The Act of Hubris
Creation ever grows and changes, and the Moros rule what remains. To walk the Path of Doom is to see all things for the empty shells they’ll leave behind.
THE DEATH ARCANUM
Purview: corpses, decay, ectoplasm, entropy, ghosts, shadows, souls, Twilight, the underworld
Overview: Death, the subtle Arcanum of Stygia, holds dominion over irreversible transition. Death transforms totally and completely, ending the old to make room for the new. When light gutters out to leave darkness, when wood decays to leave detritus, and when breath flees the body to leave a corpse in its wake, the power of Death is at work. Death is a process that occurs in response to preexisting states of affairs. It’s not the dagger through someone’s throat, but the transformation that dagger’s interruption of blood flow brings about: the transmutation of vibrant life to still matter and the release of the soul from the body. In the fallen world, Death is always at work and yet constantly stalled or perverted. Undead bodies and unquiet ghosts exist in all corners of the world, sometimes even at the behest of mortals.
Death magic manipulates the capacity to die and the results of having died. Death can’t actually be undone – that’s the whole point – but its causes can be investigated, its byproducts controlled, and its consequences warped or suspended. Much of what’s commonly understood as necromancy consists not of empowering Death but of subverting it; ghosts are made to linger in the physical world, living flesh caused to rot prematurely, and dead bodies bidden to rise and walk through interference with the cosmic principles that separate the living from the dead.
Only a living Pattern – one with a unique, continuous identity that doesn’t persist through that Pattern’s destruction and reassembly – is metaphysically able to die rather than simply break or unravel. Humans, animals, plants, and many supernatural creatures are receptive to the decay, preservation, or reanimation that Death can inflict directly. Shadow spirits, astral thoughtforms, and similarly ephemeral and immortal creatures aren’t directly subject to Death magic, and neither are totally imperishable or inorganic substances such as metal or stone. It takes a Master of Death to slay machines, spirits, and other inert or abstract targets.
Death magic also manipulates ephemeral phenomena produced by loss and endings: shadows, ghosts, ectoplasm, and the Twilight reflections of destroyed objects. By summoning and strengthening such otherworldly substances, Death spells can lend solidity and coherence even to crumbling skeletons or faint shadows. Since Death naturally frees souls from bodies, Death magic can steal, transfer, and even destroy human souls, though not even Masters can make headway against the souls of supernatural creatures.
Aspects: Sensory Death magic reveals death’s origins and activities. Spells can identify causes of death, affinity for death, and capacity for death. Casters can also perceive ghosts, souls, and other deathly ephemera.
Covert Death magic can slow or hasten rot and infirmity or subtly alter shadows, corpses, and other deathly materials. It can enable material objects and creatures to interact with undead creatures or Twilight objects, though attempts to climb phantom buildings or wrestle with ghosts usually provoke Disbelief. Covert Death magic can also directly manipulate ghosts, ectoplasm, souls, and other deathly phenomena, as well as harvest and channel the life-force and magical power loosed when things meet their ends.
Vulgar Death magic can manifest Death as a tangible force, necrotizing flesh, crumbling matter, or dissipating ephemera. It can suspend Death’s effects to animate dead bodies or delay the consequences of mortal wounds. It can solidify, reshape, or destroy ghosts, lend physical substance to shadows, and translate material beings and objects into twilight ephemera. Vulgar magic is required to do direct and lasting violence to the human soul, whether to sever, destroy, reappropriate or consume it.
Mechanics: Death’s abstract effects are resisted by Gnosis plus Composure, while direct damage contests Gnosis plus Stamina. Ghosts oppose magical manipulation with Resistance plus Rank. The attacks of solid shadows or undead minions are contested by Defense.
Death spells usually boost or hinder actions by conjuring entities or phenomena that perform those actions along with the caster or on the caster’s behalf, so a single sustained Death spell can simultaneously inflict damage, blockade movement, and tear down barricades just by its physical presence. The effects of such Death spells are subject to mundane physical attack. Minions, whether created or enslaved, don’t do much beyond boost, hinder, and attack while idly sustained; an instant action is required to guide zombies through complex orders, force a ghost to use its Numina, or otherwise command the full-fledged instant action of another character. Ghosts and other beings so controlled usually can’t do anything but struggle on their own turns.
Death magic often allows for the use of damage factors which reap Mana or Willpower in proportion to lethal or aggravated damage dealt. These only function on living beings, including spirits, vampires, and other supernatural creatures with appetites and states of health. Used on animals, such magic doesn’t need damage factors and only takes special effect on a killing blow; it merely eliminates the need for ceremony during the blood sacrifice all mages can perform, and cannot generate Willpower. Humans and supernatural creatures only yield Mana or Willpower when they mark lethal or aggravated wounds in health boxes containing bashing or nothing at all, and if killed by such magic yield further Mana as though ceremonially sacrificed on the spot. When rendered down, a soul yields points of Mana and Willpower equal to the Morality (or equivalent trait) its owner had at the time of separation, and also restores a lost Willpower dot.
Death magic can control and transform ghosts directly. It can seize control of zombies, revenants, and other undead consisting of reanimated or puppeteered bodies. Vampires, prometheans, and other complex supernatural creatures might have deathly qualities that Death magic can analyze, but can’t be controlled or harmed by Death in the same way that ghosts or zombies can. Since they can die, they can be often adversely affected in the same way that normal living creatures can.
- Ghosts: Death spells can’t directly reproduce the Numina or Influences that ghosts wield. They can boost a ghost’s mundane actions, change if and how a ghost manifests, or defray the cost of a ghost’s powers by generating with temporary Essence.
A mage can use an instant action to force a ghost under their control to deploy one of its powers, but must pay the Willpower cost of that power themselves and completely cover the power’s Essence cost through the Potency of the spell of control.
All ghosts have Bans and Banes. Forcing a ghost to subject itself to its Bane is treated as a direct damage spell and requires appropriate damage factors. Ghosts can’t be compelled to contravene their Bans; the best a mage can do is to ritually reconstruct a ghost into a new being with a new Ban.
- Twilight: Death magic can reach and control the state of Twilight occupied by the intangible remains of tangible things, whether the ghosts of people or the ghosts of buildings. Other incorporeal presences such as spirits are composed of radically different ephemera and can’t normally interact with or even perceive Death’s Twilight purviews. It takes both Arcana in conjunction to allow ghosts to interact with spirits or to create beings or objects tangible to both.
Death magic can translate physical things into Twilight or materialize Twilight ghosts and objects, and can affect Twilight targets while the caster is corporeal or vice versa. Things rendered incorporeal aren’t in Death’s purview the same way that ghosts or phantom buildings are; a brick shunted into Twilight is still subject to Matter, although a mage would need to be able to perceive and interact with it before they could affect it magically.
Aftereffects: Death magic often leaves wounds, ruins, and other detritus in its wake. It can have a lingering effect on natural infirmity and decay, preserving subjects against the ravages of time or dooming things to spoil and rot with uncanny speed. The unquiet dead are a part of the fallen world, and so Death rituals can create lasting zombies, revenants, and ghosts, often purchased by the necromancer as Ally, Retainer, and Staff merits. Ritual spells can also create or reassign ghostly anchors, strand physical beings in Twilight or the underworld, and steal, assimilate, or outright destroy souls.
Paradox: Mild Death paradoxes can simulate or provoke ghostly activity, slow or hasten normal rot or wear, and distort local shadows. Severe paradoxes might unleash frenzied corpses, cause Twilight to bleed into the physical world, or outright slay all living beings in the vicinity.
INITIATE OF DEATH (●)
Initiates can mark Death’s potential and passing in both senses of the word. They can perceive and communicate with ghosts and detect undead creatures. Spells of this level can provide a sensory boost on rolls to detect or track creatures touched by death or find and exploit flaws and weak points in the targets of demolition or violence. Scrutiny successes equal to a ghost’s Finesse yield hints at its Bane or Ban, while the severe consequences of a Signifying spell can reveal such secrets more directly.
Knowing Death reveals death’s causes, effects, and parameters. Organic remains can be analyzed to determine how they fell to ruin. The specific relation to death of an object or person can be scrutinized, revealing how recently a weapon was used to kill or how frequently a paramedic has saved lives. Knowing can determine whether and how something can die, drawing a mage’s attention to structural weaknesses or vital organs. Knowing also analyzes necromancy and the undead, providing insights with each scrutiny success into the nature of thanatotic phenomena. Knowing can also reveal the qualities and dimensions of shadows, potentially pinpointing unseen objects by the hollows they leave in their surrounding darkness.
Soul Search (Death ●/Sensory/Knowing) This spell reveals the qualities of a soul to the caster, whether that soul is untethered or anchored to an object or person. Scrutiny successes can reveal the soul’s general health (generally corresponding to Morality), recent trauma, and supernatural qualities. The caster might realize their subject has no soul at all, contains a soul that didn’t originally belong to them, or bears the altered soul of a once-human supernatural creature.
Signifying Death reveals death to others and reveals the mage through death. Shadows, corpses, and other elements of Death’s purview can be subtly marked for other Death mages to recognize and read, or limned in a gloom that even Sleepers notice. Seances, ectoplasmic manifestations, and other attempts to commune with the dead can be made to receive the caster’s messages. Sounds, images, and other sensations can be made to echo through Twilight and draw the attentions of normally insensate ghosts. Signifying can reveal the natures and properties of deathly creatures, even forcing the ban or bane of a ghost into prominence; usually, the information manifests symbolically in ectoplasm or the effects of the targeted ghosts’ active Numina.
Ectoplasmic Graffiti (Death ●/Covert/Signifying) The caster makes marks with unmanifested ectoplasm, fogging surfaces with their breath or tracing letters with a fingertip to produce a residue only ghosts or others sensitive to ghosts can see.
Unveiling Death renders the function and malfunction of death obvious to the caster’s senses. Mages can perceive the weight of death on a subject, telling whether people, objects, or places have experienced or caused death closely, recently, or frequently, though Knowing’s needed to differentiate between a homicide detective and a serial killer. Unveiling can identify death magic and the undead on sight, detect gates to the underworld, and allow invisible and immaterial ghosts and Twilight matter to be perceived with the senses. Unveiling can also allow a caster to tell immediately whether an object or person plays host to a soul.
Ghostsight (Death ●/Sensory/Unveiling) Despite its name, this spell allows ghosts to be seen, heard, and even felt, though not actually held or fought. It also reveals the ghostly objects and buildings ghosts sometimes interact with.
APPRENTICE OF DEATH (●●)
Apprentices can trigger and direct death’s appearance, operation, and consequences. By hastening rot and decomposition, they can destroy aspects of the environment in potentially hazardous ways, but the damage of such attacks on living bystanders isn’t a function of spell potency and is adjudicated by the Storyteller in the usual fashion. They can control and empower a ghost’s uses of Influences and Manifestations, providing temporary Essence for the ghost’s use, or boost a ghost’s resistance against exorcism or other mystic weaknesses. They can hinder or incapacitate undead creatures, or banish ghosts to the underworld by inflicting temporary direct damage of any kind that otherwise fades at the end of the scene. Faced with an already faltering target, an Apprentice can hasten the end; they can inflict direct lethal or aggravated damage on the living, but only of a kind a target already suffers from, and such damage fades at the end of the scene if it doesn’t kill the target outright. They can deal lasting direct damage of any kind by undoing healing their target has received in the scene, plus whatever the last wound they healed was. Apprentice magic can command ghosts; normal consequences against Resistance can cause the dead to obey their sentiments over their judgment or to make arbitray decisions of the caster’s choice, while severe consequences can compel any action not obviously self-destructive or ruinous to long-term interest.
Perfecting Death hastens death’s functions, fortifies its materials, and weakens or banishes things that have partially escaped it. Deaths staved off or sabotaged can be rendered whole, counteracting healing, or dealing direct, temporary, lethal or aggravated damage to already-injured (or injured but recently healed, or otherwise sufficiently in debt to mortality) living beings. Ghosts, zombies, and revenants can be hindered, incapacitated, or dealt any kind of damage as Perfecting brings their deaths to completion; this damage vanishes at the end of the scene, but on a “kill” causes its victim to deanimate or pass into the underworld. Deathly objects and substances can be fortified and repaired, rendering shadow impenetrable by light or Twilight matter bolstered against damage.
Reassert Mortality (Death ●●/Covert/Perfecting) Resisted by Gnosis plus Stamina, this spell inflicts direct lethal or aggravated damage, but only enough to undo all healing the subject enjoyed this scene or, failing that, the single last instance of healing the subject enjoyed prior to the scene – one wound healed or downgraded through time or medicine, one turn’s worth of supernatural regeneration, or one use of a healing spell or power. This spell doesn’t literally reopen wounds, but instead introduces sudden weakness as though those wounds had never healed.
Ruling Death bids death to act or delay. It can cause things already dead to spoil or cease rotting; in combination with Perfecting, dead bodies, rotting wood, and other perishable materials can be crumbled in seconds. It can trigger and direct ghostly Manifestations or control whether and how a ghost is affected by time or occult circumstances. Ruling can control a mindless or automated ghost’s behavior, triggering when or where that ghost takes actions or uses powers it’s already inclined to. The living and dead alike can be caused to exude ectoplasm tangible to both; this inflicts a bashing wound or consumes a point of the subject’s Mana or Essence, as the subject prefers, but allows for interaction and artisanal collaboration.
Imperishability (Death ●●/Vulgar/Ritual Ruling) This ritual laces inanimate objects with resistance against decay, preventing rot, spoilage, or other inherent deterioration for as long as the spell’s aftereffects linger.
Veiling Death disguises death’s manifestations. It can hide or fabricate the outward signs of damage, decay, and infirmity, making dying people look healthy or sturdy walls seem rotten, though such illusions don’t make actual changes to structure and functionality and don’t fool autopsies or stress tests. Veiling can render ectoplasm invisible, banish the cosmetic effects of ghostly manifestations, and otherwise hide the numinous tells of undead creatures. Veiling can also shroud or disguise souls, changing how souls appear to supernatural senses or hiding that creatures or objects have or lack souls of their own. However, all five subtle Arcana are required to completely hide a disembodied soul from Awakened perception. In combination with Perfecting and Ruling, Veiling Death can be used to command even self-aware ghosts by dulling autonomy and counterfeiting the deathly resonance that would spur a ghost to action; however, such magic can’t cause a ghost to act out of character or betray itself or its anchors.
Feign Death (Death ●●/Covert/Veiling) This spell casts a pallid shroud over a living creature, giving it the aspect of a corpse. Wounds barely bleed, breath shallows into near-imperceptibility, and body temperature drops, hindering attempts to gauge the subject’s health.
DISCIPLE OF DEATH (●●●)
Disciples can twist the line between life and death, bleeding Twilight into the physical world and stirring the dead to activity. Disciple spells can completely control ghosts, or boost ghosts’ actions and resistances. Ghosts can be made suffer direct bashing damage, or worse if they’re puppeteered into harmful circumstances. Ghosts can also be forced to deploy their existing Numina, or to use Manifestations they don’t actually have, such that they can be anchored to physical targets or made to outright materialize. Sacrificial Mana can be collected from dying creatures instantly. Disciples can inefficiently transfer aggravated wounds between targets, downgrading one subject’s aggravated to lethal while either upgrading lethal wounds to aggravated or creating new aggravated wounds for the recipient. They can use damage factors to reap Mana or Willpower through Resistant lethal or aggravated damage, either in conjunction with a damaging spell or by using net successes to silently claim a subject’s health boxes. In the latter case, power can be drawn from injury inflicted in the last turn or later in the scene as though that damage was inflicted by the claiming spell, but the triggering damage must have been dealt by the caster or the reaping’s intended beneficiary, who is included as one of the spell’s targets. Such spells need damage factors both to reap resources and to inflict Resistant damage, and any wounds they successfully reap Mana or Willpower from are upgraded to Resistant wounds. Animate shadows can boost stealth and hinder aim or perception, and ghost or zombie servants can inflict damage, boost attacks, or hinder enemy action, potentially seizing and immobilizing targets as a severe consequence. Conjunctional use of Weaving Death allows spells to affect immaterial ghosts, Twilight matter, or other targets possessed of deathly incorporeality.
Fraying Death wears at death’s boundaries, weakening distinctions between the living and the dead. Physical objects and people can be made solid to ghosts and Twilight structures. In combination with Weaving, a source of sturdy Twilight matter, and enough time for preparation, seemingly impossible objects or structures can be made that rely in part on Twilight material for structural integrity. Fraying can abrade the natural rest of dead bodies, causing them to twitch or move at the caster’s behest or bidding them to wholly wake into a stilted, counterfeit life. Fraying can also erode deathly substances, thinning shadows, dissipating ectoplasm, and countering or suppressing ghostly Numina. Ghosts themselves can be hindered in action or dealt direct bashing damage.
Quicken Corpse (Death ●●●/Vulgar/Fraying) This spell makes a zombie servitor from a dead body. Zombies are mindless and uncoordinated, but can perceive their environment regardless of illumination, discern humans from animals and the living from the dead, and follow simple commands. They inflict bashing damage on their own, but can boost the caster’s attacks and hinder enemy reprisal and movement. Cast ritually, this rote creates permanent zombies as an aftereffect which can serve as Staff or weak Retainers.
Weaving Death shapes and controls death’s operation. It can finely sculpt how something dies, directing which organs fail first or which walls of a perishable structure collapse inward. It can redistribute death among like subjects, moving one body’s rot to another or inefficiently transferring aggravated wounds. Weaving can seize and puppeteer ghosts, blocking their passage, dragging them around, imprisoning them in objects or places, forcing them to activate their powers or take physical actions regardless of their wills or natures. It can also alter ghosts’ state of being, causing them to materialize or otherwise use Manifestations even if they couldn’t do so natively. Weaving can shape and animate shadows, ectoplasm, and Twilight objects, bending them into normally impossible configurations. If shadows are dragged out of an area, light doesn’t flood in, but it nevertheless becomes possible to see clearly until the displaced shadows are returned. Weaving can capture and transfer the energy liberated when living things are injured or killed, reaping Willpower or Mana. Weaving also manipulates unmoored souls, and can move them about or ritually trap them in place.
Deeper Darkness (Death ●●●/Vulgar/Knowing, Perfecting, Weaving) This spell, usually cast with area factors, sculpts and concentrates existing shadows to fill a space with pitch black darkness. The caster can’t see through the shadows, but can sense their exact contours and so pinpoint things inside them.
ADEPT OF DEATH (●●●●)
Adepts can transform potential death into actual death and cause aspects of death to preempt or trail the event itself. They can inflict direct damage of any kind, whether aggravated, resistant, or both, on any living being or organic material, or destroy the Essence points of ghosts. They can downgrade any kind of damage from any source, but only by one step; aggravated to lethal, or lethal to bashing. By striking directly at the soul, Adepts can spontaneously destroy the Willpower points of human or posthuman targets. Through ritual, Adepts can rip the souls out of unAwakened humans, bind new or returned souls to soulless Awakened and unAwakened alike, or dissolve souls into Mana and Willpower. Adepts can make undead creatures that inflict lethal damage or carry out complex commands. Severe consequences can control targets by sapping them of strength and vitality, or seizing them with solid shadow, and might cause Attributes or Merits to decay with time.
Patterning Death changes if and how something is dying or relates to death. It can draw out and actualize the potential of a body to fail or a substance to decay, inflicting any kind of direct damage, Resistant or otherwise. Patterning attacks can leave subjects’ Attributes wasting away. Subjects can be rendered weak or senile, hindering or disabling appropriate actions. Dying people and collapsing objects can, in the scene they meet their end, be forced to leave ghosts behind. The nature and consistency of deathly substances can be transferred or altered, giving shadows the solidity of materialized ghosts or reducing sturdy Twilight barriers to hazes of dust. Animate shadows or Twilight substances enjoy durability appropriate to their source material and strength on the same scale as that of zombified flesh or ghostly corpus. Patterning can transform ghosts directly, tying them to new anchors or melting and reforming them into creatures or objects of the caster’s design. Rituals can permanently reassign a ghost’s anchors, Attributes, Numina, bans, or banes, or fuse ghosts with dead bodies to create long-term revenants. As well, Patterning can reweave or counterfeit the bindings that connect mortal souls to bodies, restoring a soul to a soulless human whether or not that soul was theirs to begin with. Any stolen soul can prevent the Morality and Willpower loss associated with soul loss, but a mage whose nimbus is collapsing only stops hemorrhaging Gnosis upon assimilating an Awakened soul, and only recovers lost Gnosis with oblations if they regain their own, original soul; another’s Awakened soul only arrests the decay of Gnosis, and if kept permanently requires the mage to rebuild their enlightenment anew.
Arms of Ahriman (Death ●●●●/Vulgar/Weaving, Patterning) This spell solidifies darkness into crushing tentacles that deal lethal damage or grapple as the caster wills. Area and size factors determine the spell’s dimensions. The arms draw on the Twilight presence of whatever surface they spring from and can support at least as much weight as a solid block of that substance. The arms are rooted in place, but it’s possible to draw the arms out of the folds of a coat or the underside of a speeding car.
Unraveling Death dissolves the distinctions death creates and destroys associated phenomena. It can create visibility by shredding shadows, harm or debilitate deathly creatures, and ensure that something leaves a ghost or Twilight reflection behind as it dies or is destroyed. It can dematerialize physical objects or creatures, sending them into deathly Twilight. Unraveling can heal damage dealt to beings or perishable objects; this doesn’t cause injuries to vanish, but causes wounds to simply matter less to the subject’s ability to stay alive and active. Unraveling spells can allow beings to temporarily ignore impairments that come with age, injury, or debility; In combination with Weaving, such magic allows for undead creatures that enjoy full mobility despite missing body parts and which might sport plasmic or shadowy weapons of the caster’s design, inflicting lethal damage. Unraveling can the finely slice death’s consequences from inert remains, allowing corpses to function with full precision; a zombie can perform delicate work, carry out complex instructions, and even answer questions on the former contents of its brain. Ghosts can forced to lose essence, dealt lethal or aggravated damage, or severed from their anchors, and the effects of their Numina can be dispelled.
Ghost Shift (Death ●●●●/Vulgar/Unraveling) This spell translates a target into ghostly Twilight. Unwilling subjects resist with Composure and Gnosis and are only completely banished with a severe consequence.
MASTER OF DEATH (●●●●●)
Masters of Death begin to transcend Death’s limits and transgress its deepest boundaries. Master Death magic can afflict any kind of target, directly causing any kind of damage (including Resistant), reaping Mana or Willpower, or destroying Essence, Mana or Willpower of the target’s, in any combination. They can decay imperishable materials, immortal spirits, and even Supernal spells. Masters can create Twilight reflections of subjects whether or not those subjects have died, and reanimate and puppeteer even machines or vehicles. Through ritual, they can permanently empower ghosts, adding Attributes, Numina, or Rank. They can steal or destroy even Awakened souls, though not those of other supernatural creatures. By achieving a severe consequence against the final Composure rating of a dead character, a Master can reanimate that character with their full minds and powers intact, and control them as easily as a ghost could be.
Making Death brings death where it does not or can not exist. It can bring weakness and death to anything with any kind of substance, disintegrating metal or enervating spirits with equal ease. A Master needs to be able to perceive what they would destroy, so sensory magic of other Arcana is necessary to rot holes through the Gauntlet, blight astral sojourners, or decay the Mana stored in another’s nimbus. Since all mages can perceive magic at work, Making Death can be used to crush the life out of active spells. Ritually, it can destroy the moorings and substance of even Awakened souls or soul stones. Making can forge shadows from nothing, and can pull Twilight duplicates from inert matter whether such reflections already exist, spawning fresh ghosts of people, objects, or buildings that can then be sculpted, controlled, or materialized with other Practices. Spontaneously conjured ghosts last only as long as their founding spell is contained, but Making rituals can make permanent additions to the Twilight liable to confuse or unsettle those accustomed to there being only one version of a given dead person drifting around. Making can also force existing gates to the underworld to open, or force ghosts from the underworld to manifest before the caster. This latter application requires that a piece of the summoned person’s original body is at hand, and only facilitates communication, not interaction or travel.
Spectral Fortress (Death ●●●●●/Covert/Ritual Weaving, Making) This ritual weaves a Twilight structure from the caster’s surroundings. The structure’s design and dimensions are limited only by the spell’s Area and Size factors; since Making allows the caster to draw unlimited material from the source, an iron-hard citadel could be pulled and molded from a single nail.
Unmaking Death renders death impossible and its limitations nonexistent. It can grant full function and animation not only to corpses but to machines, structures, and even spirits, creating perfect if temporary simulacra possessed of their full memories and deathly reflections of their supernatural powers. Rituals can create such revenants permanently, such undead beings diverge rapidly from their original personalities. Unmaking can destroy the darkness in an area, making clear vision possible despite the lack of light, and can cause ghostly beings or objects to wink temporarily out of existence or to collapse immediately into the underworld. Unmaking can also suppress a subject’s ability or tendency to die, allowing characters to function at full capacity despite advancing age, illness, or infirmity. Such magic doesn’t actually prevent aging, however; sufficiently moribund characters need vulgar magic to remain alive and active, and such magic must be sustained continuously for as long as they’re to walk.
Just Matter (Death ●●●●●/Covert/Unmaking) This spell denies the metaphysical status of being dead to corpses, fallen trees, and other once-living organic matter. Such objects therefore become invalid targets for lesser Death magic, and also probably cease to serve their purposes for most non-supernal necromantic powers.
THE MATTER ARCANUM
Purview: chemical reactions, drugs, gases, liquids, machinery, poisons, solids, terrain
Overview: Matter, the gross Arcanum of Stygia, holds dominion over inanimate physical substance. Matter is the raw material appropriated in the growth and creation of life and left in the wake of life’s passing. Though often chemically active, matter is metaphysically inert, and symbolizes supernatural change rather than motivates it; little fallen world magic affects Matter directly except as a byproduct or intermediate stage. Science, on the other hand, has plumbed matter’s deepest mysteries, and the properties and interactions of different kinds of matter undergird much of modern civilization.
Matter magic analyzes, shapes, and transmutes nonliving substance. Objects, terrain features, and the very air can be animated or transmogrified according to the caster’s will. Organic and inorganic materials alike fall within Matter’s purview so long as they aren’t part of a living Pattern. Matter is effective on materials dusted on, attached to, stabbed through, severed from or secreted by living creatures, even if those materials are animated by alchemy, necromancy, or other magic; flakes of dead skin, prosthetic limbs, plates of food, pools of blood, and shambling zombies are all subject to the Arcanum. Otherworldly inanimate substances such as the Twilight remnants of buildings or the terrain of the spirit world can also be affected by Matter magic, so long as appropriate magic is used to enable the Matter user to interact with their target in the first place.
Matter can cause objects to bend or transform under their own power. Such actions have strength proportionate to the material; animate paper can’t lift a car, but another car could, and stone and metal can do serious injury to flesh. However, Matter magic animates objects by sculpting and shaping them, not pushing or accelerating them, and doesn’t impart any energy that outlasts the magic at work. Objects can’t be heated, cooled, electrified, or even thrown with Matter alone. A boulder swung by an an arm of stone smashes through obstacles but stops and falls from rest at the end of its arc.
Matter magic can reorganize substances so that their internal energies are easier or harder to release. Catapults or firearms sculpted with magic are fully functional, petroleum burns readily despite having once been water, and conjured francium reacts explosively with moisture in the air. Matter can similarly affect living beings indirectly by producing drugs, poisons or acids. Such effects are wholly natural, and might be bypassed or disabled by other supernatural powers.
Aspects: Sensory Matter spells analyze the structure and composition of the caster’s surroundings, providing information normally accessible only through sensitive equipment, hours of laboratory work, or detailed chemical reference.
Covert spells influence properties matter beneath the threshold of normal human perception, such as the rates of chemical reactions or the subtleties of turning gears. Such spells can strengthen or weaken objects, direct chemical processes, or sabotage machines.
Vulgar spells can reshape or animate objects, transmute one substance or object into another, or force machines chemicals into activity or quiescence despite direct and obvious pressure to the contrary. They can shift and hold substances into states never found in nature by altering their shapes, phases, and physical properties.
Mechanics: The direct transfigurations caused by Matter spells are contested by Stamina + Gnosis, although it’s usually only zombies, golems, and other nonliving characters who could be targeted by such magic at all. Matter spells are often resisted by physical prowess and reflexes; Defense avoids damage, Strength + Dexterity retains grip and balance, and Strength + Stamina holds ground.
Many Matter spells don’t directly affect rolled actions or alter game traits but do change the range of actions that characters can take, such as by raising walls or disabling vehicles. The ability of such effects to directly affect characters might call for contested rolls, but the outcomes of those rolls have no bearing on the effects themselves – a pit still opens in the floor whether or not the person it opened under was able to leap to safety. Matter spells can boost or hinder a variety of physical actions by conjuring obstacles, strengthening equipment, or animating minions. Substances created by matter are completely real and can trigger supernatural vulnerabilities or spirit bans with no extra effort on the caster’s part.
Spells that produce matter that’s explosive, radioactive, toxic, or otherwise potent beyond its normal size and mass need area or size factors to generate indirect effects and net successes to inflict consequences on other characters; missing factors or low net successes indicate insufficient exposure, purity, or internal energy to produce the desired indirect result.
Aftereffects: Almost all effects of Matter magic are lasting. Substances don’t retain the impossible states of being or blatant supernatural properties that sustained spells might grant them, but do retain their forms and substances even in the aftermath of vulgar magic – lead remains gold, pumpkins remain carriages, and so on. Subtle changes to objects can linger in the usual fashion, rendering things unusually effective, precise, or resistant to wear. Matter magic makes Merits, particularly Resources, extremely easy to raise, and usually guarantees a character whatever mundane equipment they care to own.
Paradox: Weak Matter paradoxes change the appearance, texture, or surface consistency of matter in the area, or cause anomalies in air flow, water currents, or dust deposition. More powerful paradoxes might lead to the appearance of sinkholes, the diffusion of airborne hallucinogens, or the threat of architectural collapse. Deadly Matter paradoxes might wrack the area with earthquakes, change the air to acid, or trigger cancer-like growth of unliving terrain that impales, crushes, or suffocates anything caught within.
INITIATE OF MATTER (●)
Initiates can investigate and mark the material around them. Sensory spells of this level can boost rolls to search for objects, analyze materials, or reason out chemical relationships.
Knowing Matter reveals subtle properties such as composition, purity, or volatility. A mage can compare one substance to another they can detect or imagine, predicting how the two will react. Knowing can analyze distinct objects rather than general substances, determining precise size, shape, mass, and durability.
Map Material (Matter ●/Sensory/Knowing) The mage envisions the three-dimensional shape of a substance they can perceive. This spell can pinpoint gaps in seemingly solid walls or the hollows left by swimmers in water. The caster always learns the total size of a contiguous sample of material, but requires size factors to accurately envision an object larger than a car.
Signifying Matter expresses the caster’s nimbus through the inanimate. It allows the idle swirl of dust, condensation of water, or rustle of leaves to reflect a mage’s disposition or communication. Such changes don’t disturb the consistency or content of the subject material, but layer it with additional meaning and tone, whether subtle or overt.
Transmutation Marks (Matter ●/Vulgar/Signifying) This spell charges matter an aspect of the caster’s nimbus, causing it to bear a lingering sign of the caster’s power. This imprint can be used to imply that wholly natural events were the caster’s doing.
Unveiling Matter reveals the presence and surface properties of objects and materials in the caster’s range of perception. It can broadly classify matter, recognizing on sensory contact if something is acidic, explosive, metallic, organic, toxic, or radioactive. It can differentiate between substances, revealing colorless gases filtering into the air or incongruous chemicals in a plate of food. Unveilings can recognize whether things are or aren’t metaphysically matter at all, telling between sleepers and corpses or rocks and mussels.
Sense Poison (Matter ●/Sensory/Unveiling) This spell detects poisonous substances, whether dripping from a snake’s fang or swirling in a proffered wineglass.
APPRENTICE OF MATTER (●●)
Apprentices can direct matter’s activities. Apprentices can also boost a variety of physical actions, commonly by enhancing worn or held equipment important to those actions. Spells can hinder or disable physical actions by rendering machines or equipment inoperable or inconveniently active, though effectively disarming someone requires a severe consequence against their Strength or Dexterity. Apprentices can boost attempts to sneak or smuggle by obscuring visibility or disguising objects, and can boost or obviate attempts to infiltrate or trespass by controlling or deactivating security measures. They can launch damaging attacks by unleashing existing hazards or directing dangerous machinery. Apprentices can directly boost resistance against poisons, acids, and other chemical dangers.
Perfecting Matter maintains function and structure, keeping edges sharp, surfaces smooth, and gears aligned. It protects things from malfunction, wear, damage, or transformation, and optimizes mechanical or chemical processes. It can sustain shapes and properties despite external or internal pressures. Perfected equipment boosts actions based on the equipment’s material quality. Ritual Perfectings can grant objects lingering durability or enhancement. Perfecting spells can also heal the wounds of nonliving beings.
Anytime Armor (Matter ●●/Covert/Perfecting) This spell quietly fortifies clothing, boosting the wearer’s Defense against conventional attack.
Ruling Matter can activate, direct, or halt chemical reactions and simple or complex machines. It can guide how acids burn, sediments deposit, or radioisotopes decay. Ruling can protect against chemical harm by slowing or stopping the reactions that allow acids and poisons to take effect. It can activate machines; cars can start or stall, locks can open or close, and guns can fire or jam. Ruling can also direct the motion of already mobile but otherwise directionless matter, changing how gases diffuse, liquids spill, or dust settles.
Ghost Ride (Matter ●●/Vulgar/Perfecting, Ruling) This spell seizes a motorized vehicle, allowing the caster to start its engine, turn its wheels, and otherwise drive or pilot it remotely. Use of Drive to control the vehicle remotely is boosted, and the spell’s Potency might be used to knock targets around or launch lethal attacks.
Veiling Matter changes the surface qualities of matter, disguising substances as other substances or making chemical qualities harder to discern. Covert Veilings can create confusion between similar substances or foil scientific analysis, while vulgar Veilings can wholly recast an object or material’s appearance. Veilings don’t actually change the overall size or shape of their subjects, but can alter fine details such as wood grain or fracture lines.
Fool’s Gold (Matter ●●/Vulgar/Veiling) This spell disguises common metals as pure gold, granting them the appropriate hue, shine, and overall appearance, but doesn’t change the metal’s other properties. The altered appearance lingers as an aftereffect.
DISCIPLE OF MATTER (●●●)
Disciples can reshape matter with raw will. They can launch damaging attacks against or disable other characters by striking or imprisoning them with animate material. Disciples can deal direct bashing damage to nonliving beings, and can heal or transfer the wounds of such targets.
Fraying Matter disorders, loosens, and weakens things, sapping durability and disrupting function. Spells make machines faulty, materials vulnerable, and reactions inefficient – guns jam, computers crash, and walls buckle. Fraying spells can hinder the physical actions of or deal direct bashing damage to zombies, golems, or other unliving constructs.
Weaken Wall (Matter ●●●/Covert/Fraying) This spell undermines the integrity of a solid barrier, making it as easy to break as if it was rotten or poorly made. Thick walls of steel or stone might still require equipment or machinery to defeat.
Weaving Matter redistributes material, changing consistency, phase, shape. Weavings might deflect tear gas,carve pathways through bodies of water, or shape boulders into golem servitors. They can sustain unnatural phase changes, solidifying water or liquefying steel. Weavings are subject to conservation of mass, so a wall that thickens in one place must thin elsewhere, solids and liquids are only compressible to a limited degree, and at least an area factor of gas must be compressed to yield more than a handful of liquid or solid matter. Weaving spells can transfer mass and wounds between objects or nonliving beings.
Liquid Wall (Matter ●●●/Vulgar/Weaving) This spell shapes a volume of liquid into a standing wall. While sustained, the wall can be moved, pushing characters around or striking them with bashing damage. Tenacity opposes attempts to breach the barrier, and the size to which the wall can be stretched without losing effectiveness is limited both by spell factors and available liquid.
ADEPT OF MATTER (●●●●)
Adepts can transmute matter completely. They can launch bashing or lethal attacks with hazardous materials or deal direct damage of any kind to nonliving targets by directly deconstructing their Patterns. They can produce any kind of mundane equipment or wealth, enabling purchase of Merits. They can deal direct damage of any kind to objects or characters made of nonliving matter.
Patterning Matter alters chemical properties or changes one kind of matter into another. Traits such as conductivity, malleability, and radioactivity can be adjusted or exchanged, creating hybrid materials impossible in nature. Substances can be transformed, changing lead into gold or water into glass. In combination with Knowing and Weaving, Patterning can create complex objects; a pile of refuse could become a bomb, car, or computer, even if the caster lacks the expertise to build such objects by mundane means. As with Weaving, such transmutations don’t create or destroy mass, so a cubic meter of lead yields more gold than a cubic meter of air.
Ritual of Transmutation (Matter ●●●●/Vulgar/Ritual Patterning) This ritual transmutes an amount of uniform material into any substance desired.
Unraveling Matter crumbles, dissipates, or otherwise ruins matter, neutralizing reactions and shredding physical structure. Machines can break or fall apart, structures can rot or shatter, and chemicals can spoil or denature. Unraveling can inflict direct lethal or aggravated damage on nonliving beings.
Disintegrate (Matter ●●●●/Vulgar/Unraveling) This spell breaks material down to dust, destroying most scenery and dealing direct lethal or aggravated damage to animate targets. A version of this rote incorporating Life ●●●● affects living and nonliving targets alike.
MASTER OF MATTER (●●●●●)
Masters of Matter transcend matter’s physical limitations. They can imbue fantastic properties into objects, ritually producing alchemically perfected objects or substances with lasting magical utility. Such creations can offer maximum Edges on appropriate rolls despite their apparent make or quality. Masters can render objects indestructible, potentially immunizing wearers of armor so enchanted against physical attack. Such immunity can only be pierced by Willpower expenditure on an attacker’s part.
Making Matter produces whatever the caster envisions without regard for available material. Complex machines can be conjured as easily as undifferentiated masses of material, limited only by area or size factors. Making spells can also add traits and properties to existing matter, even if those traits couldn’t normally be physically sustained or involve arbitrary quantities; water can be rendered flammable, blades honed to the point that they cut anything, and hard drives granted limitless processing power. Making rituals can create permanently supernatural objects or materials. The results of such magic can’t match the blatant absurdity of sustained vulgar spells, but can enjoy incredible efficiency or total imperishability and might have alchemical properties salient to other magic, supernal or otherwise.
Essence of Adamant (Matter ●●●●●/Vulgar/Making) This spell renders a target inanimate object or volume of solid matter totally rigid and literally unbreakable, such that no earthly amount of violent or chemical attack can so much as abrade its surface. This spell can trap people in their own clothing or allow rice paper walls to deflect tank shells.
Unmaking Matter erases matter or its properties from the world. It can obliterate objects or materials outright, but can also be applied with precision to subtract properties from existing targets. An object’s flammability, conductivity, malleability, visibility, mass, or even tangibility can be entirely suppressed, either wholly or selectively. Unmaking spells can offer total immunity from various chemical hazards or allow machinery or equipment to function in impossible ways.
Vitrify (Matter ●●●●●/Covert/Unveiling, Unmaking) This rote erases the visibility of targeted matter, rendering it totally invisible to any spectrum of light. It can enable characters to spy through walls, smuggle weapons or valuables, or lay undetectable traps.