Spontaneous Spell Casting Cheat Sheet

It looks like you’re casting a magic spell! Do you need any help?

Action: Spells which only defend your person are reflexive, spells that set you up to do other things or gather information are minor, and spells that attack, heal, or otherwise do important and scene-changing stuff are instant actions.

Aspect: Sensory spells analyze targets or give you senses, covert spells make subtle changes and vulgar spells are cool.

Dicepool: None! You don’t roll to cast a spell – once you’ve paid the cost, assuming it doesn’t get countered or something, it just happens, applying 1, 2, or 3 automatic successes to whatever it’s trying to do. You roll dice when you pump the spell up with Mana by "Shape"ing it, but that’s not mandatory.

COST: Spells have a base cost determined by aspect.

  • Sensory Spell: 1 Mana
  • Covert Spell: 1 Mana
  • Vulgar Spell: 2 Mana

If you’re casting a sensory spell using only your Ruling Arcana, or if you’re casting a rote, your spell gets 1 Mana cheaper:

  • Sensory Rote OR Improvised Ruling-Only Sensory Spell: 0 Mana
  • Covert Rote: 0 Mana
  • Vulgar Rote: 1 Mana

Put another way, your in-Path sensory spells and all your sensory and covert rotes are free. Your improvised covert spells and vulgar rotes cost 1 Mana. Your improvised vulgar spells cost 2 Mana/

The only thing rotes do is make your spells less expensive – but that’s a really big deal, since a spell’s cost determines how easy it is to sustain and how easy it is to Shape. Don’t get into trouble without a couple applicable rotes or you’ll be running out of Mana, Willpower, or Health in short order.

Putting this stuff together gives you the base cost of a spell, which is then modified upwards by factors. A spell whose base cost is 3 that affects two targets has a final cost of 4, for instance.

FACTORS: Each factor increases the spell’s total Mana cost by 1. Here they are:

  • 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

FREE MANA: These things pay part of a spell’s Mana cost for you, which lets you get around the Gnosis-based mana per turn limits. They don’t actually reduce the cost, so the spell doesn’t get easier to sustain. “Free Mana” doesn’t actually go into your pool – it just pays for your spell.

  • 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.

SPELL RESULTS: Here’s what spells actually do, mechanically:

  • Sensory (Potency and Tenacity 1): 1 minimum success for any action the spell helps you complete. An Unveiling spell gives you a new sense, and a Knowing spell lets you concentrate on something and scrutinize it with Intelligence + Skill (usually Occult, you get other Skills based on your Path/Order/Legacy) to learn one thing about it per success.
  • Covert (Potency and Tenacity 2): 2 minimum successes for any action the spell helps you complete, and 9-again on the dice you roll to try and do better. 2 successes flat to try to do magical stuff like giving people tummyaches or controlling their minds, but you can Shape it to make it stronger.
  • Vulgar (Potency and Tenacity 3): 3 minimum successes, 8-again. Causes paradox unless you’re in a Demesne.

SHAPING: You can “Shape” a spell to pump it up by paying extra Mana on top of its cost. You’ve gotta pay the cost first each turn you Shape it – having just cast the spell counts, but if you want to Shape something you’re sustaining from earlier in the scene you have to pay its cost again on the spot.

Shaping costs more Mana based on how natural the spell is to you:

Rote Spell: 1 Mana to Shape
Ruling-Only Improvised Spell: 1 Mana to Shape
Ruling-or-Common-Only Improvised Spell: 2 Mana to Shape
Improvised Spell with Inferior Arcana in it: 3 Mana to Shape

That’s paid in addition to whatever the spell costs to cast in the first place, remember!

The stronger your spell is, the more dice Shaping it gets you:

  • Covert: (2 times Gnosis) dice, +3 dice if you spend a Willpower. The dice have 9-again and the rote action property.
  • Vulgar: (3 times Gnosis dice), +3 dice if you spent a Willpower. The dice have 8-again and the rote action property. You add extra dice to the end-of-turn paradox roll.

Each success on a Shaping roll increases the spell’s Potency and Tenacity for a turn, making fireballs hit harder, walls harder to break through, etc. Use rituals or runes if you want Tenacity to last longer.

SUSTAINING THE SPELL: The spell lasts a turn by default, but you can commit dots of your Gnosis towards it to “sustain” it. You can sustain total Mana cost in spells equal to your Gnosis, so a mage with Gnosis 3 can sustain one spell costing 1 Mana and a second spell costing 2 Mana, or three spells costing 1 Mana each, etc.

END OF TURN PARADOX: Local Paradox Intensity + 1 die per vulgar spell cast + Gnosis rating of each mage who shaped a vulgar spell.

A mage using a magical tool (which is basically anyone unless they’re missing theirs or being rude) adds (Gnosis -1) dice for shaping a vulgar spell instead; the tool forgives one die. However, they still add the base 1 die for casting a vulgar spell at all.

OBLATION: 1/day, takes an hour. You roll (Path Attribute)+Gnosis dice and get Successes + 3 + Hallow Rating Mana. It’s okay to immediately spend excess Mana.

Spontaneous Spell Casting Cheat Sheet

The Act of Hubris Ferrinus