Magus Novice Opus: Prima Materia

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It's back!

Rules

Resolution is roll Xd6 and compare success counts. The default success number is 4 but this may be raised or lowered by circumstances. No successes and 1/2 or more 1s rolled produces a botch.

Great Work

To wield magic is to undertake a quest.

A character's Great Work is the objective of their journey in magecraft. Daedalus had the Great Work of 'human flight over the sea'. Nikola Tesla had the Great Work of 'harnessing the power of lightning'. While some are more readily achievable than others, the great work must always be a grandiose or transformative act- capable of escalation to greater and greater heights as the character finds the low-hanging fruit of early achievements sour and unsatisfying.

Characters regain will when they achieve or work towards their Great Work.

Failings

To wield magic is to face failure.

A character's failing is the fatal flaw which undermines their success, whether a lack of courage to face hardship, hubris or simply being the wrong fit for their goals. These are rarely externalities, although illness or terrible curses come with complexes and fears of their own which may make them suitable. In all cases, failings make 1s subtract from rolls. Botches from these rolls also have scenelong effects, rather than simply being dramatic failures.

Suffering the fall of a failing bestows wisdom, allowing magi to overcome themselves.

Legends

To wield magic is to stand on achievement: your own and those who came before.

A character's legends are elements of their being which exist in the realm of mystery, either as mystical trappings inherited from the myth and folklore or simply their own oft-rumored traits. Above the vagaries of fate and manipulating the world by will alone, the seemingly mundane traits of magi take on lives of their own. Sustained contact and control of the azoth transforms and purifies the stories of the will-worker's life, making them unnatural and fantastic: the school's track star becomes a record-breaking athlete and the part-time model is remembered as a legendary beauty. Magi who seek normalcy and modesty find themselves sinking into a stylized, shockingly tasteful sort of hyperreality.

Legends are divided broadly into two types: legacies, mythical objects or traits the character possesses (the bloodline of Merlin, the broken sword of Orlando Furioso, a geas sworn to Macha) and rumors, their mundane yet larger-than-life traits (being a master swordsman, a wizard-class hacker, an impossibly wealthy socialite).

Legends empower the character, with each one adding one Azoth to their limit and one Azoth per scene unless deprived of a means to store new points. Magical society is based on the common links between these legends, both among magi and their otherworldly ancestors. Those without old bloodlines, bequests of storied artifacts often have trouble breaking past the superficiality of modern magi society. Such gifts are not without their own penalties- plenty of people are keen to defeat the latest scion of Merlin to prove the power of their own line, or connive and find a way to turn the geas on its user.

Legends may impose boons or benefits of their own, beyond the social ramification. The man who carries the Sword of Orlando might very well cut apart a small army alone, while the scion of Merlin will entertain great benefits when casting spells. Conversely, a child who carries the blood of wolves might be vulnerable to silver and easily fly into rages.

Creating Legends

The Legends characters take at chargen have ratings, which represent the weight they generate on a person's personal story. Each Legend provides its rating in points to buy various beneficial effects tied to it, which may be increased by taking negative manifestations- essentially weaknesses.

Potential legend benefits and penalties include:

  • Once per session, being able to overcome a trivial problem without taking direct action, such as minor purchases, getting study notes or getting a taxi: -1
  • Once per session, being able to overcome an inconvenient problem, such as a major purchase, getting test answers or getting booked to an overseas flight: -2
  • Being able to overcome problems multiple times per session without acting: -1, requires one of the above two
  • Once per session, receiving (Legend) additional dice to a specific task: -1
  • Receiving a non-stacking difficulty break to a specific task: -2
  • Receiving a stacking difficulty break to a specific task: -3
  • Multiple times per session, receiving (Legend) additional die to a specific task via mystical transformation or possession by a legendary ancestor: -2
  • All spells being half-cost (use total, round down) in Azoth because of a powerful magical bloodline: -4
  • Being regularly challenged to fights by upstarts who want to claim your titles or bragging rights: +1
  • Being mildly vulnerable (Legend dice to damage rolls) to a specific substance: +2
  • Being severely vulnerable (no Toughness or defensive spells versus damage) to a specific substance: +4

Stats

Power (P): Physical power and strength.
Finesse (F): Physical precision and swiftness.
Toughness (T): Resistance to pain and injury.
Sensation (S): Situational awareness, mental agility and keen senses.
Intellect (I): Mental horsepower.
Charisma (C): The ability to dominate a situation and attract attention.
Deception (D): The ability to deceive others about your nature and intentions.

Skills

Academics (specify): A field of study such as mathematics, sociology or wizard's studies. Probably your major.
Athletics: Physical conditioning for sport as well as acrobatics, running and feats of strength.
Craft (specify): The skills to create objects of beauty, value or function without the assistance of magic. Important for creating vessels to house Azoth or as elements of more ritualistic magic.
Delinquency: The ability to achieve maximum school life with minimum effort, choose professors that don't track attendance and generally fob off work while sustaining a passing mark. Also includes knowledge of the school's seedy underbelly.
Etiquette: The ability to achieve maximum school life with maximum effort, choose professors who have the potential to be good mentors and make a good impression with faculty and high-class students.
Lore (specify): Knowledge of specific topics such as particular realms, faculty gossip or the habits of supernatural phyla.
Martial Arts (specify): Skill at arms, includes guns and even vehicle-based combat arts.
Military: Strategy, tactics and logistics. Can be used to control familiars.
Occult: Knowledge of fundamental aspects of magical phenomenon.
Rule: The ability to manage assets: things, people, places and everything in between. Can be used to control familiars.
Perform (specify): Singing, oratory or other performing arts.
Servant: The ability to work towards another person's goals and follow directives, as well as perform menial and domestic tasks.
Sneak: Evading notice, blending into crowds and disguises.
Technology: The creation, maintenance and usage of technological apparatus. Can be used to create apparatus to store Azoth.

Resources

Will is your reserves of determination. Characters have a permanent Will that determines the maximum they can stockpile, and is sometimes rolled to defend against some mental assaults (many use Sensibility or Intellect instead).

A point of temporary Will can be spent to:

Add a success to a roll. Can be spent retroactively to negate (but not overcome) a botch.
Cast spells when Azoth is exhausted.
Automatically defend against magical effects.

Wisdom is the 'reward' for suffering a Failing. Enduring a botch without paying out of it provides insights that magi can use to climb to ever greater heights. Wisdom has no permanent stat, and is instead accumulated session to session.

A point of Wisdom can be spent to:

Obtain an insight on how to resolve a situation.
Dynamically learn a new spell of any available level, ignoring the Azoth cost. Can be used to go into XP debt.
Enhance social checks with other magi, or other beings of vision and ambition.

Also known as ain soph and mana, azoth is the metaphysical solvent that is essential to magecraft. It allows them to dissolve rigid aspects of reality and refine them according to their vision, and make these changes permanent. All spells cost one Azoth per level of the spell (so an L1 spell costs 1 Azoth, an L5 spell costs 5 Azoth, etc.) Magi collect azoth in a variety of ways, from gathering it in their blood or fatty tissues, trapping it in coins of precious metals or gemstones or decanters of alchemical crystal.

Combat

Magic

Magic is the term applied to a variety of supernatural arts, which can be categorized in a cause-and-effect manner. While other forms of willworking exist these are not typically learnable and exist as externalities to the world of magi.

Magic that may be learnt by magi are called spells, although programs and invocations are other common names. Spells are constructed using the Heirarchy of Achievement, a pyramid structure where the most advanced discoveries depend on the magi's foundational creations of magic. Spells have a numerical rating, corresponding to approximately how much Azoth is expended to realize them and the number of foundational crafts they needed to be possible for the user.

Level 1 spells require no prior foundations, while any spells a character has of Level 2 must be combined out of two Level 1 spells. Any Level 3 spells must be created out of two Level 2 spells. While common foundations for spells being combined into the next level are allowed, the total number of foundation spells must always be higher than those above (e.g.: having a single Level 3 spell requires 2 Level 2 spells but also 3 Level 1 spells.)

An overly incestuous line of development is likewise a limitation on the character's ability to formulate advanced magecraft, making them overspecialized and vulnerable to logical counters.

Each spell has a set number of parameters. Certain parameters are only available for stronger kinds of magic, and may increase the cost of purchase:

Target

  • Self: yourself
  • Other: some particular other thing or person
  • Scene: larger elements of the scene (req level 3)
  • Category: affect all of specific category of things within the range e.g.: people, cats, chairs, knives, etc (req level 3)

Range

  • Touch: You need to touch the target
  • Local: Can target within a few dozen metres
  • Distant: Can target in line of sight (req level 3)
  • Realm: Can target in the same dimension (req level 5, 3 XP)
  • Cosmos: Can target anywhere (req level 10, 9 XP)

Duration

  • Momentary: one round or less
  • Transient: one scene (req level 2)
  • Persistent: long-term (req level 3)
  • Generational: extends across lifetimes (req level 5, 3 XP)
  • Aeon: arbitrarily long-term (req level 10, 9 XP)

Effect (spells have default 1 effect, can buy extras for 1 XP)

  • Damage: Break stuff (like people)
  • Repair: Fix stuff (like people)
  • Create: Create substantial things
  • Move: Move things
  • Transform: Otherwise alter things (specify)
  • Scan: Gain information about things

Some spells have modifiers which change their functions and may decrease or increase their cost.

Modifiers

  • Coincidental (-1 cost): effects take place through coincidences over time, being less convenient but more deniable.
  • Condition (-X cost): the domain has a condition for use, such as only being usable when injured.
  • Mundane (double XP cost): the spell costs no Azoth to use.
  • Onerous focus (-2 cost): the domain can only be used through some non-trivial process such as a ritual or use of technology.
  • Reflexive (+2 cost): the spell can automatically be activated on a conditional trigger. This does not count against the action limit.

Flux

As a magi rises in stature and power, their foundation abilities strengthen. This effect is called 'flux', and allows a magi to scale up spells up to the highest possible level they can cast by expending additional Azoth. The magi pays the difference to raise the effective level of a spell (e.g.: a Level 1 spell cast as an Level 3 costs 2 extra Azoth). Spells can be fluxed the first time they are cast via innovation with Wisdom points, and spells paid for with Willpower are automatically fluxed to the highest level.

In situations where a character has a spell-discounting effect, such as the Mundane modifier or some Legends, the character must still pay the level difference (e.g.: a Level 2 Mundane spell cast as a Level 4 costs an additional 2 Azoth, for 2 total).

Familiars

Familiars are creations of Azoth and will, placed into a shell of the magi's design. Most are bound spirits, demons and ghosts contracted from outside realms or more rarely, wholly artificial things invested with a fragment of the designer's essence to give them life. Creating a familiar requires an extended ritual, similar to the research process required to create a new spell. Once completed the magi incants or performs a binding that allows them to freely summon the creature to their side. The shape of familiars is highly variable, but not limited to strictly humanoid shapes. A certain clan from Central Europe specializes in animating storied hulls of tanks, battleships and other military vehicles and the Maou of Makai specialize in beating their underlings into the shapes of animated blades.

Magi can cast their 'familiar' spells normally, without summoning the intended creature if they desire. A magi with the Rule or Military skills can have as many unique familiars as their Intellect or Charisma, the limit is otherwise one. Familiar traits can be upgraded as the magi gains XP. As they gain new and more powerful spells, magi may choose to relocate their familiar's 'core' to a new spell, although this may cause shifts in ability and personality, as their nature changes to reflect the new powers which define them.

Familiars are a special type of spell, that are cast normally and conjure a special creature with the following traits:

  • Familiars are created from a single spell of any level the caster may have normally. This is their 'core' ability, which they may cast freely at no Azoth cost. A Familiar created from a Level 4 "Cataclysm of Fire" spell would for example, be able to free cast this and all of its foundation spells.
    • However familiars cannot 'flux' or receive the benefits of willpower casting.
    • Familiar spells /themselves/ can be fluxed, but the enhanced performance lasts only a single scene.
  • Each familiar is summoned with (Level x 4) points of HP and (Level) dice to mundane pools, with the benefit of the user's purchased skills.
  • Familiars have core competencies at +1 dice which relate to the spell created from them, e.g.: familiars created from fire spells have +1d to resist fire and +1d to manipulate (if the spell is Transform-type), conjure (if the spell is Create-type), etc.
  • Familiars, like regular summons, can be directly controlled with the Military or Rule skills. Other shapes such as swords or vehicles can be used with Technology or Martial Arts as appropriate.

Familiar spells have special XP costs as listed:

  • If the familiar must be summoned and lasts for a single scene: +0
  • If the familiar is always corporeal but spends most of its time in a harmless form (with the benefit of non-magical traits) and must have its magic activated with a command word: +1
  • If the familiar is always corporeal and can be summoned to the master's side with a command word: +1
  • If the familiar has a 'tyrant form' which is substantially larger than a person, gaining the benefits of doubled Health: +2
  • If the familiar has a Special Quality: +Cost, 1/2 cost if the master already has it
  • If the familiar is always corporeal and is able to use all of its magic at will: +Level
  • If the familiar has its own needs and ambitions, and is somewhat mouthy: -1
  • If the familiar is unable to heal injuries automatically scene to scene and requires healing from its master: -2
  • If the familiar is actually uncontrollable and must be persuaded to act: -3

Special Qualities

Unusual traits that characters might possess. Unusual features are more common among Visitors and Eclectics. This section only includes traits which are meaningfully different- magi may have prosthetic limbs, gems for teeth and nails driven into their flesh, but will only be listed if mechanically relevant.

Ask the GM for new ones!

Affinities: Increased compatibility to an element.

  • [Element] Affinity (1/2): A character has a strong affinity towards a traditional Classical, Wu Xing or Tattva element such as Fire, Earth, Wind, Water, Ether, Wood or Metal. When casting spells where the Affinity element is used, add one dice. The repurchased version lowers difficulties involving the specific element by 1.
  • [Rare Element] Affinity (2/3): As above, but grants the benefits to the use of esoteric but relatively concrete elements such Mind, Body, Shadow, Light, Sword, Divine, Makai and Cosmos.
  • [Abstract] Affinity (2/3): As above, but grants the benefits to the manipulation abstract, intangible concepts such as Numbers, Information, Beauty, Persuasion and Rulership.
  • [Dual Element] Affinity (3/5): As above, but grants the benefits to any two elements chosen. If the effects would overlap, the dice stack but the difficulty reduction does not.
  • [Systemic] Affinity (3/5): As above, but applies the benefits to a system of worldly conceptualization. Traditionally this gives access to traditional elemental systems such as Alchemy, Hermeticism or Five Elements (Wu Xing) but may allow for other modes.

Sensory: The ability to perceive beyond.

  • Abyssal Gaze (1): Having peered into what fills the without between realms, no amount artificial deprivation can compare. You cannot be blinded or otherwise deprived of sensation by magic- even the nothing contains what others mean to conceal. Usually causes solid black or starry eyes.
  • Cyclops (1): Your one eye is sensitive to detail, but you lack depth perception. Stacking dif -1 bonuses/+1 penalties as relevant.
  • Danger Sense (3): A honed sensitivity to hazards, the ability to feel killing intent or simply mostly-correct paranoia. Grants a bonus die to Sensation rolls versus ambushes, always allows these rolls and provides a second initiative die.
  • Exotic Sense Organ (1+): Eyes that can see heat, antennae that can sense air currents, the ability to smell lust or wrath or greed.
  • Refined Sense (1+): Enhanced senses, usually involving the ears of a cat, eyes of an eagle, etc. Each purchase grants a category of things that the user cannot fail to notice, such as selected prey, obvious flaws, nervous tics, the smell of blood, etc.

Combat: Things that make the user better at fighting.

  • Dim Mak (1): Hardened fists and legs deal an extra die. Scoring more than 3 net successes let you apply the effects of a throw on the opponent after dealing damage.
  • Dragonsbreath (1/2): Allows the character to breathe fire or project some other natural attack, like cold, acid or bony spikes. These are Precision-based attacks that use Toughness for damage. A repurchase makes it spread out and splash over clustered targets.
  • Hellish Claws (3): Natural weapons of any sort which not only add one die to all combat rolls, but also impose the laws of Hell in combat and cause an automatic success unless magically countered. Can be used with weapons and attack spells- their presence is enough to grant the user these benefits. Common alternatives are horns, fangs and bladed feet.
  • Immortal (5): Less fun than it sounds, the character's existence cannot be extinguished. This means they will never lose consciousness, even if reduced to a red smear, and quickly return to functionality over the course of subsequent scenes. Additionally, their mental pools can only ever be brought down to half- although skills may be disabled if physically impossible.

Movement: Things that make the character more mobile.

  • Wallrun (1): Take that, gravity! Can cling to surfaces for about the duration of a single round, balance on small possibly airborne objects and stick to one indefinitely as long as they're moving at a relatively good speed.
  • Super Jump (1): Enhanced ability to jump long distances and sustain wuxia-levels of airtime. Is even better with magic.
  • Wings (3): You can fly as quickly as you can run.

Utility:

  • Prehensile X (1): You have the equivalent of a functional limb that can grasp things, use tools and hit things. If taken for feet, it grants both but also imposes a need for custom shoes. Prehensile hair is always neat and perfect.
  • Natural Tool (1): You may exude paint from your tongue or fingertips, have nails perfectly suited to woodcarving and scrimshawing or teeth that can cut gemstones. You cannot be deprived of the tools for your chosen Art or Craft skills.

Chargen

  • Choose magical origin:
    • Autodidacts (those self-taught) can cast twice as many spells by expending Will.
    • Eclectics (those of two worlds) can store Azoth two ways, and can spend 1 Will to reset how their stored Azoth is assigned.
    • Heirs (those of pure heritage) gain 2 points to augment any two Legends they have.
    • Visitors (those from outside) gain 2 points that can be spent on Special Qualities.
  • Specify Great Work and Failing.
  • Specify how the character stores Azoth. The method is always at the player's discretion but must involve an object of relatively high worth or rarity, or the user's body, and have a logical weakness.
  • Characters have 25 experience points to distribute among stats (max 7), or buy skills at 2/per. These points can also be spent on special qualities.
  • Characters have 10 experience points to purchase their initial spellbook.
    • 1 point purchases a Level 1 spell with no modifications. Spells of higher ranks cost 1 XP per level, and also require a foundation of subsidiary spells with (Level) L1 spells, (Level-1) L2 spells, and so on.
  • You also have 15 experience points to purchase additional spells, legends, willpower, or additional stats, more ways to store Azoth, skills and qualities.
    • Legends cost points depending on their strength, with 1 for a Legend no particular strength. The cost of a Legend is proportional to the strength of the influence it bears on the character's life, causing greater and more grandiose distortions of their fate. The cost may be mediated by negative effects which instead cause unhappy coincidences and obstacles to appear.
    • Characters have a WP max of 5 automatically. Each additional point of max costs 1 point (max 10).
    • Characters have an Azoth max of their highest spell (Level*2), +1 for every method of storage they have. Additional Legends add 1 each to the total amount. Characters may spend 2 XP for an additional way to store Azoth, and split their stored points between any methods chosen. This assignment can be reset at the beginning of every session.
    • Record starting health (Toughness + Current Azoth).

NPCs

Lapis University