Sample 10th Level Spells for D&D 5E

A while back I wrote about 10th level spells in theory, and I’ve noticed that that post gets a little bit of steady traffic, so I thought I’d come up with a few examples of what I had in mind in terms of 10th level spells. I’ll put these in basic layout, and of course you can use them in your games. Quick reminder of the principles I came up with for 10th level spells:

  • A 10th level spell can change the setting in some ongoing way.
  • 10th level spells must be found, or researched, or earned as part of a quest.
  • A 10th level spell can be cast only once, and then it is lost.
  • 10th level spells are how you account for magical effects in the setting that aren’t covered by existing spells or magic items.

Cataclysm

10th-level evocation (Cleric, Druid, Wizard); Casting time: 1 hour; Range: 500 feet; Components: VSMgp; Duration: concentration, up to 1 hour.

You summon a catastrophic combination of energies that are more than enough to level a town or small city. This spell creates horrific, lethal conditions within a 1000 foot diameter circle that extends 200 feet above and, where appropriate, below ground.

Lightning: any creature that comes within 10 feet of a large metal object risks being struck by static electricity. The creature must make a Dexterity save or take 5d10 lightning damage, or half damage with a successful save.

Rain of acid and fire: The entire area is pelted with a fiery, acidic rain. Every round a character begins or ends out of cover, they must make a Constitution saving throw to resist 3d10 acid and 3d10 fire damage, taking half damage on a successful save. Each minute, the rain will burn through six inches of wood or an inch of stone, meaning there will be less and less cover as the cataclysm continues.

Tremors: The area is wracked by tremors, making all terrain difficult terrain and causing buildings to collapse. Each minute, a given building has a 10% chance to collapse, dealing 4d10 bludgeoning damage to all inside if a wooden structure and 8d10 bludgeoning damage to all inside if a stone structure.

Create Demi-Plane

10th-level conjuration (Cleric, Wizard); Casting time: 24 hours; Range: 1 mile; Components: VSMgp; Duration: permanent.

This spell consumes a single magical item that creates or interacts with extra-dimensional space, such as a bag of holding, worth at least 10,000gp.

Permanent Polymorph

10th-level transmutation (Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard); Casting time: 1 hour; Range: 30 feet; VSMgp; Duration: permanent.

As polymorph, but the change is permanent until it is dispelled by powerful magic.

Permanent Resistance

10th-level abjuration (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard); Casting time: 1 hour; Range: 30 feet; Components: VSMgp; Duration: permanent.

This spell grants a creature resistance against a single damage type from among: acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, poison, radiant; bludgeoning, piercing or slashing from non-magical sources. Casting the spell consumes a single gem representing the damage type (ruby for fire, etc.) worth at least 5,000gp.

Raise Flying Citadel

10th-level transmutation (Cleric, Wizard); Casting time: 24 hours; Range: 1000 feet; Components: VSMgp; Duration: permanent (until brought down)

This spell is cast by a single powerful cleric or wizard with the support of at least a dozen fellow clerics and wizards. The spell requires 24 hours to complete, and at the end, a stone keep is ripped free of the earth and allowed to float above the earth. It can be guided by a powerful spellcaster (of 12th level or higher) from the inside thereafter. It has a flying speed of 60′, and if not being guided simply hovers in place. This spell obviously requires a material component of one citadel which is not consumed in the casting.

Wish

10th-level conjuration (Sorcerer, Wizard); Casting time: 1 action; Range: self; Components: V; Duration: instantaneous.

This change simply makes the wish spell a 10th level spell so that it can only be cast once, must be found via a quest or deep research, and a DM can be more lenient with the various restrictions on the spell.

Erasure

10th-level illusion (Bard, Warlock, Wizard); Casting time: 1 hour; Range: self; Components: VSMgp; Duration: instantaneous.

This spell makes one creature permanently immune to being targeted by divination magic. The spell consumes an ingot of adamantine metal worth at least 5,000gp.

Horror Gaming

Call of Cthulhu (role-playing game) - Wikipedia

I think that the hardest kind of RPG experience to create at the table is horror – by a significant margin. I’ve been alarmed, worried, disgusted, and so on at the table, but very rarely frightened. The most frightened I remember being was in an Old World of Darkness game using Kult’s setting. The game that is always recommended is Dread, which is a great use of Jenga to create tension at a table whether you want it or not. It still requires more elements to approach horror.

I wonder – it’s pretty easy for a movie to scare the crap out of me. Why is it so much harder at a table?

Players Must Buy In/Session Zero

I’m pretty funny – I can coax someone into participating in a funny game. I can coax someone into participating in a heroic adventure game. I even know how to design specifically for either goal, among a few others. Horror, though – I don’t know how to coax someone into a horror game, and I can see ways that horror more than other genres would press against players’ lines and veils.

For this reason, a Session Zero for a horror game is necessary. The discussion of what you want kept out of the story needs to be had, because it will likely be the job of the GM in a horror game to suddenly introduce disturbing imagery and themes. It also occurs to me that a tool like the X-Card should be available, but in the context of a horror game, I can see that using it would potentially take people out of the moment – like pausing a horror DVD to answer the phone. And of course we shouldn’t harm each other for the sake of playing pretend, but if we can figure things out ahead of time, that is especially good in the context of a horror game.

Hope Must be Limited

The reason we sat down and designed Reckoning, a dice-less horror RPG, was because of the problem of dice. As long as you can roll dice to have a chance to triumph, horror is almost impossible. Our players would grin their way through horrific scenarios, or so we thought them, rolling dice all the way. My friend Jason says that a horror game can therefore never use dice, but I wouldn’t go that far. It’s just that dice can’t be an option for triumphing. Stakes have to be set carefully, perhaps.

Reckoning limits hope by having a scene count-down which will end with something horrific happening. Each time a card gets turned, you know something else bad is going to happen, all getting closer to the worst thing happening. I think that some kind of countdown, some kind of visibly growing threat, could be necessary. The proverbial ticking time-bomb that the players know about, even if the characters do not.

Doom Must be Foreshadowed

Continuing on with the previous thought – when you go to a horror movie, or pick up a horror novel, you know what kind of story it is. This has to be clear from the start with a horror game as well. Even if not from the literal beginning, there should be a big reveal at some point, early. Ideally, all of the players should think, “Oh crap, this is going to be deliciously bad.”

If possible there should be foreshadowing both in the fiction and outside of it – in the room where the game takes place. On the character sheet. On the pages of rules you reference during the game. On the art you use to represent what the characters see. In the music you have playing while you game.

A Strong GM Seems to be Necessary

I asked Twitter to let me know about any APs tweeps are aware of that represent a horror game that seemed to really foster fear and horror on the parts of the players. I enjoy APs, but they are generally what I end up doing when I run horror – some moments of squick and then dark humor the rest of the time, bordering on outright zaniness. Even for AP groups that focus on horror gaming, this seems to be where they max out as well. When done well, the squick is very squick-y and the dark humor is dark and funny, but would I call it horror? I’m not sure.

One thing I’ve noticed is that horror gaming, even the squick/dark humor kind, seems to demand a strong GM. I would love to see an attempt at a GM-less (or GM-full) game that does horror consistently well. My guess would be that if it does, it is simply a game (like many GM-less/full games) that attracts a bunch of GMs as players. I think horror gaming will simply depend on GM skill + player buy-in, full stop. I don’t see a way around that, and I don’t see any game that gets around that, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong by some genius game design. As I sit here, that game design is beyond me as a designer.

It’s Cthulhu and Footnotes

The last thought I have about horror gaming is that Call of Cthulhu dominates horror gaming the way D&D dominates fantasy adventure gaming. Clearly, there are other popular horror games, like All Flesh Must Be Eaten back in the day, or Bluebeard’s Bride; various Worlds of Darkness, or of course the often-mentioned Dread. There is also Monsters and Other Childish things, perhaps, or Clockwork: Dominion. But Call of Cthulhu looms over all of these, and when horror gaming comes up, CoC will almost invariably come up as well.

What is the difference here? What makes Call of Cthulhu stand out, despite being temporarily supplanted by Vampire the Masquerade for example? I think one difference is that many of those other games are also about adventure and the chance to triumph. Not Bluebeard’s Bride, and mostly not Dread perhaps, but otherwise, those games listed above can be played as adventure or comedy pretty easily. Really, the one that would be hard to play that way would be Bluebeard’s Bride – I think one could easily hack Dread to tell a Fiasco-style story, as an example.

I think that the key appeal of Call of Cthulhu for horror gaming might be that it is common knowledge that CoC is not about triumphing, or even in many cases surviving, a horror story. It is about going insane and/or dying horribly. The worst things you’ll encounter you cannot possibly overcome no matter what you do. So the game is about progressively learning what those awful things are, and then having a good time on the way down after that. This, even more than the Mythos, is what keeps Call of Cthulhu in that top slot, I think. At least, when I look at horror APs and talk to people about horror gaming.

What Did I Miss?

These are just my thoughts, neither exhaustive nor meant to be so. What did I miss? What has been your experience of horror gaming?

Shame Is Good.

Often when we say “shaming”, we mean “humiliating.” That is, when one person tries to force a feeling of shame on another person as a way to harm them or coerce them. This is an unfortunate change in the meaning of the word, because shame is good, and crucial to social and emotional life. A healthy relationship with shame is just like a healthy relationship with anger or fear or happiness, in that it does its job. But what is shame’s job?

I go with the work of Paul Ekman and others here in the area of discussing a handful of core emotions that serve social and evolutionary purposes, each of which one can find in every society all over the world. One of those core emotions is shame. (For a rough course in this theory, watch the film Inside Out. Seriously. It’s amazing, and they did their homework) Shame’s job is to acknowledge wrongdoing and remorse as a way to reconnect a person with their community. This is the face of shame (sometimes feigned, but consistent and recognizable):

The Universal Expressions | Oh, Not Him Again

Ironically, in some cases we see this expression on the face of a person who is denying wrongdoing, but that’s what indicates that shame is a deeply-rooted and universal expression – it comes up unconsciously in one’s face when the emotion is present, and it looks similar cross-culturally.

In brief, shame says “Yeah, I screwed up.” And in our evolutionary past, when being ostracized could easily mean starving to death or being eaten, it was crucial to allow people to acknowledge wrongdoing and seek reconciliation in order for them to survive.

Shame is not a popular feeling – this whole post came from an ongoing conversation with a friend of mine (more than one friend, but one in particular), wherein he says that shame is the root of evil and should be rooted out. The thing is, when I talk to him about what he means by “shame”, he doesn’t talk about the universal emotion described above and unconsciously expressed in our faces. Rather, he is talking about humiliation, or shaming, which is completely different in my opinion.

Shame is an acknowledgement; shaming is an assault. But we confuse the two, and I think it’s a significant problem. This problem is exemplified by Donald Trump.

I think that the core element of Trump’s personality, which as driven his rise to power, his persistence despite massive moral, financial, and professional failures that would have sunk anyone else long ago, is his utter inability to experience shame. He is pathologically shameless, and I think this lies behind everything else about him – the grandstanding, the weird obsession with gold and his hand size, picking fights randomly, punching down, cheating everyone in his life, betraying allies at the slightest sign of disloyalty, and constant lying.

If Donald Trump were capable of shame, he would be an entirely different person. A far more tolerable person. He’s exactly the kind of person who would be ostracized in order to be devoured by wild animals 20,000 years ago, but in a media-driven age of radical capitalism, he instead becomes a brand. He becomes unavoidable, irresistible for some. He becomes President, because why not? His image is that he is untouchable, the “Teflon Don”, because nothing can bring him down, and the key to that untouchability is his apparent inability to experience shame.

What Do We Do With Shame?

This is a key question as we continue to reorient society to be a place where more people are heard and their concerns taken seriously. Women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and others are, in fits and starts, over decades of conflict and struggle, making a place for themselves in our white supremacist, patriarchal, hetero-normative, etc. culture. Nobody knows how to do this. We have to dismantle some things, and build up some new things, and unlearn a lot of deeply ingrained habits, and learn new life-giving habits, all at once, in public, while the world burns around us. A non-trivial challenge, one might say.

The purpose of shame is to visibly acknowledge wrongdoing, that a transgression has occurred, and to prompt one to make amends and be re-integrated into the community. But how do we do that in a way that is fair?

In the past, there was a “boys will be boys” mentality applied to the wrongdoing of white males in the United States, as well as in the case of institutions that enforced white supremacy like the police. There were never real repercussions for wrongdoing – certainly nothing resembling justice or equity, even less so reconciliation. This mentality still exists everywhere it is not actively being brought to light and rooted out. There is a lot of work to do.

One response has been to burn people down when their wrongdoing is brought to light and acknowledged. People who are critical of this impulse, like most recently Dave Chappelle in Sticks and Stones, call this “cancel culture.” The sense is that if someone is caught in wrongdoing and called out, they are cancelled and that’s it. No more from them in the public sphere, ever. The problem, I think, is that there is no way back. A healthy person who feels appropriate shame and wants to make amends cannot do so, and is treated very similarly to someone who is shameless and spiteful and never admits any wrongdoing. Given this situation, where shame cannot function healthfully, successful people will find that shame is a liability and we will encourage more Trumps and Trump-ism.

Shame is crucial, but for shame to work, there has to be a way back. Otherwise we are punishing healthy shame, and it’s hard to blame people for working hard not to feel that shame if they can avoid it, and keep that shame from moving them to reconcile.

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RPG Setting Round-Up #3: Villains by Necessity

Villains by Necessity is a novel by Eve Forward, and reading it was the start of my ongoing ideas about running a D&D style campaign where evil PCs save the world despite themselves. I start from the germ of her idea, which is very D&D-esque, and have built outward from there. I’ve run what I call, uncreatively, “The Evil Campaign” three times so far, and it has been consistently really fun for me and for the players. For one of those run-throughs, we handed off DMing so I also got to play in a version of it. The premise is pretty simple, I can just bullet-point it:

  • The Last Battle against evil has happened, and good won. The Dark Lord or Lady or Whomever was cast down in ruin, their towering iron fortress leveled (or recycled), and their armies scattered.
  • In the aftermath, the forces of good deal with the question of how to handle all of the leftover ‘evil’ people and races (yes, this campaign takes racial alignment starting at face-value, as a way to criticize it – it is an assumption of many in the world that is false). Basically, Sauron is defeated, so what do we do with all of these Orcs, Easterlings, and Haradrim?
  • Rehabilitation Camps are opened, where evil creatures are redeemed through calisthenics, encouraging mantras, re-education, and of course some quiet slave labor.
  • 100 years pass, and the PCs are the last evil people they know in the whole world. They find out that there is a scheme to magically eliminate evil forever, and they grudgingly come together for mutual survival and to stop that scheme.

To me this is a fun campaign idea that addresses some of the problems that evil campaigns run into, and I encourage you to spin it off and run your own. Here are some notes and ideas I have for my next one.

D&D Roadside Attractions

DnD needs more roadside attractions as PCs travel around. They could be related to the rise of the Heroes of Legend, or to things that used to exist, like a theme park that is modeled after an orc village, where you can buy “authentic handmade orc crafts” and drink “traditional orc blood-mead.” The kinds of roadside attractions you create would be a great way to tell the players what people think their history is, what they value, and even what they have forgotten. A 1st level adventure could clearly be the PCs coming across a mysterious roadside attraction. Someone is charging admission, but they go further in than they’re supposed to, and find out this “ruin” is still active.

So, google some real-world roadside attractions, and then create D&D versions of those. A giant concrete dragon advertising a caravanserai. The world’s largest ball of hemp rope, the very rope that was once given to adventurers 50 feet at a time! A library named after a famous barbarian princess and decorated with taxidermy monsters.

An Angel for Every Town

Every city has its own angel. And the angels should be freaky, like Bible angels and mythical ones more than D&D ones. The angel will become the theme of the city – angel of rivers, angel of trees, angel of iron, etc. This angel should be a constant presence while you are in the city. It could be the reason there isn’t much of a police force, and not many soldiers guarding a city. What would make this more interesting is to have the angel maintaining its own priorities that are not understood by the mortal populace, who assume the angel is there on behalf of their religion, and the angel lets them think that in order to accomplish what it wants to accomplish.

I like this as a call-back to Revelation, where there are messages for each of the angels of seven early churches.

Goblin Dimorphism (Trimorphism?)

Hobgoblins are just female goblins, kind of like the etymology of names for female humans in many languages (man/woman, ish/ishah). Maybe bugbears are a third gender, but goblins won’t explain how it all works to non-goblins. Humans took to calling them bugbears from folklore, and because they didn’t have a word for a third gender. So goblins are just three genders, and if you ask them how reproduction works for them, they tend to kill you in your sleep. Maybe goblin children all look similar, but then grow up and hit puberty and some grow larger to become hobgoblins, or larger and hairier to become bugbears.

Arcanotech Religious Interface

This would also work for a religion in a setting like the Ninth World – I’m imagining an arcano-technological interface that lets you select from a number of gods with which to make contact. Contacting the deity is like talking to Alexa or Siri. Clergy charge for access, a one-question amount, or by the minute like a phone-sex line, and they keep timekeeping devices handy to make sure you don’t go over your minutes. Addicts show up, wanting the experience of talking to a deity again and again. Are these really gods, or AIs, or demons, or complex algorithms telling people what they want to hear? Cold-readers in another room with remote access?

Truly the Darkest Timeline?

The defeat of the Dark One caused a rift in the multiverse, and there is an alternate world where the Dark One won, which is demonstrably worse than the default setting for the evil campaign (which is far from perfect). It is like the Midnight setting, a place of widespread misery, repression, and necromancy. In part, this is just my reaction to the vapid morality of “good and evil are just two sides of the same coin”, which is of course absurd. Good-intentioned people can create a dystopia, which is what the evil campaign is about, but good and evil aren’t both somehow needed for “balance.”

In part this comes from my own daydreams about an alternate universe where Al Gore was declared President by the Supreme Court, climate change was mitigated, and we’re all in self-driving electric cars enjoying our socialized medicine, there never was an Iraq War, etc.

Have you ever run an evil campaign? It’s tricky. How did yours go?

Maybe Comedy Was the Problem All Along

It’s only with great pain, and after long consideration, that I would write something like this. But I’m coming to the conclusion that comedy, which I once saw as a force for good in the world, and which has been literally life-saving for me in the past, might in fact be a huge contributor to the political horror-show we see in the United States right now. The misuse of comedy is without a doubt a problem, but it is such a pervasive smokescreen for genuine bad behavior that I really have to wonder.

The Heady Days of Jon Stewart

When Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show, it was a revolution. Before that, fake news comedy shows were almost unheard-of. He created a whole new major genre in entertainment and news. Millions of people tuned in two watch The Daily Show for years, and for many of us, it was our primary source of news. I can’t count how many times I learned about something going on in the country, or in the wider world, that I would have never known about without The Daily Show. Probably hundreds of times. And I laughed every time I watched, and it made me not want to die the way normal news made me want to die.

The Daily Show felt like something was happening. Something Important. Maybe the Fool could truly rein in the False King! Huzzah!

The Rise of Colbert

The Colbert Report was not like anything else. Nothing I’d ever seen, anyway. The guy got parts of the international space station named after him. He became a cultural phenomenon – for educated liberal types, anyway. He was like Jon Stewart 2.0, simply eviscerating conservative hypocrisy night after night. The problem was, the conservative hypocrisy only got stronger. They only grew in power. At the height of Colbert’s popularity, the GOP took over 3/4 of state legislatures and a majority of the governor-ships as well. 2010 happened, they got to gerrymander district lines, and we’ve been suffering ever since.

See, the problem is we thought that conservatives were capable of shame. We have since learned better.

Now Nazis are Comedians

This is one of the most common defenses I see deployed on behalf of white nationalist and professional trolls in places like YouTube and specifically the Joe Rogan Experience – they’re just being funny. It’s comedy. It’s irony. Why is everyone so upset? What about free speech? Blah blah blah Nazis. “I was just being funny” is a classic attempt at justifying awful behavior – that’s nothing new. What seems to be relatively new is that it is being used to excuse public behavior that is bigoted bullshit.

Milo Yiannapoulos is not a fucking comedian. Alex Jones is not a fucking comedian. Trump is not a fucking comedian. The alt-right is not a comedic movement, it is white supremacy and Fascism. They aren’t joking, and we should never treat them as if they were joking.

Dammit John Oliver

One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve seen in a while happened on Last Week Tonight a few months ago. First off, in case it wasn’t clear, I don’t find Trump the slightest bit entertaining. He was a boring piece of trash as a reality TV “star”, and a boring piece of trash making his cameo appearance in Home Alone 2, and a boring piece of trash on Howard Stern. He is boring and stupid and crass and a towering, self-satisfied ignoramus – the very worst kind of ignoramus.

As a result, I genuinely don’t understand people who otherwise seem quite intelligent, like John Oliver, who find him entertaining. But John Oliver recently had a bit where he talked about how Trump consistent gets us by being funny, mostly unintentionally, in the midst of all of his ignorant and bigoted rambling. At the end, a banner comes down, and balloons, and the banner reads “You Got Us.” Because, according to John Oliver, Trump does get us, again and again, by getting us to laugh at him while he says and does horrific things.

But by just presenting this as a fact, John Oliver is doing more harm. No matter how funny someone’s abusive spouse is, you don’t point that out while the abuse is ongoing. Even if a hijacker cracks jokes, it doesn’t matter until you escape. Trump is a monster, not a comedian. He’s taking hostages, not taking a bow.

It Happened Again Just Now

As this draft has been languishing, Trump had yet another racist tirade, and this sycophantic commentary came from Dear Leader State TV:

Of Course, Fox News Delighted in Trump’s Racist Tweet

Trump is the “comedian in chief.” Ha ha ha white supremacy and death threats. Comedy gold.

Another Coda: Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones

We get distracted by treating monsters like comedians, and we also get distracted by treating comedians like monsters. Where do we focus our energy? Because the time and attention we have isn’t infinite. So do we focus on Dave Chappelle once again making jokes about trans folks? Or focus on the increasingly genocidal concentration camps in which we are now indefinitely detaining people? Do we work to cancel Chappelle, or do we work to cancel Trump? And the dozens of white supremacists he’s put in power? And the dozens of others he’s put in charge of needed programs solely to destroy them? Sure, take a moment to vent on Twitter about what you think is Chappelle’s bullshit – but remember that he’s not a Nazi. The real Nazis are rising to power, and many of the people comedians make fun of, Nazis just want to exterminate.

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Mage the Ascension: PbtA Hack

mage card

This is not by any means a fully-formed idea, but it’s one that I kind of like. In a way, it’s interesting to  take a push-button mechanic like the core mechanic of PbtA and apply it to an open-ended, flexible game like Mage the Ascension. What buttons do you include? What must those buttons do? 

Design Goals

I want to focus on the flexible but costly nature of Awakened magic. I see mundane things being handled through conversation more often than rolls, to keep the focus on magic. There needs to be a harm mechanic and a Paradox clock – let’s say you are at -1 per harm taken. A certain points on the Paradox clock, the ST makes a Paradox move. As with my Fate hack, I’ll boil the Spheres down to seven: Correspondence, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Spirit, Time (eats Entropy). Prime can be cut because it is mostly concerned with meta-magic. Each Tradition is its own playbook. This is a work in progress

Character Creation

Distribute 3 +1s between the seven Spheres. You have -1 in any Sphere without a bonus. Circle one and describe your Avatar (Dynamic, Entropic, Pattern, Primordial). Choose your true Nature. Describe your Sanctum. Circle an advantage (things like a Node maybe). I can see different playbooks having different things to circle or choose – acolytes, thin places, cool gadgets, turf, etc. 

General Mage Moves

When a Mage does something mundane but dangerous or costly, roll +0.

  • On a 10+, it goes as well as it could.
  • On a 7-9, you succeed but there is an unexpected cost or problem – choose one of the following: 
    • You lose or damage something of value – the ST will tell you what
    • The cost was more than you expected – the ST will tell you what the additional cost is, including a favor or a debt owed forward
    • You succeed, but someone else pays the price. The ST will tell you who
  • On a 6-, the ST can make a move. Any resources you used in the attempt are damaged or lost.

When you use your magic to shape reality, describe your rote or procedure and roll +Sphere. The ST will tell you which Sphere applies if there is any question.

  • 10+ and you get what you wanted.
  • 7-9 and pick one mishap, otherwise you get what you wanted.
  • 6- pick three mishaps, otherwise you get some version of what you wanted. Or, you can flinch, distance yourself from your Avatar, and cancel the effect. You take -1 forward to magical effects you attempt, but the effect fails without other consequences. (With a 7-9 you can always mark Paradox to avoid other mishaps.)
    • Mark Paradox
    • The effect is not under your control
    • You draw unwanted attention
    • There are unintended consequences (ST move)

When you use your magic to inflict harm, describe your rote or procedure and roll +Sphere. The kind of harm will depend on the Sphere used, but harm is harm.

  • On a 10+, you inflict 1 harm in the way you intended, and have +1 forward to inflict further harm.
  • On a 7-9, you inflict harm but must mark one mishap from the Sphere move.
  • On a 6-, you inflict harm and also take harm in return.

When you use your magic to defend yourself against magic, roll +Sphere using the Sphere against which you are defending.

  • On a 10+, you stop the magical effect from affecting you and can choose one:
    • You turn it back on the attacker, or
    • You can protect a group, or an area, from the effect
  • On a 7-9, you stop the magical effect from affecting you
  • On a 6-, you are vulnerable to the effect (the ST makes a move)

When you improvise magic to defend yourself against magic, roll +Sphere using any Sphere, describing how you use that Sphere creatively (use Correspondence to defend against Time for example). 

  • On a 10+, you stop the magical effect from affecting you
  • On a 7-9, you stop the effect from affecting you, but there is a cost. Choose one: 
    • You take -1 to Sphere moves going forward
    • The effect strikes a nearby ally or innocent bystander – the ST will choose who
    • You lose access to that Sphere until you have time to rest and meditate
  • On a 6-, the effect hits you full force

When you improvise magic to affect reality, describe the improvisation and roll +Sphere. 

  • On a 10+, you get the effect you wanted, but pick one: 
    • The ST tells you one strange side-effect
    • The magic affects one additional object or person of the ST’s choice
  • On a 7-9, the magic affects the wrong person or object – the ST will tell you who, or what
  • On a 6-, the ST makes a Paradox move

When you meditate at a Node, roll +0, or +1 if it is a Node where you are expressly welcome, or +2 at your own Node.

  • On a 10+, you are suffused with Quintessence and take a +1 forward on Sphere moves.
  • On a 7-9, you are suffused with Quintessence and take +1 forward on Sphere moves, but the Node is depleted and no one can draw from it until it regenerates.
  • On a 6-, the Node is depleted and must regenerate.

When you use your magical perceptions, choose a Sphere in which you have at least a +1. The ST will describe what you perceive through that Sphere.

  • All: you can sense the residue of powerful magic enacted recently – the more powerful the effect, the longer its residue lasts
  • Correspondence: you exact physical location; precise distances from one object to another; the presence of a portal to another location
  • Forces: ambient mundane energies (electromagnetism, heat, etc.); see using another spectrum (ultraviolet)
  • Life: the health and general condition of living things nearby, your own health and condition in detail, 
  • Matter: material composition of nearby objects; properties of unknown substances; potential or chemical energy stored in an object or substance
  • Mind: whether there are nearby minds; whether someone is awake or asleep or in a coma; basic emotional state of those around you
  • Spirit: thickness of the local Gauntlet; nearby ghosts or spirits; whether a nearby creature has a soul (i.e., could reveal an android)
  • Time: exact time (including the ability to set an internal alarm); any nearby disturbances in time

When you use mundane means to escape danger, roll +0.

  • On a 10+, you escape! Describe how. Also, choose one:
    • Your attacker leaves you alone for now, or
    • You can help your allies escape too
  • On a 7-9, you escape, but your attacker has not given up.
  • On a 6-, the ST makes a move.

Tradition Moves

I decided that each Tradition should have at least one signature move. These are what I came up with:

When an Akashic fights mundane people with her hands, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, she defeats even a large number of mundane people she’s fighting in flashy fashion. The player describes how she prevails.
  • On a 7-9, she defeats even a large number of mundane people, but takes harm in return.
  • On a 6-, she got herself in over her head. She takes harm and things escalate – the ST says how.

When a Cultist of Ecstacy seeks insight in a trance, roll +1

  • On a 10+, she can ask the ST up to three questions about herself.
  • On a 7-9, she can ask the ST one question about herself.
  • On a 6-, she gets a glimpse of a hard move the ST is going to make.

When a Dreamspeaker is solving a problem in her home territory, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, her knowledge of her land enables her to solve the problem.
  • On a 7-9, her knowledge of her land enables her to solve the problem, but the cost in time or materials is greater than she expected.
  • On a 6-, she has revealed a problem she didn’t know about before, or a problem she knew about is worse than she thought.

When an Etherite uses technology in an unusual way, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, the technology works just as the Etherite wanted.
  • On a 7-9, the technology works but there is an unintended complication. The ST will say what it is, or you can offer a suggestion.
  • On a 6-, the technology doesn’t work as intended, and there is a complication on top of that (the ST makes a move).

When an Euthanatos kills a mundane person, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, you kill the person exactly as you planned and get away with it.
  • On a 7-9, you kill the person, but draw the attention of either mundane authorities or a supernatural creature.
  • On a 6-, you kill the person but the ST can make a hard move.

When a Hermetic speaks lore, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, the lore you speak is true and helpful.
  • On a 7-9, the lore you speak provides a helpful hint for the situation at hand.
  • On a 6-, the lore you speak reveals a new problem.

When a Hollow One tries to make a connection on the street, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, she finds just the person or information she needs.
  • On a 7-9, she finds the person or information she needs, but there is a cost. The ST will say what it is.
  • On a 6-, she’s made someone angry, or drawn unwanted attention, and didn’t find what she wanted. Or, she found what she wanted, but it’s much worse than she thought.

When a Verbena uses natural medicine, roll +1.

  • On a 10+, she is able to heal using mundane means.
  • On a 7-9, she understands what is wrong, but it will require awakened magic.
  • On a 6-, it is much worse than she thought – the ST will say how bad.

When a Virtual Adept is solving a problem using a digital device, roll +1. 

  • On a 10+, it functions exactly as the Adept needed it to.
  • On a 7-9, the device functions as the Adept hoped, but she has pushed her luck and used up resources or drawn unwanted attention.
  • On a 6-, she draws unwanted attention and the device fails.

ST and Paradox Moves

Your Avatar is displeased, or detached, or distant. -1 ongoing to all magic. You are plunged into Quiet. You have drawn the attention of the Technocracy. You have drawn the attention of the Nephandi. You have drawn the attention of a Marauder. You have drawn the attention of mortal authorities. Echoes of your magical effect follow you, causing problems. You are marked by your magic in a way that is visible to everyone who meets you. There is lingering harm that will fall on you (or someone near you or connected to you) the next time you try to use magic. You are cursed and everyday things will go wrong in embarrassing ways. 

Mark XP

When you get a 6- result; if your relationship with your Avatar deepened; if you expressed your true Nature; if you learned something new and amazing about the world; if your life was in danger. Every time you get nine xp you advance.

Advancement

Increase one Sphere bonus by one; or circle a new advantage; or reset your Paradox clock to zero; or mark a new option on your playbook. Will there be enough moves to warrant choosing a new move at advancement? Not sure.

Well, there it is. That’s what I have for Mage the Ascension, Powered by the Apocalypse.

 

Merry AKA Uncle Shellworth

My character for our new campaign is a tortle monk named Merry, also known as Uncle Shellworth.

DB Munro ordered a dragon turtle egg for his circus. It was going to be the talk of every town they came to – they could raise it from the egg, tame it and teach it tricks. The circus would grow as the turtle grew. That was the plan, anyway.

The egg arrived, all the way across the Dead Fields, and DB Munro believed it would make him rich and famous.

When Merry cracked his way out of the egg, all of DB Munro’s dreams came crashing down around him. He kept Merry, the tortle, and raised him as a member of the circus. He never missed a chance to crack on his shell with a stick or shout insults – which Merry seemed to absorb with a plodding aplomb.

Merry grew swiftly, and was surprisingly strong after only a few years. He was trained as a strongman and sideshow performer. By the time he seemed fully grown (after about 7 or 8 years – no one has ever seen another tortle) he was enormously strong. Another performer, an alcoholic named Idren Bloodhand took him under his wing. Long ago, before he was disgraced, Idren was trained as a monk. He began training Merry as a lark, watching the huge turtle-man go through the motions of kata. Turns out, Merry had a talent for it, and absorbed everything Idren had to teach, including a love of alcohol and other intoxicants.

No one is sure why, but intoxicants of all kinds affect him differently from the way they affect mammals. It is hard for him to resist experimenting.

One night, Nix, another performer, came to Merry with a plan. She was going to escape the cruel hand of DB Munro, but she needed the help of someone enormously strong and hard to hurt. After some convincing, Merry agreed, eager to see more of the wide world and, though he remained quiet about it, quite uncomfortable with the ongoing verbal and physical abuse.

They escaped, and only barely crossed the Dead Fields with their lives, Merry carrying Nix for the last couple of days as her life nearly left her. At last they made it, half-dead, to Avalon’s Crossing, a village that serves as home for many cast-offs and folks who don’t fit elsewhere.

Nix made her way, using her skills to get by. Merry had never lived anywhere but DB Munro’s circus. He had no skills for dealing with regular folk. Fortunately, the Woodhall family of halflings took pity on him, and eventually adopted the six-foot-tall turtle into their family. The kids call him Uncle Shellworth.

Merry’s strength and quick mind was of great use to the Woodhalls, and in return they taught him carpentry – the family trade. They helped him build a nice little hut next to a pond, where he was most comfortable. Around 2 years passed, and Merry grew even larger and stronger. His shell toughened, and he learned to cook, because his new family of halflings love to eat. Every morning and every evening, he practices what he learned from Idren Bloodhand.