In my ongoing efforts to bend the rules of magic to my will, I have yet another house-rule to present. Again it addresses Paradigm and Paradox, the two elements I find most lacking in nMage. As is often the case, my homebrew lands somewhere in between Ascension and Awakening – this time I've also drawn inspiration from the nWoD supplement Second Sight (a most useful book covering Low Magic and other occult gifts accessible to mortals). At some point I will have to assess the earlier house-rules as well, and compile/rework them all into a single, hopefully stream-lined and comprehensive, document. For now, that's on my to-do list.
This is the latest instalment.
Paradox occurs when a magician attempts to cast a spell that is considered Vulgar. There are two primary factors that determine whether a spell is considered Vulgar: Paradigm and the nature of the spell. In the latter case, some magical effects are of such a nature that it's casting invokes the powers of Paradox. This can be influenced by the local Paradigm. The Paradigm can be likened to a metaphysical law-of-the-land, and it can change over time, according to world-spanning events, such as the Breaking of the Seal, or more local developments, such as long-term exposure to magic.
Example: Imagine the two cites of Göteshafen and Marburg. The former's Paradigm is highly magical, allowing the Hermetic mages to cast most of their spells out in the open. Here such effects as Ball of Abysmal Flame, while technically being Vulgar, has a considerably lower chance of triggering a Paradox back-lash. Marburg, on the other hand, is governed by a low-magic Paradigm. Here blatant feats of magic will trigger the effects of Paradox. In contrast, many Aragonian and Corinthian cities have non-magic Paradigms, increasing the chance of Paradox even for Covert magic.
Both the cities have native Arcane orders however, and these are working in the open, directly influencing and directing the every-day lives of the local inhabitants. This brings us over to the secondary factors governing Paradox, witnesses and magic style. As a rule of thumb, performing magic in front of Sleepers will increase the chance of a back-lash, but this is at best a modified truth. A crowd of disbelievers will greatly increase the chance of Paradox, while a group of believers will lessen the chance. This explains both why a mob of angry villagers can defeat a wizard with nothing but torches and pitch-forks, and why a magician accompanied by a loyal entourage can perform extraordinary feats. This is also why certain types of magic is accepted in some areas and not in others, and why the willworker's magical style and his use of Arcane tools affects his outcome.
Example: The Craftsmasons of Marburg are constantly trying to push the envelope of what the Paradigm will allow in terms of Enlightened Science. Their flying machines and clockwork contraptions are constructed in front of sleepers, and more often than not tested before a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. While mishaps, malfunctions, and even the odd explosion occurs, each successful demonstration strengthens the local belief in the Masonic Paradigm. Likewise, the Ordo Hermetica has spent centuries enforcing their will upon their land and it's inhabitants.
As for magic style and Arcane tools, an outlandish mechanical device would have a much higher chance of invoking Paradox in the Order State than in Marburg. Likewise, a wizard drawing flaming glyphs in thin air to invoke a fire-storm would have a much higher chance of provoking a back-lash in Marburg than in Göteshafen. By this rule, flavour of magic isn't just a matter of style, but also a matter of approaching the Paradigm with respect.
There are ways to lessen the chances of triggering Paradox, however. By spending Mana in advance of the casting, the magician can mitigate the back-lash. This is further addressed below.
The modifiers below are added to the spell-casting dice-pool, and subtracted from the Paradox-mitigation cost and the Paradox-resolution roll. Mitigation has to be done in advance of the spell-casting dice-roll, and if the player opts not to mitigate, the Paradox roll has to be resolved before the spell.
The resourceful willworker can opt to pay his way out of a potential Paradox back-lash by expending Mana. This is done before the roll to resolve the magical effect. The cost is determined as follows:
Rank of effect + Gnosis - Paradigm and Paradox modifiers
Paradox RollResolving Paradox is done by rolling dice equal to:
Rank of effect + Gnosis + Paradigm and Paradox modifiers
Round all fractions down. If any successes are achieved, see this post for effects of Paradox.
Modifiers by Paradigm
Paradigm is Open (Magic is accepted).........................+2
Paradigm is Sympathetic (Magic style is tolerated)...+1
Paradigm is Neutral (Magic is not anchored)...............0
Paradigm is Hostile (Magic style is unfamiliar)...........-1
Paradigm is Closed (Magic is rejected).........................-2
Arcane tool is used.....................................................+1
Modifiers by Witnesses
20 or more witnesses who fully accept magic/magic style............+3
12 or more witnesses who fully accept magic/magic style.............+2
3 or more witnesses who fully accept magic/magic style...............+1
3 or more witnesses who actively disbelieve magic/magic style.....-1
12 or more witnesses who actively disbelieve magic/magic style...-2
20 or more witnesses who actively disbelieve magic/magic style..-3
Witnesses are educated and/or indoctrinated to accept magic/magic style...+1
Witnesses are educated and/or indoctrinated to reject magic/magic style.....-1
Example: Aratrax the Red prepares to cast Flight (a Vulgar Forces 5 effect) in broad daylight, on St. Militan's Square in Artugua in Aragorn (the Paradigm is hostile, and there are lots of witnesses, many of them actively disbelieving his spell – total of -5). Artarax has a Gnosis of 5, bringing the cost of mitigation up to 15 point of Mana [5 + 5 - (-5) = 15]. Unable to pay the prize, Artarax the Red then has to resolve his Paradox, rolling 5 dice [(Gnosis 5 + Forces 5) / 2 = 5]. Scoring three successes, Artarax's body is racked by magical energy run amok, and unable to cast his spell. Artarax is not having a good day.
[Picture source unknown]