Some folks on the Onyx Path forums recently started discussing the 2nd Edition Mage: The Awakening spell Chaos Mastery. There was a lot of confusion around this spell, which I take pretty seriously, since it was my responsibility to write the new Fate spells in a way that makes sense to gaming groups. I provided a more in-depth explanation there, but the short version is I tried to cram too many effects into Chaos Mastery, and the result is a fairly muddled spell that appears to do absolutely everything but doesn’t provide clear mechanics for how to do any of it. The purpose of this blog post is to remedy that.
A couple big caveats:
First, although I wrote Chaos Mastery, I am not the line developer for Mage: The Awakening. If the developer releases errata that clarifies Chaos Mastery, his official rulings trump anything I do here.
Second, these are house ruled spells, not an official Onyx Path product. They won’t work at every table. Some might even make convincing arguments that they are too powerful, too complicated, or otherwise unsuitable for their games or for many other people’s. That’s okay.
If you’re here because you wanted to see how, with the advantages of hindsight and unlimited word count, I would break the effects of Chaos Mastery into several spells so they are mechanically distinct from one another, you’re in the right place.
Adept of Fate
Choose the Slain (Fate ••••)
Primary Factor: Duration
Suggested Rote Skills: Athletic, Brawl, Firearms
Norse legends tell of valkyries – the women who choose which warriors live and which ones die on the battlefield. An Adept of Fate does not have as much power to choose the slain as those legendary agents of fate did, but he can tilt the scales sharply to favor some combatants over others. Deployed as a blessing, the subject may enjoy the following benefits during the spell’s Duration, each use of which reduces the spell’s Potency by one:
• Reflexively reduce all damage to the subject from one attack or environmental effect to zero. A bullet hits a stray pigeon, a sword blade gets tangled up in the subject’s coat, or a grenade’s shrapnel miraculously misses him.
• Reflexively prevent the subject from gaining one new Condition or Tilt from any source. The subject blinks at just the right time to avoid being blinded by a bright light, for example, or he remembers a piece of advice from an old mentor that allows him to accept his moral failure without feeling Guilty. This affects magically imposed Conditions and Tilts but not ones that are purely supernatural (such as Soulless).
• Reflexively reroll all failed dice on a single roll after seeing the results of the roll. This does not affect spellcasting rolls or rolls to activate supernatural powers.
• Reflexively bolster the subject’s Resolve, Stamina, or Composure by two for the purpose of Withstanding, Resisting, or Contesting a supernatural power as it is used against her. This bonus is cumulative with any granted by expending Willpower.
Invoked as a curse, once per turn the mage may reflexively impose one of the following disadvantages on the subject during its Duration, each of which reduces the spell’s Potency by one:
• The subject’s mundane action is reduced to a chance die unless she spends a point of Willpower to resist this effect.
• The subject doesn’t benefit from Defense or effects that enhance Defense (such as cover) until the beginning of her next turn.
• The subject’s armor rating is reduced to 0 until the beginning of her next turn, and bulletproof armor loses that quality.
• The subject’s Resolve, Stamina, or Composure is treated as 0 for the purpose of Withstanding, Resisting, or Contesting supernatural powers.
Note that once the mage successfully places this curse, he does not need to touch or target the subject again to invoke the spell’s effects against her. Sensory range is adequate, and even sympathetic range is acceptable as long as the mage has access to the Space Arcanum.
+2 Reach: This spell can also affect spellcasting rolls and rolls to activate supernatural powers, as well as purely supernatural Conditions and Tilts.
Fatal Accident (Fate ••••)
Primary Factor: Potency
Suggested Rote Skills: Empathy, Occult, Science
The mage causes the subject to suffer a freak accident or medical emergency – anything from falling debris to a stray bullet to a stroke. This is a direct Unraveling attack that deals lethal damage equal to Potency. The spell is frequently a target of the Delayed Manifestation Attainment in hopes that it will catch the victim unawares (and hopefully with her defenses down) and that it may pass as nothing more than an unfortunate accident to anyone who doesn’t think to look for Fate magic.
+1 Reach: Spend one Mana to instead inflict aggravated damage.
Grant Wish (Fate ••••)
Primary Factor: Duration
Suggested Rote Skills: Academics, Expression, Subterfuge
The witch or faerie who grants wishes is a staple of folktales. In most such tales, wishes wielded carelessly or for personal gain do not lead to a happy ending for the one making the wishes, while those that make modest or selfless requests are less likely to come with strings (or horrible unintended consequences) attached. Similarly, attempts to use complicated and legalistic language to prevent misinterpretation seems only to make it more likely that fate will seek out a loophole to exploit – to the wish-maker’s sorrow. For reasons even the wisest of Acanthus do not understand, this also tends to happen to anyone who attempts to make more than three wishes in a lifetime.
This spell allows the subject to make a number of wishes during its Duration no greater than its Potency – up to one wish per turn. A wish sets the wheels of Fate into motion, and neither the mage nor the subject can know exactly how or when it will manifest. Because the spell only points destiny in the right direction, however, wishes don’t expire at the end of the spell’s Duration. However, a subject who has not yet made three wishes in her lifetime can always use a wish to negate the effects of one or both prior wishes without any danger that destiny will twist her words or intentions.
The Storyteller is the sole adjudicator of how and when a wish’s effect manifests. If a wish asks something he deems impossible, he may veto the wish, although in that case the wish is not used up. Casting this spell invites a shard of raw Arcadian power into the Fallen World – an act that should not be carried out lightly – and it is most safely wielded to benefit subjects other than the Fate mage and his cabalmates.
+1 Reach: Whenever the subject mentions a desire within the mage’s hearing, even if she does not phrase it as a wish, the mage may reflexively grant it as though it were the subject’s wish. This version of the spell is always Withstood, and wishes granted by force in this way rarely count toward the subject’s lifetime limit of three wishes.
Greater Blessing/Curse (Fate ••••)
Primary Factor: Duration
Suggested Rote Skills: Craft, Occult, Science
The mage manipulates destiny around the subject in a way that alters her relationship to one or more aspects of the world around her. Used as a curse, it manifests as a series of misfortunes or unlucky coincidences that complicate her life. Chance sparks ignite her clothes, cellphone battering go abruptly dead, gusts of wind seem hell bent on pushing her off cliffs and ledges, cars take on a mind of their own around her, or falling objects seem to unerringly land on her head.
As a blessing, the twists of fate it sets into motion benefit her or even preserve her from harm. Gentle breezes cool her on a hot day, driving rain unexpectedly abates for the sixty seconds it takes her to cross the parking lot, the Molotov cocktail thrown through her window sputters out after a few seconds without doing any serious damage, doors conveniently unlock at her touch, or falling debris somehow barely misses her.
Choose Forces, Life, Matter, or Mind.
For the Duration of the spell, the Storyteller may create a twist of fate that emulates the effects of one Compelling spell of the chosen Arcanum. The effect is still treated as a Fate spell (not a spell of the chosen Arcanum), although it can be manipulated by the appropriate Arcanum as can any natural manifestation within the Arcanum’s purview. These effects aren’t under the mage’s direct control, although they should be in line with his general intentions for casting the spell and they should occur with reasonable frequency – at least once per scene but as often as once per turn.
The Storyteller may also create twists of fate that emulate the effect of Ruling or Shielding spells of the chosen Arcanum, following the same guidelines as above. However, the spell will not cause or prevent more incidents during its Duration than the spell’s Potency.
All of these manifestations of Fate are built with the assumptions of instant casting and a primary spell factor equal to Fate dots but are otherwise base effects and cannot be improved by Yantras, Mana, or Reach (but see below).
+1 Reach: Manifestations created by this spell instead have one spell factor of the mage’s choice that uses the advanced table. This Reach effect can be purchased multiple times but must affect a different spell factor each time.
+1 Reach: When calculating the subject’s Withstand, the manifestations created by this spell are treated as having two additional Potency.
+1 Reach: Although the mage cannot choose the exact form a twist of fate may take, he or the subject may choose to invoke one of the spell’s remaining Ruling/Shielding manifestations up to once per scene as a reflexive action.
+1 Reach: The mage may choose one additional Arcanum.
+1 Reach: The mage’s choice of Arcana is no longer limited to Forces, Life, Matter, and Mind. She may instead choose Death, Space, Prime, Spirit, or Time.
+2 Reach: The mage may choose a total of four Arcana.
+4 Reach: The twists of fate this spell creates can emulate the effects of all Arcana (with the exception of Fate).
New Two-Dot Attainment
Fate: Delayed Manifestation
While a skilled Fate mage can bend destiny to her will, it is sometimes equally effective to merely set events into motion and let Fate pick an opportune moment to manifest. In some cases, the element of surprise The spell affected by this Attainment counts against the number of spells under the mage’s control, but the spell’s Duration does not elapse, and the subject is not considered under the effects of the spell, until the spell manifests. However, it is considered an Opacity 2 Mystery for the purpose of Active Fate Sight and an alteration of destiny when viewed via Interconnections.
System: Spend a point of Mana and choose a maximum delay of no less than 24 hours and minimum delay that is at least 12 hours prior to maximum delay. The mage can stipulate that the spell will manifest in eight to 24 hours, for example, but could not guarantee that the spell will manifest in 24 to 30 hours (a gap of less than 12 hours) nor that it will be take effect in four to 16 hours (a maximum delay of less than 24 hours).
+1 Reach: The mage can set a maximum delay of as little as eight hours, and the gap between the minimum and maximum delay can be as narrow as three hours.
+2 Reach: As the first Reach effect, but this is instead four hours and one hour, respectively.
Some Clarifications Regarding Writer Intention
Quantum Flux has no effect on penalties to spellcasting rolls. The wording in the first paragraph is a little vague.
My intention with spells like Reading the Outmost Eddies and Shifting the Odds is that the do not require a prolonged Duration. Much like the Delayed Manifestation Attainment, these simply sets events into motion such that the subject will experience a minor twist of fate in the near future. Only a one turn Duration is necessary for Reading the Outmost Eddies, and the Duration of Shifting the Odds can be however long the mage thinks he’ll need any Merit created by this spell.
Serendipity originally had an effect similar to Delayed Manifestation as a base effect (no Mana cost), but it was cut for space. It won’t break anything to add it back in. It can also be fun to cast this spell on another subject so that they’re the one who receives the omen. Not everyone will heed such portents, but for those who do, a minor Condition like Inspired or Spooked could be appropriate.
As I explained on the Onyx Path forums, due to looming word count limits, I tried to make Chaos Mastery do too many different things. The rest of this blog entry is an attempt to spin off different sub-effects of that spell into their own separate spells to reduce concept bleed.
Now that I’ve put in a bunch of work creating some mechanics for using Fate •••• to emulate some lesser effects of other Arcana, I’ll note that Miracle can probably be used in a similar way with more advanced Practices, but it’s not unreasonable to limit it to Forces, Life, Matter, and Mind.
As with the new spells and Attainment, none of these are official errata, and anything the developer has to say about them holds more weight than what I was attempting to convey as a writer.