Lex Arcanum: Part 2

Posted by Peter Gates

Here is the second part of the rules for Lex Arcanum, Spells and Arcana.

Lex Arcanum

A Fate Core Conversion for Mage: the Awakening

Foreword: These rules were developed as an amalgam of several other rule sets for Mage I discovered via Google+ (including the Mana Stress and Paradox rules created by +Paul Vencill), which I unfortunately did not note down at the time and have since forgotten. I apologise to the original developers of those rules, but at the same time thank them for spurring me on to develop these rules. If someone knows who developed the precursor to these rules, please let me know so I can give the appropriate credits.

The Arcana and the Practices

Each arcanum has its own purview, which describes the types of things you can try to do with it.  The level of the arcanum determines which practices are available to you.  As you raise the arcanum, new practices allow you to create more blatant and world-changing effects.  When casting spells, compare your arcanum’s purview with the practices available to determine what kinds of spells you can cast. You can find a summary of the purviews of each arcana, and the different practices available at each skill level, below. More in depth descriptions can be found on the Mage the Awakening Wiki.

Arcana Purviews

  • Death - Darkness, decay, ectoplasm, enervation, ghosts, soul stealing
  • Fate - Blessings, curses, destiny, fortune, oaths, probability
  • Forces - Electricity, gravity, kinetic energy, light, physics, radiation, sound, weather
  • Life - Disease, evolution, healing, metamorphosis, vigor
  • Matter - Alchemy, elemental air, elemental earth, elemental water, shaping, transmutation
  • Mind - Communication, hallucinations, mental projection, mind control, telepathy
  • Prime - Hallows, illusions, magical imbuement, mana, resonance, tass
  • Space - Conjuration, scrying, sympathy, teleportation, wards
  • Spirit - Exorcism, the shadow realm, soul retrieval, spirits, the gauntlet
  • Time - Divination, prophecy, temporal acceleration / deceleration

Arcana Practices

Initiate (+1)
  • Knowing - Gain mystical knowledge about and understanding of phenomena.
  • Compelling - Elementary manipulation of phenomena, enough to activate them and/or impart directions.
  • Unveiling - Gain sensory perception of phenomena.
Apprentice (+2)
  • Ruling - Exert elementary control over phenomena.
  • Veiling - Conceal, camouflage, or hide phenomena from scrutiny.
  • Shielding - Protect a target.
Disciple (+3)
  • Weaving - Alter the capabilities or functions of phenomena.
  • Fraying - Injure a target.
  • Perfecting - Fortify, bolster, or improve phenomena.
Adept (+4)
  • Patterning - Transform phenomena into related phenomena or shapes, or replace their capabilities or functions with different ones.
  • Unraveling - Injure a target, degrade its capabilities, or negatively transform it.
Master (+5)
  • Making - Create phenomena from nothing.
  • Unmaking - Destroy or mutilate a target.

Casting Spells (aka. Using Arcana as Skills)

Casting spells works very similarly to using normal skills.  When casting a spell, it will fall into one of FATE’s four action types: Overcome, Create an Advantage, Attack, and Defend.  Unlike normal skills, however, spells can be used in situations that are impossible.  Also unlike normal skills, spells can attract unwanted attention from the abyss.

Overcome: Using a spell to overcome works like normal skills do, except the ways you can overcome obstacles with magic are often unlikely or otherwise impossible.

Create an Advantage: Using a spell to create an advantage works similar to using a normal skill to create an advantage.  If the defense is active, the victim must use a believeable skill (for the given spell and situation) to defend.  If for any reason the spell will last longer than a single scene, no free invocations are awarded.

Attack: Many actions in mage will be resolved through the Overcome action.  However, when the chips are down and your adversaries are dangerous, spells will begin to be resolved as attacks.  This is at storyteller discretion, but the general idea is that unmaking a room of sleepers might be an overcome action, while unmaking a mage is much more difficult, and will be resolved as a series of attacks.

Mechanically, using a spell to attack works just like using a skill to attack.  Depending on the spell, however, the victim will need to come up with a descriptively valid way to defend with a given skill.  Dodging a lightning bolt with athletics makes enough sense, however using athletics to defend against direct pattern fraying might be tricky.  Attacks need not seem like direct attacks in the conventional sense to be used as attacks.  A Life mage may describe their character hulk out before using Life to attack.  However, enhancing another character’s physical form would be considered creating an advantage.

Defend: Using a spell to defend works just like using a skill to defend.  The effect must be within the arcanum’s purview and appropriate to defend the attack.  Using Prime to defend against bullets, for example, might be tricky.
Note for Mage the Awakening veterans: In this game, armor buffs would be handled as creating an advantage, which then give you justification for using your Aracana Rating for the defense roll. Counterspelling works in a similar way, using the appropriate arcana (or simply Prime) to make an active defense against a Vulgar spell, or any spell if you have a way to see the spell being cast (e.g. Mage sight).

Maintaining Spells

A Mage can maintain a number of spells at once time equal to his Gnosis + 3. Furthermore, he may only have a number of spells on himself equal to his Physique rating before his pattern becomes saturated. After this point, he receives a -1 penalty per addition spell on all spellcasting rolls.

Spell Potency

The potency of a spell (in particular spell aspects created with create an advantage) determines how strong it is, how difficult it is to resist, and how quickly paradox is able to wear away at it or dispel with magic. The potency of a spell aspect is determined as the total difference between the casting roll and any passive or active opposition that takes place. The potency of a spell aspect should be noted down with the aspect for easy reference.

For example, if a mage cast a Fate spell that hexed with bad luck, rolling a total of +6, and the target rolled +3 for his roll to oppose the effect, the total spell potency would be +3 (6 - 3). This means that if someone then wanted to dispel this spell using their own magic, they'd have to overcome a passive opposition of +3 to do so.

Spell potency can also be used to determine how effective a spell is. For instance, if a mage used Matter magic to seal a door shut to its frame, the spell potency can be used as the passive opposition for anyone trying to force the door down.

Sensory or Sympathetic Magic

The reach of a mage’s powers is limited to the extent of his awareness. Of course, with magic, a mage’s awareness can extend very far indeed.

Spells have two basic ranges: sensory and sympathetic. Sensory spells are within range of the mage’s mundane senses (particularly sight, hearing or touch). Sympathetic spells use the Space Arcanum to extend the mage’s reach virtually anywhere, provided the mage has a strong enough connection to the spell’s target.

To cast a sympathetic spell, the mage must have at least 2 dots in Space and a Mana point must be spent. The stronger the connection between the mage and the target, the easier it is to include the target in the spell’s Imago. If the mage knows little or nothing about the target, it is hard to perceive it in his mind’s eye, making it difficult to build a sympathetic connection. This difficulty is represented with bonuses to the passive opposition for the spell or active opposition of the target, as shown below.

Sympathetic Connection Between Caster and Target
  • Sensory (+0): You can see, hear or otherwise sense your target directly. This is the default factor, a sensory spell.
  • Intimate (+1): You have a piece of the target’s physical substance, such as hair, nail clippings or blood from a creature, a leaf or flower from a plant, or a sliver of material from an object. Or you know the target very well, such as a longtime friend or close family member, a beloved pet or a prized possession.
  • Known (+2): You know the target, which might be a friend, co-worker or personal possession. You have a photo or other accurate representation of the target, or you can see the target on live video or hear the target over live audio.
  • Acquainted (+3): You’re acquainted with the target. It might be a casual acquaintance, a co-worker you hardly know, or an item you held or used once.
  • Encountered (+4): You have encountered the target briefly, such as a person you passed on the street or an item you touched once.
  • Described (+5): You have never encountered the target, but can describe it. You might know a person’s name or physical description, or what an object or place looks like.
  • Unknown (--): If you know nothing about the target, you cannot cast a sympathetic spell on it. Knowing that there is a rival mage in town is not enough to affect the mysterious figure from afar. You must at least know his name, description or location.
Note: If the caster does not know the real name of a target, the difficulty of achieving a sympathetic connection is increased by two degrees on the chart. So, for example, an Intimate connection would become an Acquainted connection.

Mana Stress

All mages have a mystical energy called mana that they use to power their spells.  This is represented by a separate Mana Stress track that is equal to 2 x Gnosis, but unlike a normal stress track, each box is only worth 1 stress. For Gnosis 6 or higher mages are granted additional consequences, with +1 Mild Consequence at 6 and 7, +1 Moderate Consequence at 8 and 9, and +1 Severe Consequence at 10. These may be used to absorb Paradox Stress, or converted to mana as discussed below (‘Scouring their Pattern’).

Mana can be used in the following ways:
  • To soak Stress from Paradox Damage
  • Can be burned instead of Fate points when spellcasting to Invoke the Mage’s High Concept or to  Invoke aspects created by spells
  • It can also be used to power particularly powerful spell effects (as per some spells in Mage)
A mage may spend an amount of Mana up to ½ Gnosis each exchange.

A mage may recover spent Mana in a number of ways. The first is to harvest it from Hollows - magical sites that produce mana. Secondly, a mage my ‘Scourer their Pattern’ by taking Consequences that recover a number of mana equal to their value (ie. a minor consequence would grant +2 mana stress). Consequences suffered by Scouring the Pattern are Impervious to Magic Healing in addition to whatever aspect represents the Consequence’s effects.