Chronicles of the Lost Pantheon
Being a Mage
We do not have time to deal explicitly with the characters “Awakening” to their supernal power, so it will help to have all in the same place some of the basic game effects of what mages understand and can do.
Metaphysical Geography: Through the centuries, mages have refined a high concept of how the universe and all reality is structured, as well as what our world’s place is in it. Reality is divided into the Fallen World and the Supernal World, and a vast, howling Abyss separates the two. The Fallen World is subdivided into our physical world (which is the only thing most people ever see) and the Shadow Realm (also known as the spirit world). An invisible, intangible membrane called the Gauntlet stands between the physical world and the Shadow Realm. The Supernal World is divided into five discrete realms, each with its own unique natural laws. To Awaken is to travel in spirit to one of those Supernal Realms and make your mark on it. To work magic, is to draw down the unique natural laws of the Supernal Realms into the Fallen World, supplanting our physical world’s natural laws.
Resonance: Everything has a subtle side, an esoteric spiritual or magical nature that defines it just as much as its physical aspect does. In the case of places, this ethereal element is called resonance. Resonance is marked by certain qualities, most often characterized by emotions (hate, anger, joy, sorrow), or more rarely by concepts (logic, chaos, fascism, democracy). Spirits in the Shadow Realm are attracted to resonance in the physical world that has qualities similar to their own natures. Magic cannot directly affect the resonance of a place (at least not for long), so sorcerers must work to alter it indirectly over time to achieve the qualities they want.
Hallows & Sanctums: Where the pure force of magic, Mana, filters down from the Supernal World (or where that energy is regularly trapped and recycled), it saturates the local area, turning the place into a “Hallow.” For those who know how to harness them, such places are invaluable. Hallows often have a strong allure for both Awakened and Sleeper, although the latter don’t really understand why. Hallows vary a great deal from one to the next, but they all share a single tendency: They don’t feel like mundane space. Fertile or fetid, holy or hellish, there’s no mistaking a Hallow for any mundane place. Any mage standing in a Hallow can sense its ambient Mana with a successful Wits + Occult roll.
A sanctum is a mage’s stronghold, a place where he can practice his Art away from the eyes of Sleepers and spies. Such strongholds are usually built on Hallows when mages can find those places and snatch them up quickly enough. Legends tell of wizard’s towers, witch’s huts, and sorcerer’s caves, but the reality is usually more prosaic: a penthouse apartment, an old estate, or even a nondescript suburban tract house. In this game, the characters all share a beach house sanctum on a Hallow by the coast. Normally having a Hallow and a sanctum is a function of Merit dots, and those dots have been factored invisibly into the characters’ backgrounds for simplicity’s sake.
Mage Society: Certain recurring factors make mages who they are, and recognizing those factors has influenced the formation of magical society as it stands today. Every mage who Awakens travels in spirit to one of the five Supernal Realms along a certain path, and that path informs the style and type of magic he is able to perform. No two mages of the same path are exactly alike, but they stand to be more alike than mages of different paths. Yet no mage is an island, and no mage can solve all of Creation’s mysteries himself, so mages tend to work together in groups called cabals. Cabals can consist of mages of different paths, as their group goals tend to be personal and temporal rather than driven by metaphysical ideology. Mages do come together into larger, looser groups based on ideology, though, and those groups are called orders. Many harking back to the ideals of lost Atlantis, the orders are global in scope and driven by broad agendas locally. Orders take in mages of any path, and likewise, many cabals include members of different orders. The most influential and knowledgeable body of local governance over the Awakened is known as a Consilium. Like a local senate, a Consilium consists of all the local representatives of the orders and cabals at work in a given area, and it works to see to the best interests of the Awakened who live in that area.
Shadow Names: Names have power, and none know that better than the Awakened. A mage’s soul writes his true name forever on the walls of his chosen watchtower in the Supernal Realms when he Awakens, and doing so imbues his name with powerful sympathetic resonance. Should another mage learn his name, that mage can use magic against him more easily. Therefore, most mages who are part of Awakened society take on “shadow names” to protect themselves.
Hubris: When a mage’s hubris outstrips his morality, he risks losing his Wisdom. The more heinous sins he commits in the name of ego, the more quickly his Wisdom falls. At Wisdom 7(where almost all characters start), harming others with magic, shoplifting from a store, or any worse misdeed can cause moral degeneration (a loss of Wisdom). When the character commits such an act, the player rolls a number of dice based on the severity of the sin. The worse the sin is, the fewer dice are rolled. (Committing grand theft is three dice; using magic to murder someone is two dice.) If the roll fails, the character loses a point of Wisdom. (Willpower can’t be spent on this roll.)
Characters with reduced Wisdom justify their behaviour to themselves instead of repenting, and they become that much more blinded by hubris. It will now take a worse sin to cause another roll to degenerate. At Wisdom 6, binding a human being to a place or task can spark such a roll. At Wisdom 4, you can bind a person to do anything you want as long as you don’t steal their mana or maliciously harm them (magical torture). At Wisdom 2, you can harm him to your heart’s content as long as you don’t actually let him die. At Wisdom 1, you can even go so far as to kill a victim as long as you don’t steal his soul.
Characters who do lose Wisdom naturally risk becoming unhinged mentally. If a player fails a degeneration roll, he should immediately roll his character’s reduced Wisdom as a dice pool. If he fails that roll, the character gains a derangement. This derangement can be any form of minor but pervasive mental disorder, such as depression or a phobia. The player should roleplay this new character quirk, as it has some mechanical effects.
Mana: Mana is the formless Supernal energy filtered down into the Fallen World. Some of it is residual energy left trapped when the Abyss opened, recycled over the millennia into a thousand forms, but some of it is fresh, brought into the world by a mysterious form of grace from on high. The mage characters can hold up to 10 points of Mana in their bodies at a time. Players spend points of Mana to allow mages to perform various feats of magic. Casting an improvised spell requires the expenditure of a point of Mana, unless the primary Arcanum used is one of the mage’s ruling Arcana (as indicated in the character write-ups). Casting a spell on a target beyond sensory range requires the expenditure of a point of Mana, as does inflicting aggravated damage with a spell. Also, certain spells that significantly alter the laws of nature or physics might require the expenditure of Mana.
To regain spent Mana, a mage can do one of several things. He can perform an oblation (a ritual function associated with his path) at a Hallow. Doing so requires an hour of uninterrupted ceremony and a Gnosis + Composure roll. Each success provides one Mana. Mages cannot gain more Mana per day, however, than the Hallow’s rating. (The Hallow in this game is rated 3, so no matter how many mages perform oblations on the same day, only three points of Mana are available from sunrise to sunrise.) Mages can also scour their bodies to free up Mana. A mage elects to degrade one of his Physical Attributes by one dot in return for three Mana points. The lost Attribute dot is restored 24 hours later. Scouring takes one full turn. A mage could elect to scour his Health instead. He suffers one lethal wound and gains three Mana points. Magic cannot protect against this damage, and it cannot be healed by Pattern restoration or any known Awakened magic. It heals naturally at the normal rate. Unlike the scouring of Attributes, there is no limit to the number of Health scourings a mage can perform in the same day.
Finally there is one last and unsavoury practice that can also yield up Mana to a mage: the death and blood sacrifice of a living creature. Animals as big as a cat provide one Mana each, although only one such killing per day provides Mana. Sacrificing a human provides one Mana per Health dot. The victim must die; he cannot be bled until he is close to death. Only the one mage who performs the sacrifice gains the ill-gotten Mana. This practice is sure to cause a Wisdom degeneration roll.
Mage Sight: Mages have a number of means by which they can open their eyes to the supernatural, seeing (or even hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting) the subtle currents of supernatural powers at work in the world. While all mages have an innate sixth sense to detect the presence of active powers, it does not allow them to identify or analyze such powers. For that, they need to enchant their senses. Although such spells come in many forms, they are collectively called Mage Sight. Besides revealing magic and other supernatural powers, these spells make resonance obvious to the senses. Once a Mage Sight Spell is active, the player should can Intelligence + Occult to analyze the resonance. This is an extended action with each roll representing a single turn of scrutiny; it takes 5 successes to determine the basic nature of the resonance. More successes can provide more information at the Storyteller’s discretion.
Finally, some Arcana can be used to sense or analyze certain powers better than others, although all Arcana can be used to sense supernatural power. If the power is mystically concealed, however, successes rolled for the mage must equal or exceed the Potency of the magic used to conceal the source. Note that Mage Sight does not allow a sorcerer to see or interact with entities in the ephemeral state called Twilight (see “Crossing Over” on page 12). That requires other spells (usually Death for ghosts and Spirit for spirits).
Pattern Restoration: Mages can infuse Mana into their bodies to heal wounds. (Doing so is called restoring or repairing the mage’s metaphysical Pattern.) The cost is three Mana points per one bashing or lethal wound. This is an instant action. Those mages unable to spend more than three Mana per turn can take as many consecutive turns performing only this action as they need, until they’ve spent all three points. The number of times a mage can spend Mana to restore his Pattern within the same 24-hour period depends on his Gnosis. At Gnosis 1–4, he can do so only once per day. With Gnosis 5 or 6, he can perform two Pattern restorations per day.