Part 1: Magic and Foci

Part 2: Battle of Paradigm

Part 3: Magical Traits

Part 4: Grades of Success

Part 5: Magical Modifiers

Part 6: Paradox

Part 7: Seekings, Quiet, and Hobgoblins

Part 8: Countermagic

Part 1: Magic and Foci

The most important and unique aspect of mage is one blatantly obvious advantage that they have over the other creature types of the world of darkness: True Magic. Yes, Tremere can do great things with paths of thaumaturgy. But these are incredibly specialized paths that require learning individually. What a Tremere requires Lure of Flames, Movement of the Mind, Weather Control, and the like to do, a Mage can do with one sphere: Forces. True Magic is a far more versatile thing than any supernatural discipline, gift, arcanoi, or art.


At their core, Mages can be the most potent and powerful things in the world of darkness.  That being said, how are mages balanced in the World of Darkness?  Aside from the Forces of Paradox and the vast array of potential enemies, allies, and complications that hover around them, Magi are both helped and hindered by the one thing that makes their magic work (at least, until you become truly powerful): Paradigm.  A Mage’s Paradigm is the why, the how, the what, and the ‘wtf?’of his life.  Paradigm is the reasoning behind why the mage believes his magic works.  It’s not simply a set of things he does to work magic (these are called Foci), but it is the very core of his belief of magic.  It is his mind rationalizing the cause and effect of his actions and the resulting magic.  Each Paradigm, while they may be similar, is ultimately different.


Take for example two Hermetics. One believes that when he casts spells that he is calling upon the gods of old through tried and true ritual.  The other may take a more gnostic bent and believe that he is making pacts with the Demiurge with each spell that warps material reality and communing with God when he affects the spiritual.  Both are Order of Hermes.  Both use the same Spheres and cast the same rotes.  Both believe that their magic works on completely different principles.  These principles are the basis of their Paradigms.  This basic principle is also why the first Hermetic’s Sanctum would not work for the second.  While they are both obviously occult based and call upon traditions of magic, they use very different principles in the way they work their magic.  These principles, this Paradigm, is what the Sanctum is based off, and what the Sanctum’s reality conforms to.  Paradigm is the core belief of the mage, and it helps and hinders him on his journey toward Ascension.

From Paradigm the requirement of Foci stem.  Foci are natural extensions of the mage’s personal beliefs.  Using the Hermetic example above, the first Hermetic (let’s call him Mango) uses the old gods and their rites as his foci (okay, maybe this is a little Verbena, but bear with me).  His foci would be things that work into that Paradigm.  For example, when Mango decides that he wants to cast a spell to help heal an ally, he could possibly have the target lie in a ritual circle or on a consecrated altar, then use a series of sacred oils, ointments, and unguents to begin preparing the target for healing energies to infuse them.  He could finish it off by praying and burning incense to his gods/holy figures.  This is extensive, but this is what his Paradigm may require.  This is how his belief extends to his magic and why he thinks it works.

For a completely different example than Mango, let’s go to a Technomancer.  The technomancer’s beliefs are that science and devices are what can change reality, bending the natural laws (or breaking them in some cases).  A Son Of Ether, for example, might use the exact same rote as Mango, but instead, he may prep the target for an automated surgical robot or even a ‘regeneration bath’ in various chemicals, or even a ‘regeneration matrix’ machine that floods the target with life energies.  Both have VASTLY different Paradigms and beliefs, but both still work the exact same rote and spheres.


This is a very important part to being a mage: defining your character’s beliefs. This defines his Paradigm, which, in turn, defines his Foci.  It’s best to work from the root belief and build upon it, layering the way your character views his magic and how he views each Sphere.  The basic Tradition descriptions give basic examples of commonly used foci for spells, yes, but they don’t really give you a step-by-step guide to Paradigm.  This is because there isn’t one. Each mage has his own beliefs that color his magic and his foci.  However, each Tradition is a gathering of like-minded mages that use similar Paradigms and Foci.  Not each Hermetic is identical, but the ideals of how magic works and the principles behind it, and their personal beliefs make them natural allies with one another and a brotherhood of sorts.


Even the Virtual Adepts have their own factions and specific beliefs (from the Reality Hackers who literally hack the code of the universe to the Cyberpunks who use hardcore rotes and cybernetics), but their beliefs coincide and they have similar goals and views.  Determining Paradigm and Foci should be a very personal thing for each mage.  They are the core of his beliefs - the very reasons why he believes his magic works.  Delving into this can definitely color the mage’s spells and the way he interacts with others on a magical level.

Unique and Specialty Foci: 

You have a specialty focus for each Sphere, a focus with which you’re particularly good.  If you can find a way to work that focus into the magic, then you get a one-Trait bonus on your Arete Trait total for the resolution of such challenges.  For instance, if your Hermetic mage uses Enochian chants to summon Forces magic, then you get a one-Trait bonus any time you chant when casting a Forces spell.  You could still inscribe a sigil with your staff (say, if you were rendered mute), but you wouldn’t get the bonus, simply because your mage isn’t as good with that combination of Sphere and focus.  In some cases you’ll have a unique focus.  You can decide, for instance, that you don’t just perform your Akashic Spirit magic with your sword, but specifically with the Chinese broadsword you inherited from your grandfather.  When using a Unique Focus, you gain a one-Trait additional bonus on resolving your magical casting.  However, if you ever lose the focus, you’re in trouble.  You can’t use that Sphere at all without the unique focus unless you manage to either surpass it, gain enough Arete to no longer need it, or gain a new focus to replace it (at a cost of one Experience Trait per level in the Sphere).

Abilities Enhancing Magic: 

When you roleplay a focus properly, you can claim its benefits to your character.  For instance, if you actually take the time to speak some mystical words, flourish your hands and grasp your mystic amulet, you may well represent your mage’s use of Linguistics and you’re certainly putting that knowledge to work.  If you spend a full turn on the roleplaying of your focus before you cast an effect, that focus’ Ability helps with the result.  The list of sample foci gives some ideas for appropriate Abilities for each focus.  When you meet this requirement, you can use that Ability for one retest on the Arete Challenge as long as you have any levels left

Part 2: Battle of Paradigm

Now that we have covered the gist of what Paradigm is in the first section, we can talk a little more about how it is utilized in general.  Paradigm is everything to a mage.  It is your belief.  It is the way and reason you work your magic.  Gone are the mundane concerns of being a sleeper.  You’ve awakened to the possibility of magic in your own belief.  Now, to be meta for a few moments, Paradigm is just the filter through which a mage views reality and magic.  In truth, it is merely his will that bends the world to his beliefs.  However, mages DO NOT KNOW THIS.  Not until they start reaching sufficient enlightenment to start casting off their foci.

Now… that being said, your Paradigm is at war with the mechanics of the game.  What does that mean?  It means that the mechanics tell you what is possible in game terms, but your Paradigm tells you what is possible in terms of what your particular mage can achieve.  What do I mean by that?  Let’s take, for example, a Dream Speaker whose Paradigm, whose beliefs, say that once a person dies their soul goes to the great spirit.  That it is forever merged with the rest of creation and cannot be called back.  Guess what that mage can’t do?  Call back a spirit of a dead person.  Yes, their level of Spirit says that they can, but their Paradigm says they cannot. Therefore, they cannot.

Another example would be a Celestial Chorus member who summons a bolt of purity to scour the enemy before him (Prime 2 attack).  He prays and chants or does something of the sort and BAM, magical effect.  His Paradigm says he uses the power of the One to do this.  On the flipside, a Son of Ether builds an energy pistol.  He can’t pray or manifest it by will alone.  His Paradigm says that something cannot come from nothing.  He must use the pistol with a converter of some type inside that creates the bolt of prime that shoots out of the barrel after he pulls the trigger.  Does the book say you need a pistol?  No.  The book tells you the mechanics of what you can and cannot do and how to adjudicate the challenges involved.  The book cannot tell your Paradigm.  Paradigm must be taken into account for each spell and effect - does it work with your character?  Is it in line with how he views magic?  If so, it happens just fine.  If not, you have to find a creative work around (if there is one) or suffer Paradox.


This can lead to identical rotes having completely different manifestations (i.e. a Bolt of Prime coming down from the heavens as a lightning bolt, a energy blast from a gun, flying out of a bible in the shape of vengeful verses, sizzling through the air like electricity, or even beams from someone’s eyes).  Do not just use the book’s description.  Think of how your character shapes reality.  This is one of the most fun parts of playing mage.  The book tells you the rules.  Your character’s Paradigm that you designed gives you the flare and effect.

Part 3: Magical Traits:


Nearly every mage has human goals, drives and desires.  From these emotions spring Resonance, the flavors and alterations that color every piece of magic and make it personal.  Just about every magical spell, place and object has some sort of Resonance.  Most mages recognize three broad categories of Resonance, which correspond to the forces of the Tapestry: Dynamic, Entropic and Stasic.  You start with one Resonance Trait in one category, describing how your emotions cause your spells to manifest unique qualities.  Each type of Resonance tends to be similar to a specific Avatar Essence.  

Dynamic Resonance is like the Dynamic Essence.  Entropic Resonance is like the Primordial Essence.  Static Resonance is like the Pattern Essence.  Simply pick an adjective that may be appropriate for one type of Resonance.  This adjective influences your magic’s appearance.  As you gain experience and strengthen your magic, your personal style and feelings come through more strongly.  Eventually your Resonance will increase in strength.  As your Resonance increases, you become noticeably more magical, quirky and different.  Your personality traits shine through.


You can gain a new Resonance Trait from the following circumstances:

If you lose a Simple Test from Going into Quiet

Finishing a Seeking (whether passing or failing)

Losing a permanent Willpower Trait

Learning a Master-level Sphere

Undergoing a strong magical or emotional event (Storyteller’s discretion)

You don’t typically lose Resonance Traits.  Your character’s Resonance has a few noteworthy effects:  You gain a one-Trait Arete resolution bonus on all spell Effects that match up with your highest Resonance level.  You’re encouraged to describe your spells so that they show off your Resonance.  If you have the Dynamic Resonance of Fiery, for instance, then your spells should have contrails of flame and washes of heat.  To claim this bonus, you must use the Resonance adjective in your spell description.  You would have to elaborate on how fiery your spell is, potentially alerting your adversaries to your Resonance and style.  

You gain a one-Trait Arete resolution penalty on all spells that oppose your highest Resonance.  For instance, if you have the Dynamic Resonance Trait Fiery, you take a penalty on all ice-based magic.  If you have multiple Traits, you start to become more inhuman and magical.  You gain cumulative bonus Attribute Traits (which can exceed your normal human limits) and Negative Traits, depending on your Resonance totals, as shown here:





1-2 No modifiers













Isla has the Resonance Traits of Entropic: Lethal x3 and Static: Patterned, Instructive, Reinforcing.  From his Entropic Resonance, he gains the bonus Social Trait Fearsome, but the Negative Social Trait Ghastly.  From his Static Resonance, he gains the bonus Mental Trait Rational but the negative Mental Trait Predictable.  If he gains two more Entropic Resonance Traits, he will also get the Social Trait Intimidating and the Negative Social Trait Repugnant on top of these.  With certain Mind and Prime magics, you can sense Resonance, alter it, or tell who cast a given spell.  You may also discover that your Resonance opposes the Resonance of a place or piece of Tass, in which case, that Resonance cancels your magic and makes it harder for you to work spells (see the magical modifiers chart on p. 134)


The building block of the universe, the raw energy of the Tapestry, the Fifth Element, the power of the Tellurian - Quintessence is all this and more.  Mages believe that all reality springs from Patterns of Quintessence.  Objects or creatures exist because their Patterns are suffused with Quintessence, thereby giving them reality.  Proficient will-workers can take this very energy in its pure state and channel it to fuel their workings, to create new things or to reinforce their magics.  As such a potent commodity, Quintessence is highly valuable among Mages.  Track your Quintessence Traits with temporary Traits.  Quintessence Traits can have a Resonance adjective, or they can be flavorless.  You might have small cards for your Quintessence Traits, which record their Resonance and can be turned into a Storyteller once you use them.  

You can hold Quintessence Traits up to your number of Avatar Background Traits.  If you have even the Initiate level of Prime, you can exceed this limit and go up to 20 Quintessence Traits. Such energy is stored in your Pattern.  Your mage literally carries crackling, fundamental energy of creation inside his body.  Your starting Quintessence equals your rating in the Avatar Background.  When you enter a game session, you usually don’t gain any additional Quintessence since it’s such a rare and precious substance.  However, if you have the Node Background, or you have gained access to Quintessence in the course of play, you might gain additional Traits from a Storyteller.  You can use Quintessence for a variety of tasks.  However, you can never channel more Quintessence per turn into a magical effect than your number of Avatar Traits.  So, if you have Avatar x3, you can channel up to three Quintessence Traits per turn.

Quintessence can do the following:

*For one Quintessence Trait, you lower the casting difficulty of a spell by one Trait.  You can lower the base difficulty by up to three Traits (subject to your normal Quintessence spending limits).

*For one Quintessence Trait, you remove a penalty Trait from a spell.  For instance, if you are fast-casting a spell (normally a one-Trait penalty), you can spend a Trait of Quintessence to overcome this difficulty.  

*You can stack this use of Quintessence with lowering the difficulty if you have enough Traits. You can use Quintessence Traits to counter an opponent’s magic (seep. 136).

*You can use Quintessence Traits to nullify Paradox if you are a Master of Prime (see p. 164).

*You must use Quintessence to power certain spell Effects, as noted in their individual descriptions.

Using Quintessence:

As noted on the difficulty chart, using Quintessence allows you to make difficult effects much easier.  Each Trait of Quintessence that you channel, up to a maximum of your Avatar rating, lowers the difficulty of the effect by one Trait.  At best, you can have a net difficulty of three Traits lower than the base difficulty, to a minimum difficulty of two traits with Quintessence.

Casting Difficulty Trait Modifiers:

Spending Quintessence: -1 per Quintessence spent

Using Specialty Focus (foci): -1

Using Unique Focus (foci): -1 (Stacks with Specialty Focus)

Using Focus that Isn’t Required: -1 (Stacks)

In or Near Node: -1

Taking Extra Time: -1

Assisting Resonance: -1

Has an Item with the Subject’s Resonance: -1

Already maintaining and Effect: +1 per 2 effects maintained

Domino Effect: +1 per effect up to max +3

Opposed Resonance: +1

Not Using a Necessary Focus: +3

Conjunctional Effect: +1 per Sphere beyond the first (adding effects together for maximum potentiality)

Casting Without a Rote: +1

Mage is Distracted: +1

In Conflict with Avatar: +1

Part 4: Grades of Success

Most rotes have a listing for grades of success. If you cast a lengthy ritual or you use Willpower, you can boost a spell’s power so that it has a greater effect. The exact effects are listed in the “Grades of Success:’’ section for each rote.  If you have extra Grades of Success, you can place them into Duration or Power.

Using Willpower:

If you use a WP before casting, you cannot botch the effect, only fail.  If you succeed, you gain one Grade of Success to use in the effect.

Overbidding for Success

If you overbid to succeed by having twice or more the Arete that the difficulty, you get an extra Grade of Success to use in the effect.

Acting In Concert:

If two or more mages with the appropriate spheres work magic together, the aiding mages can either decrease the Arete difficulty by one or add one Grade of Success to the effect.

Rituals and Extended Magic:

If you double (or more) the time of the ritual (or more) you gain extra Grades of Success per multiplication of time taken to cast, or a reduction on the Arete difficulty (or both).  You must succeed (or win on a tie) in an Arete test for each succession of time.  If you fail, the difficulty increases by one, but if you succeed, your Grades of Success increase.

Effect Duration:

Most spells take effect immediately upon being cast. If a spell is instant, it takes effect and is done, although the results may linger. For instance, a bolt of fire is instant, so it just flashes into existence and strikes, but it may leave I something burning naturally. If a spell has a duration of one turn, it lasts until the end of your next turn. Therefore, you can cast an augmenting Effect, then use it with your next action in the next turn.

If a spell has a duration of one minute or conflict, then it lasts either for a minute (if you’re not in combat time) or for the series of tests necessary to complete one conflict. If a duration is listed as a scene or an hour, then the spell lasts either for one hour (if you’re not in * combat time) or until you leave the location or have a break in game time. Longer durations will typically exceed a game session and last throughout it. Durations rate on a scale, and certain Effects or techniques can modify a spell’s duration.

The grades for duration are: instant, one turn, one minute or conflict, one hour or scene, one day. A Storyteller must adjudicate longer durations. A spell might last for a week, a month or more. Some Effects, like magical item creations I or wards over areas, might be made permanent until another Mage counters them. Most Effects have an assumed duration of one minute/conflict, unless otherwise stated. Generally, casting an Effect on a subject other than the mage causes that Effect to lose one grade from its duration. An Effect that lasts for one minute/conflict when you cast it on yourself last for only one turn when you cast it on someone else. Keep these limits and grades in mind when making and approving your own rotes.


The effect does extra damage/adds extra traits, etc. per Grade of Power added.

Damage - 1 for 1 increase

Healing - 1 for 1 increase

Extra Traits - 2 for 1 increase

Negative Traits - 1 for 1 increase

Greater Effect in Area - 10’ for 1 increase

Part 5: Magical Modifiers:

Creating Magical Effects: 

When you decide to work magic (or whatever your mage calls it), you need to go through a simple process to determine the results. Follow these steps:

Determine the Effect: Figure out what you want to do, whether it’s hurling a ball of flame, causing people around you to fail to notice your presence or making dice fall as you dictate. Decide Upon Your Method: Each mage’s paradigm- his means of looking at magic - influences the casting of an Effect. If you’re a Hermetic mage, you probably use Enochian chants, the names of powerful angels and spirits, geometric sigils or glyphs. If you’re a Virtual Adept, you might reprogram a computer to project energy or re-code the surrounding universe itself. Figure out how your mage justifies the Effect in order to determine what focus and what Ability you use with the spell. Mages don’t just crank out spells. They work, chant, pray and invoke to make the magic happen.

Check Your Knowledge: Do you know how to accomplish what you want to do? Look at your character’s Spheres and determine what knowledge will help complete the feat. If you have the appropriate rote, you’re fine. If not, you may not be able to work the Effect. If you use the optional rule for fast-casting, you can try to cast the rote even if you don’t know it. If you use the optional rule for dynamic magic, you can try to build an Effect that does what you want, even if there is no rote for it. However, if you don’t have the necessary Sphere requirements, you can’t perform the magic. The base assumption is that you cannot perform a given spell unless your Spheres and rotes explicitly list the ability to do so.

Calculate Difficulty: The base difficulty for a magical Effect is the Effect’s Sphere level in Traits if it’s coincidental, plus one if it’s vulgar, plus another one if it happens in view of Sleepers who wouldn’t believe that it’s possible. Add modifiers based on the circumstances, as shown in the following chart.

Perform the Effect: You cast the Effect by making a Static Challenge. Generally, no Narrator is required as long as your Effect conforms to the rules presented here. You simply make the challenge against anyone handy. (Just be sure to tell the other person what you’re doing so that she doesn’t get the wrong idea.) If you win the challenge, your Effect succeeds. Work out the result as described for your rote or Sphere and continue. If you lose, your Effect fails. If you tie, you must check your Arete Traits against the Effect’s static difficulty, which you computed before. You win if you have more Traits or equal Traits. Note that if you lose the test, you can retest with an appropriate Ability for your focus (see the list of foci and Abilities on p. 178, which you picked when you decided upon your method. Also, you can overbid with your Arete if you have twice as many Arete Traits as the Effect’s Trait difficulty. However, your opponent can overbid if the reverse is true. Wound modifiers do not affect your Static Arete Challenge. Therefore, you do not come into the challenge Traits down or lose on ties automatically simply for being wounded. However, you cannot perform an Effect if you are unconscious and have not somehow maintained your thinking process magically.

Suffer Paradox: Once you’ve finished the Effect, you will take Paradox. Typically, Paradox causes a small amount of damage, but the Paradox Judge may decide upon another Effect as well. See the section on Paradox later in this chapter. 

Spending Extra Time: 

Should you choose to spend extra time, you can help to guarantee success in casting Effects. Taking a full extra turn to cast gives you a + 1 Trait modifier on the resolution of the Arete Test. You can stack this modifier with the use of a focus Ability. Therefore, if you take three turns total (one turn for extra time, one turn for the focus, one for the base Effect), you can cast with a +1 Trait bonus and an Ability retest.


If you're interrupted while casting an Effect - say, you're wounded while you're working your focus - you have two choices. You can either cast the Effect immediately and lose any bonuses from the extended casting, or you can take the penalty for being distracted and continue. Therefore, if you are trying to gain the 1 Ability bonus and casting an Effect, but you are wounded later in the same turn, you can decide to release the Effect without penalty but without gaining the retest. Similarly, you could continue to cast the Effect and gain a bonus for taking extra time, which would cancel the distraction penalty.

Simultaneous Effects: 

You can cast only one Effect in a turn. Even with Time magic, you are limited to channeling only so much magical energy. If you want to do multiple things at once, you will probably have to build a conjunctional Effect, if your game uses that optional rule. However, some Effects have a duration, especially if you use the grades of success mechanic from performing rituals or using Willpower (see the optional rules on p. 138). If you have an Effect running already, it takes some of your concentration and makes casting other Effects difficult. Performing any Effect that requires full concentration, like controlling weather with constant changes, precludes you from doing anything else. All of your attention is occupied on the spell. Even with Mind multitasking, you can’t divert your magical will to another feat. Any other Effect typically requires a little magical will to sustain, but it’s not too taxing. For every two full Effects of this sort that you have running, you take a one-Trait penalty on all new casting challenges, because you’re slightly distracted. Therefore, you might keep up a Forces shield without difficulty, but if you also add on the Better Body rote, then you’ll suffer a one-Trait penalty to all additional Effects that you weave.

Magical Reach:

Most Effects can reach to the distance of your line of sight or senses. Exceptions are noted in the individual power descriptions. If you wish to extend your range further, you must be able to cast a conjunctional Effect (see p. 141) with the Correspondence Sphere.


Unless otherwise noted, you can’t stack multiple instances of the same Effect. For instance, if you hit someone with the Entropy Effect Blight of Aging, the subject suffers a Negative Physical Trait. You can’t use the Effect again to cause another such Trait at the same time. If a subject is under multiple instances of the same Effect, only the most powerful one works. If the duration on one instance of the Effect runs out, the next longest duration kicks in. Therefore, if someone is under the Blight of Aging Effect to have two Negative Physical Traits for a conflict, and another Blight of Aging Effect to have one Negative Physical Trait for a scene, then the victim suffers two Negative Physical Traits for the first conflict and then one Negative Physical Trait for the remainder of the hour. He does not suffer the one-Trait penalty for an additional hour after the first conflict. The duration times overlap, and only the most powerful Effect affects the target at a time. When unweaving an Effect, you may choose which instance of an Effect to unweave. Therefore, you can unweave a longer-running Effect, a more-powerful Effect, or any one that you choose.

Part 6: Paradox

Vulgar Magic: 

When a mage calls upon his greatest powers and invokes a display of stunning mystical forces, the act violates the consensus - it flies in the face of what people believe to be possible. The static reality, or mundane world, follows laws and rules that say that such things aren’t possible. Through his enlightened will, the mage -I says “By my will, this is possible,” and he makes it so. The mage literally bends or re-weaves the Tapestry to his desires. He does not do so without cost, however. When a mage performs some feat that breaks the expectations of normalcy, he commits a vulgar display of magic. People don’t just hurl lightning, fly through the air or shrug off bullets -reality doesn’t work that way. So say the laws of the world, and so it is difficult for mages to gainsay these rules. Vulgar magic is difficult and often uncontrollable. Many vulgar workings go awry, and the world snaps back at the mage through the force of Paradox. When the mage does something that’s clearly impossible, he creates a ; Paradox, and the titanic forces he unleashes are often beyond human control. Vulgar magic is also called vain or dynamic magic, because it’s a mighty change to the world and a small example of the mage’s hubris in reshaping Creation. Mages who rely on vulgar magic often find themselves shunned by other mages who consider them dangerous, and they succumb to the forces of Paradox.

Coincidental Magic:

Of course, many of the charms and spells used by mages don’t have to violate the sanctity of the consensus. A mage can weave a subtle spell that takes off and nudges little bits of reality here and there to work to his advantage. Such magic is called coincidental magic because it seems like little more than a lucky coincidence. When it’s something that could reasonably happen in the real world, when people would say, “Wow, that’s unusual and lucky, but I guess it could happen,” it’s coincidental magic. Mages rarely give direct shape to coincidental magic. Rather, working coincidental magic is a matter of channeling desire into an Effect, then letting the spell go so that it nudges the Tellurian in a favorable way. The spell simply carries the mage’s need - “I want him to be harmed by lightning,” or, “I want to win this game of chance” - and the end result comes about in a way that could have plausibly happened anyway. Since this magic flows with the Tapestry instead of tearing it apart, it rarely suffers the burden of Paradox. The mage may not control it directly, but he nudges a few Patterns here and there to gain a desirable result. Note that, when casting coincidental magic in play, it’s customary for you (the player) to describe the nature of the coincidence, but your mage may not realize it. For instance, your mage could cast an Effect designed to help heal a wound. You rationalize it by saying, “The wound wasn’t as severe as it looked at first,” and indeed, when someone checks, the wound seems to be not nearly as bad. Your mage, though, simply chanted and invoked a charm to help with healing, and lo and behold, she seem to be better. She let the magic form the coincidence without directing it, even though you (as a player) decided on what coincidental form it might take.  Coincidence can also be mutable.

The Domino Effect:

When too many coincidences happen in one place, they stretch the bounds of possibility. As more and more events favor a mage, the likelihood of other good luck becomes smaller. Eventually, the run of good luck becomes improbable, and Effects that would’ve been coincidental become vulgar instead. Mages refer to this complication as the Domino Effect - knock down too many coincidences in a row, and they stack up until they’re just too implausible. Each time you cast a coincidental Effect, you decrease the likelihood of another favorable coincidence. You add a + 1 Trait difficulty to the casting of subsequent coincidental Effects. This modifier stacks, so you take a +3 Trait difficulty to your next Effect after three successive turns of coincidental Effects. In this case, it may be harder to cast each following Effect than it would be to cast vulgar magic. You still won’t gamer Paradox if you succeed, though. The modifier drops by one for each turn that you don’t perform a coincidental Effect. If your domino modifier reaches +3 Traits, then it stays at that level, and all subsequent coincidental Effects are now vulgar until you spend a turn without casting any magic. Then it drops back to a +2 modifier and dissipates at the standard rate.


Paradox is not well understood, but it’s perhaps one of the most feared (and most common) problems mages suffer. When a mage exerts the force of magic to change the world in spectacular ways, he violates the accepted nature of reality - people can’t really turn invisible or change lead into gold! -and a Paradox results. Often, the result ranges from inconvenient side-effects to disaster. Paradox isn’t a sentient force that’s out to get mages. Rather, it’s the backlash of universal forces against the meddling and manipulation of the Awakened. It doesn’t play favorites or hunt mages down. It simply strikes - often in some form of fatigue or injury as the mage’s spell goes awry - when a mage tries to rewrite the Tapestry. After all, the Tapestry is so complex that no mortal could ever anticipate its response to manipulations completely. Paradox most often strikes when a mage performs vulgar magic. The force of the mage striving to overcome static reality causes a Backlash or warping of magic. With some difficult spells, the mage might really screw up and be damned. Paradox can result as the mage fails spectacularly at some enchantment. 

Paradox Accumulation: 

You gamer Paradox when you work a vulgar Effect, or when you fail and if you cast a vulgar Effect, you gain one Paradox Trait for the highest Sphere level If Sleepers watched your vulgar Effect, you get an extra Paradox Trait. Lucky you. If you cast and fail an Effect that has a base difficulty of twice or more of * = your Arete Traits, you botch it. A botched coincidental Effect gains one Paradox Trait per highest Sphere level. A botched vulgar Effect, gains that amount plus one more. A botched vulgar Effect with Sleeper witnesses gives a mage two Paradox Traits per level of the highest Sphere plus two more on top of that. As you accumulate Paradox, it may destroy your Quintessence Traits. If your Paradox + Quintessence total exceeds 20 Traits, then replace Quintessence with Paradox so that the total never exceeds 20. Effect miserably. invoked. Therefore, casting a vulgar Disciple-level Effect garners three Paradox.

Staving Off Disaster: 

Usually, Paradox strikes immediately, causing discomfort or injury to the mage. However, you can delay this accumulation by spending a Trait of Willpower. If you : ’ do so, the Paradox holds until the end of the scene or hour, whichever comes first (mark it on your sheet). All Paradox you have gained in that time adds up. However, you suffer the Backlash of all the accumulated Paradox at the end of that time. BACKLASH Usually when you garner Paradox, it snaps and injures you. You may become fatigued as a result of your spell (suffering bashing damage), or you may actually be injured from a wash of uncontrolled forces. In rare cases, this damage might even kill the caster. Make a Simple Test each time you gain Paradox Traits. If you win or tie, it backlashes immediately. If you lose, it stays with your Pattern and simmers.. . for now. The damage of a backlash depends on the amount of Paradox you’ve garnered. Typically, a Backlash fires off all of your accumulated Paradox Traits. So if you’re sitting on a lot of Paradox, you could be in trouble. If you’ve suffered one to 10 Traits of Paradox, take half that many levels (rounded up) of bashing damage (to a limit of Mortally Wounded). If you’ve suffered 11 to 20 Traits of Paradox, subtract 10, halve (rounded up) and suffer that many levels of lethal damage (again, to a limit of Mortally Wounded). If you’ve suffered 21 or more Traits of Paradox (what were you doing?!?), subtract 20, halve (rounded up) and suffer that many levels of aggravated damage. And this time, it can kill you.

Paradox Flaws:

paradox can cause strange things to happen for a mage.  One may even find their magic disabled for a period of time.  In the end, paradox flaws are up to storyteller discretion and should fit the violation and paradigm of the caster.

Part 7: Seekings, Quiet, and Hobgoblins


Every mage Awakens with some rudiments of enlightened awareness. The i Avatar stirs, and the mage finds a new ability to perceive and alter the Tapestry, I as expressed through his Arete. However, most mages start with only a rudimentary understanding of these new powers. A mage must work, practice and strive for a deeper, more enlightened state of mind in order to increase the depth of this universal connection. A mage increases Arete through Seekings. In a Seeking, the mage grapples with metaphysical symbols, personal fears, problems, hopes and changing fates. Most often, this struggle occurs through dream-states or exploration of the mind.

The Avatar may trigger a Seeking, drawing the mage’s awareness inward, or the mage might hope to bring on a Seeking through various forms of personal entrancement with self-mortification, hypnosis or mystically augmented substances. There’s no guaranteed way to cause a Seeking, although most occur while the mage is in a relatively secure state. (That is, mages don’t find themselves yanked out-of-body and into a lucid dream while in the midst of a  firefight. More likely, the mage will have bloody nightmares and waking. During a Seeking, the mage encounters various symbolic representations of personal issues. These symbols could represent anything from phobias to childhood traumas to anxieties to failures to assumptions. Problems can appear in very straightforward manifestations or in cryptic allegory. A mage with a phobia of spiders might find himself trapped in a room full of arachnids, or strange, spiritual shapes might question the mage's beliefs or press him into dreamlike quests that make little rational sense, all with a deeper meaning of dealing with personal matters.

Often, the mage must overcome some deeply held belief or difficulty. These quests force the mage to re-examine his values and personal relationships to the Tellurian. Eventually, a determined and insightful mage can work through Seekings to find new understanding. The problems and symbols in a Seeking aren't always constant. A mage with a Pattern or Questing Avatar may have to solve and resolve the same trials over and over, adding a new layer each time. A Dynamic or Primordial Avatar is likely to use different tools each time. Ideally, the mage overcomes old habits and problems or realizes some great new truths. At the conclusion of a Seeking, the mage’s awareness returns.

A failed Seeking can be like a nightmare. The mage struggles with inner problems and realizes that they’re not yet resolved, that they’ll continue to press in painfully and that a greater awareness has been snatched away. A successful Seeking leads to something much like Awakening as the mage suddenly realizes a new level of reality. This change isn’t as profound as the first Awakening, but nevertheless, it can leave the mage with a deep spiritual lucidity that lasts for hours or days. Eventually, the mage settles back into the fold of Awakened existence, ready to strive for the next higher level of enlightenment. A Seeking can take a few minutes or hours, and most require some time and effort on the part of the mystic. It’s very rare for a Seeking to last longer, however. A mage who dives into his subconscious mind for more than a few hours risks madness, and he may actually be locked in a mindscape, an episode of Quiet (see p. 74).

You can undertake a Seeking each time you have enough Experience Traits for the next Trait of Arete. This is a matter to resolve personally with the Avatar Guide (see p. 250). If you succeed, you spend the Experience Traits and gain one Arete Trait. You do not lose the Traits if you fail, but you do not gain the Arete Trait either. In either case, you cannot engage in another Seeking until you meet the criteria of your Avatar Essence once more (see p. 86). You may gain only one Trait of Arete with each Seeking. Fortunately, once you’ve wrested enlightenment from the jaws of personal demons you can never lose it.  Only the most disasterous circumstances would cause you to lose and Arete trait.  However, your Arete can be suppressed temporarily if you lose Willpower Traits (see p. 118).


Since mages recognize the mutable vision of reality, it’s possible for them to become lost in a world of their own creation. Sometimes it’s difficult to separate truth from fancy or magic from the mundane. In severe cases when a mage’s senses are overcome, she withdraws from reality and becomes lost in her own magical world. Although some might mistake this state for insanity, mages recognize it as the victim’s mind being overcome with the grandeur of the Tapestry and the power of possibility. Such a state is called Quiet. A mage in Quiet sees or hem things that aren’t there, becomes obsessed or withdrawn or otherwise suffers a shift in personality. Quiets don’t strike with any predictablereguhty.Rather, they tend toresultfiomextremelybadParadoxl3acklashes or magical trauma. It's up to a Storyteller to determine when a mage falls into Quiet.

Generally, Quiet causes some roleplaying difficulties, since the character falls into a state of heightened emotional disturbance in keeping with the mage's individual Resonance Traits. Insomecases, amage winds up inaminbpe, an internal vision that pits the mage against his fears or delusions. For such an event, the Storyteller and Avatar Guide should work together to craft an appropriate side-game in advance. A mage struck into Quiet suffers problems based on the amount of Paradox energy that backlashed and put him there. The type of Quiet depends upon the mage's highest Resonance Trait. High Dynamism leads to Madness, high Stasis leads to excessive Clarity, and high Entropy leads to Jhor. With one to three Paradox Traits, the mage typically suffers from a minor hindrance or Negative Trait. As the Paradox Backlash size increases, so too does the severity of the problem.

All of the problems are cumulative as well. As long as the mage remains in Quiet, he suffers from a severe set of disorders. With one to three Paradox Traits in the Quiet, the mage suffers from doubled Negative Traits due to Resonance. Therefore, for instance, the mage's Negative Trait of Clumsy that comes from his Dynamic Resonance would become Clumsy x2. With four to six Paradox Traits in the Quiet, the mage suffers from a derangement. The mage tends to see things that aren't there, and he has trouble responding to the surroundings. With too much Dynamic Resonance, this derangement comes as hallucinations. With too much Stasis, it is a compulsion. With too much Entropy, it manifests as intense paranoia. This derangement is primarily a roleplaying hindrance. Players who ignore it should be penalized accordingly by losing their Experience Trait for the session. With seven to 10 Paradox Traits in the Quiet, the mage spawns random Hobgoblins. With 11 or more Paradox Traits in the Quiet, the mage enters a mindscape.

Coping With Quiet: 

By focusing and concentrating intently, a mage can attempt to break through Quiet induced problems. He has no guarantee of success, but the mage might be able to bring his attention back to the real world with effort. Spend a Willpower Trait and win or tie a Simple Test. If you succeed, you discharge one Trait of the Paradox, and you manage to avoid the effects of the Quiet for the rest of the scene or hour, whichever comes first. If this test reduces the severity of your Quiet, then that reduction takes effect immediately. You may be able to fight down a Quiet-induced derangement, for instance. You can make this test only once per scene. Barring the successful use of Willpower, a Quiet reduces in severity by one Trait every session. Yes, a mage could be in Quiet for a long time if he does not fight it off.


Severe Quiets sometimes make raw, creative forces seep from the mage's subconscious. As his mind wanders and sees things that aren't there, the mage's I power gives form to these hallucinations. Or are they real things that simply chose this time to appear? Whatever the case, the hobgoblins are very real manifestations of the mage's delusions

A mage typically manifests one hobgoblin for each Trait of Paradox that went into the Quiet above six. With seven Paradox Traits blown into a Quiet, the mage suffers one Hobgoblin. With eight Traits, he suffers two, and so on. Hobgoblins should be moderated by an Avatar Guide or Paradox Judge so that they reflect the mage’s inner turmoil and magical difficulties. Hobgoblins may take the forms of people, creatures or items. Most often, they have a form appropriate to the Quiet in question. For an episode of Madness, they could literally be little goblins or nonsensical furniture. With Clarity, they manifest as machine-voices or freakish technological aberrations. With Jhor, hobgoblins could be small demons, imps or perhaps weapons or implements of torture.

A hobgoblin is very real, and it doesn’t suffer from Paradox or Unbelief. Rather, it’s spawned from the mage’s own magical powers. Unless a hobgoblin is patently paranormal, it resembles a normal thing in all ways. No simple means exists with which to tell a hobgoblin from reality, and a mage already suffering from hallucinations has a very tough time of it. Hobgoblins tend to stick around and haunt the mage for an entire game session, although they can be killed or broken before then. Although no simple Traits exist for a hobgoblin, run with a few simple animals or items. You don’t need to get wild, and hobgoblins don’t often manifest as HUGE KILLER BEASTIES! More likely, a hobgoblin will run around and vex the mage or cause social problems, and perhaps play to some of the mage’s personal fears. If a mage manages to snap out of his Quiet, hobgoblins or their remnants vanish like melting snow.


In very severe Quiets, a mage’s consciousness retreats into the shell of his mind to battle with Paradox and the Avatar. The mage runs through a gauntlet of symbolism and surreality in an attempt to come to grips with his state, best his Resonance and escape to sanity once more. While in a mindscape, a mage is catatonic. With Disciple level Mind magic, others can enter the mindscape to help or hinder the trapped mage. By spending a Willpower Trait and winning or tying a Simple Test, the mage can communicate one spoken sentence into the physical world. Otherwise, the mage is on his own. 

Craft a mindscape like you would a Seeking. Grab some Narrators and the Avatar Guide, then throw a few trials or puzzles at the mage. The character must puzzle through the bizarre scenery to reach the waking world once more. Indeed, the mage might not even realize immediately that he’s in a mindscape. If a mage or visitor is knocked unconscious or killed in a mindscape, the hapless victim lapses into a coma and awakens only at the Storyteller’s discretion. Fortunately, when a mage fights through a mindscape, he discharges all of his accumulated Paradox Traits in the process.

Part 8: Countermagic

Sometimes you just can't let the enemy get the drop on you, and you have to find a way to fight or cancel his spell. That's where countermagic comes in. A mage works countermagic by using his own powers to cancel or wash out his enemy's Effect. Doing so counts as your action for the turn, so you can't do it if you've already acted. The three basic types of countermagic are sphere countermagic, anti-magic and unweaving.

Sphere Countermagic occurs when you have the Spheres necessary to know what the opponent is doing. You pit your Arete against the enemy's. In such a case, you make an Arete Test, at the same difficulty as the opponent (although you take your modifiers for distractions and Resonance into effect). If you win, the spell is canceled. If you have Apprentice-level (or better) Prime and your Arete is higher than the opponent's, the Effect can be reflected back upon him, so he might be hit by his own fire bolt or wounding spell.  

Anti-Magic uses Quintessence to strengthen the Patterns of reality against an Effect. You spend Quintessence to raise the difficulty of the opponent’s Effect. You can spend Quintessence up to the limit of your Avatar Background, as usual.

Unweaving tries to tear apart an existing spell. You make a challenge against the difficulty of the original spell (although your difficulty might still be modified by distractions or Resonance).  You must have the Spheres necessary to have cast the Effect, and you must have at least the Apprentice-level Prime Sphere. If you win, the spell loses one grade of success. Unweaving can degrade the duration of a spell. If the spell has no grades of effect left (i.e., it’s down to a simple Effect), then an unweaving destroys it.