Mage: The Retooling

Mage has always been one of the more difficult groups to get our mechanics system around, due to many of the unique properties that are inherent to Mage. If you’ve ever looked at the original spell casting instructions for Mage (which run from pages 110 to 129 of the Mage: The Awakening core book), you can see that there is far too much going on to entice new players into the genre.

Back during Season 2, I attempted to simplify those rules into something a bit more streamlined. But even with those changes, people still needed “cheat sheets” just to understand how to cast spells. Mage shouldn’t be this hard! This isn’t a test to get a degree, these are rules for a game where you play pretend fun times. So, with that in mind, we’re headed back again to Mage spell casting, in order to address some of the problems we discovered the first time around. Here are the main points that I want to address in this version of the rules:

1. Spells should always cost Mana. Every group has to deal with Fuel expenditure, Mages should not be getting around this issue. The cost of any spell (before additions) will always be 1 Mana.
2. Paradox should not exist in the current form. Vulgar Magic? Covert Magic? Improbable Magic? That’s just nonsense. Other groups can light their bodies on fire, grow wings, throw cars, and generally perform overall impossible tasks. Mages should not be any more difficult to handle than any other Genre.
3. Improvised Magic is not viable. While the concept of Improvised Magic is interesting, it causes new players to dig through all the source material to see if there’s something else they could have cast. With a maximum of 15 spells available per Arcana, and 9 Arcanas that exist for Mage, there is plenty of choices that Mages have without grabbing up random spells.
4. Reach must be useful. How much Reach does a Mage use for a typical spell? 1 for Instant Cast, 1 for Sight Range, then maybe 1 or 2 to move spells into the respective advanced charts? That’s a tax, not a choice. We’re eliminating free Reach for Mages, but also eliminating Reach requirements for Instant Cast and Sight Range. Going forward, Reach will be generated by the player’s choice, and will perform a tactical function, not simply a minimum requirement to cast a spell. Speaking of charts…
5. Advanced charts are removed. Advanced charts were just a simple way to get to more targets or duration without spending as much for the spell. Going forward, everything in Mage will be a simple 1 to 1 ratio. From there, it’s pretty straightforward how Mages can adjust their spells without requiring complex charts.

So, here are the steps we would use to cast a spell going forward:

  1. Select the Spell you wish to Cast from your available Spells and spend 1 Mana. The Spell currently has 1 Potency. This Spell can be cast as an Instant, and has a Range of Sight.
  2. Determine your available Die Pool (Gnosis + Arcana + Aptitude).
  3. Optional: Increase your available Reach by either reducing your Die Pool by 3, or by spending an additional Mana.
  4. Optional: If you have available Reach, you may spend it in the following ways:
    1. 1 Reach: Increase Potency by 1.
    1. 1 Reach: Increase Targets by 1.
    1. X reach: Any additional effect requiring Reach for the listed Spell you are casting.
  5. Roll Die, determine outcome:
    1. Dramatic Failure: Paradox roll is made to determine effect of failed spell.
    1. Failure: Spell does not activate.
    1. Success: Spell activates and must be resisted as normal.
    1. Exceptional Success: Spell activates and must be completely resisted, or the resistance is ignored for determining effects.

As you can see, this system should be much easier for determining what happens when a Spell is cast, without requiring large sections of text in order to understand the effect. For those Mages who still want to buff other players, your abilities have been largely unchanged. For individuals who want to attack others with spells, this methodology should prove much quicker for resolving your casting attempts.