no Mana cost. However the nimbus can only sustain one free copy of each rote spell known at a time; each instance of the same rote past the first has a minimum Mana cost of 1, whatever aspect and factors it has. Free spells supported by Atlantean inscriptions or other external contrivances do not count against this limit, so a mage can freely protect themselves with the same covert rote that shields a rune-etched safe in their sanctum.

      Free sensory spells – those derived from ruling Arcana and sensory rotes – don’t need to be formally cast, and are always in effect unless consciously suppressed. Since magic that provides in-depth analysis requires a minor or instant action to use, a mage isn’t actually omniscient with regard to their ruling Arcana. Rather, they are constantly aware of the presence and surface characteristics of path-related phenomena, and always free to investigate those phenomena more thoroughly given time and inclination.

      Possessing certain Arcana entitles a mage to cast spells at ranges or with targeting parameters that are normally unavailable. Augmenting a spell with conjunctional Arcana doesn’t actually require that those Arcana be incorporated into the spell, so rotes don’t need to formally incorporate whatever conjunctional Arcana are in use. Conjunctional casting does involve calling on and manipulating the domain of whichever Arcanum is in use, though, and so opens a spell to manipulation or countermeasures that might not normally be applicable; for instance, a mind control spell cast at sympathetic range through conjunctional Space could be defended against with Mind magic that fortifies the target’s resolve or with Space magic that renders the target sympathetically unavailable.

      Conjunctional casting is generally free, but using Space or other Arcana to cast spells at sympathetic range always requires sympathy factors as described above.

      Benefits each Arcanum can offer when used conjunctionally are as follows. This isn’t a comprehensive list; whenever one of an Arcanum’s Practices might conceivably enable a spell to be aimed or implemented in a precise way without actually changing that spell’s effects on its targets, the Storyteller might allow that Practice to be used conjunctionally.

      • Death ●●●: Weaving Death allows a spell to touch or otherwise affect incorporeal ghosts or other things in deathly Twilight. Ritual allows spell effects to pass through underworld gates. The caster can imbue spells into ghosts, ghostly objects, or ectoplasm.
      • Death ●●●●: Patterning Death can translate a spell’s effects such that they exclusively affect or appear in ghostly Twilight, or pass through closed underworld gates.

      • Fate ●●: Ruling Fate can bid a spell to choose its target completely at random. Perfecting Fate can allow the caster to treat the characters and objects comprising her Merits (such as their Retainer, or their Safe Place, or their Resources) as extensions of themselves, casting covert magic which defends or enhances those Merits’ ability to function at sympathetic range. This requires sympathy factors appropriate to the magic’s actual target; it’s probably easier to ensure one’s front door jams than to ensure the stranger trying to force that door is overcome with sloth.
      • Fate ●●●: By adding enough sympathy factors to their spells, the caster can use Fate magic of any aspect, or covert magic from other Arcana, through their own Merits, Intimacies, or other significant narrative ties without needing to tie that magic to their Merits’ default roles. They can also channel such effects through another, such as by clasping a wife’s hand to curse a distant husband.

      • Forces ●●: The caster can imbue spells into forces, such as the flame of a torch, the sound of a radio, or the wind in a valley. Such imbued spells can only be activated when the force they were imbued into exists, but can survive the extinguishment of that force, and can be finely controlled through the control of that force; for instance, a torch can be doused and relit by a character who wants to suppress and reactivate its imbued spell without actually paying for that spell twice in the same scene.

      • Life ●●: The caster can imbue spells into living beings. A sentient creature can instinctively activate and use magic it’s been imbued with, as appropriate, but might allow someone touching them to sustain, activate from, or benefit from the magic instead.

      • Matter ●●: The caster can imbue spells into inanimate objects. Generally, the same spell effect appears to act on the object whenever the object is activated, though conjunctional Forces or Prime can produce imbued objects with more elaborate or customizable effects.

      • Mind ●●●: The caster’s spells can touch and affect targets in psychic Twilight, and can be imbued into those targets. Ritual magic can send spell effects directly into a target’s Oneiros.
      • Mind ●●●●: The caster’s spells can take place completely in psychic Twilight, spontaneously affect a target’s Oneiros, or – given ritual and sympathy factors – touch the Temenos.

      • Prime ●●: The caster can imbue latent spells which cast themselves at targets besides the imbued object. For instance, a wand might turn things it’s pointed at to stone rather than turn to stone itself.
      • Prime ●●●: The caster’s spell effects are solid to, and capable of affecting, incorporeal creatures or objects in notional Twilight. As well, the caster can imbue spells into such targets. With sympathy factors, Weaving Prime can send spell effects along ley lines, choosing targets standing near ley lines or in Hallows connected to the caster. Such magic uses the caster’s sympathy to the target or to the ley line or Hallow targeted, and is not affected by Fame, Occultation, or the ignorance of real names.
      • Prime ●●●●: Patterning Prime can translate a spell’s effects completely into notional Twilight.

      • Space ●●: Conjunctional Ruling Space, given sympathy factors, allows the caster to cast purely sensory or communicative spells at sympathetic range. The caster and subject can’t affect each other’s minds or bodies, but can make themselves and their surroundings seen, heard, and understood.
      • Space ●●●: Weaving Space can compress distances and straighten lines of sight, allowing the caster to affect far targets, but not move anything between their location and that of the target, as long as an unobstructed path between themselves and their target exists. Spontaneous spells can reach hundreds of yards and obviate the need for precision factors; ritual spells can reach any distance, provided a path exists and enough sympathy factors are added to the spell.
      • Space ●●●●: Given enough sympathy factors, conjunctional use of Patterning Space directly attaches one location to another and allows for any spell to be cast at sympathetic range. Covert spells only invite reprisal from appropriately aware and empowered targets, but vulgar spells always allow for two-way interaction.

      • Spirit ●●●: Weaving Spirit allows a spell to touch or otherwise affect incorporeal spirits or other things in spiritual Twilight on the caster’s side of the Gauntlet. Via ritual, the caster can cast spells on targets on the other side of the Gauntlet. It also lets the caster imbue spells into spirits or other targets that exist in a state of in spiritual Twilight. With appropriate sympathy factors, covert Spirit spells can be cast on targets within the auspices of a spirit the caster has access to; for instance, watching a religious ceremony, a spirit mage affect a distant follower of that religion.
      • Spirit ●●●●: Patterning Spirit can translate a spell’s effects such that they exclusively affect or appear in spiritual Twilight. Additionally, it can send a spell’s affects to the other side of the Gauntlet.

      • Time ●●: with Ruling Time, a spell can be prepared as a contingency which is cast later. The spell is actually paid for and cast when the caster chooses for it to trigger (and so can’t benefit from having been prepared in a Hallow or Demesne), but under the circumstances in which it was first prepared; for instance, magic requiring an atmosphere of peace might be brought into a war zone, or a blast of sunlight pulled from midday to midnight. One such contingency can be prepared at a time, and might be triggered early or interrupted by the normal consequences of other Time spells.
      • Time ●●●●: By Patterning Time, the caster can alter their own past such that they prepared a second contingency, as above, at any moment since they became an Apprentice of Time, and then cast that contingency as their present spell. This requires sympathy factors bridging the mage to whatever past circumstances (not simply their past self) they’re drawing on.
      • Time ●●●●●: Access to Making Time means that the caster can pull a circumstantial contingency from any point in the past they have sympathy to, rather than being limited to their personal past.

      Initiation: Initiation into a Legacy usually requires the aid and tutelage of a member of that Legacy, but might also be possible by studying the soul stones of members of that Legacy or otherwise stealing the Legacy’s secrets. It’s possible to create a Legacy, but generally requires that one unearth and internalize a deep secret, be transformed by rare and powerful magic, earn the blessing of a powerful patron, otherwise take part in some climactic supernatural event. Initiation changes a mage in the following ways:

      • Mage Sight: The mage’s Mage Sight is expanded. They can use a Skill or Skills specific to their Legacy when scrutinizing resonance, and can automatically perceive and detect phenomena pertaining to the Legacy’s area of expertise. These phenomena might be highly figurative or subjective and run across multiple Arcana; for instance, the members of a given Legacy might automatically detect people in need of comfort, or lies, or cannibals.

      • Legacy Oblation: The mage’s daily oblation may be performed anywhere and uses an Attribute + Skill or Attribute + Attribute dicepool specific to the Legacy. This dicepool increases by one die for each dot of Gnosis past 5 that the mage has. However, the mage can no longer draw additional Mana from Hallows. The specifics of the oblation ceremony and the circumstances under which it can be performed vary with the Legacy.

      • Magical Tools: The mage can consecrate a dedicated implement appropriate to their Legacy. As well, they can organize their personal workspace around the precepts of their Legacy rather than their Path. Any member of their Legacy can benefit from their workspace if they do, and they can likewise make use of the personal workspace of any member of their Legacy.

      Attainments: A Legacy’s Attainments are not technically spells, but innate supernatural powers. Whether undetectably subtle or brazenly overt, they represent lasting changes in the soul and Pattern of their user rather than transient works of supernal power.

      A Legacy’s Attainments are purchased in order with experience points. Each Attainment requires Arcanum dots commensurate with its effects and can’t be acquired by a mage that lacks the prerequisite Arcanum ratings. The first Attainment usually produces an effect within the scope of the first two dots of one or two Arcana, while the second Attainment uses three dots, the third Attainment uses four, and so on. Usually, acquiring each of a Legacy’s major Attainments requires some specific accomplishment or experience on the mage’s part.

      • Attainment Action: Many Attainments are constantly in effect or else can be activated or deactivated reflexively. Most Attainments can be used at no cost, but particularly powerful effects or effects that can heal damage or otherwise affect game-mechanical resources might cost Mana or Willpower, be limited in the number of times they can be activated per some time interval, or both.

      • Attainment Aspect: Despite their tangible or even blatantly supernatural effects, Attainments are always considered to be of sensory aspect. They have Potency 1 and Tenacity 1, never cause paradox, are never subject to Disbelief, and can’t be dispelled. As an exception, Attainments can be Shaped – each is a power of the inner soul to act on the outer world, in defiance of the normal laws of magic.

      • Attainment Shaping: Attainments are Shaped as a minor or instant action. The Shaping dicepool of an Attainment is not purchased piecemeal with Mana, but based on specific traits of the mage; usually, it’s an Attribute plus a Skill or an Attribute plus another Attribute. Successes increase the Attainment’s 1 Potency and Tenacity until the mage’s next turn to determine the strength of effect. Not all Attainments can or need to be Shaped.

        Many Attainments can be shaped at any time and at no cost, but those that heal damage, create items, rewrite memories, or otherwise perform feats with lasting game-mechanical impact are more limited. Such Attainments might cost at least 1 Mana to Shape or only be possible to Shape once per scene, day, week, or story.

      Some Legacies offer other traits for purchase with experience points, such as unique Merits or minor Attainments.

Aether - Core Traits and Spellcasting

The Act of Hubris Ferrinus