Mage Core: Mage the Ascension in Fate Core

chantry

I’ve seen plenty of discussion of how someone might adapt Mage the Ascension to Fate Core’s rules, but I didn’t find someone who had actually laid out how to handle the hack. I like the idea, and I wanted to present something that’s immediately usable. So, what follows is my own hack, which I think you could just take and run with if you wanted to.

First, changes to the baseline metaphysics. I’ve narrowed Mage down to seven spheres rather than nine. I dropped Entropy because I have always thought that it probably just reduced down to Time, and didn’t think that both were necessary. For a Fate Core adaptation of Mage, I decided to drop Prime, because the Quintessence/Paradox economy is doing to work differently in a Fate game than it does in Ascension. The Fate point economy mimics the Quintessence economy somewhat, and I decided to make Paradox into a stress/consequence track alongside the mental and physical tracks.

Aspects

A high concept Aspect, a trouble/Paradox Aspect, an Avatar Aspect, a Tradition/paradigm Aspect, and a mundane Aspect.

Starting with a high concept, of course, I like the idea that the trouble Aspect could be rooted in Paradox if that makes sense. If I was running Mage Core I would recommend that to players. Then there is the Avatar Aspect, which I think should be a source of plenty of compels during the course of a game as the Avatar pushes the Mage to grow and change. A Tradition or paradigm Aspect also makes sense as a way to further define the character. Last is the mundane Aspect, as I like the idea, especially early on, of reality-bending Mages trying to hold down jobs and raise families.

Custom Skill List

Awareness (includes Empathy and Notice)

Contacts (includes Rapport)

Drive

Expression (includes artistic Crafts)

Fight

Investigate

Lore

Manipulate (includes Deceive and Provoke)

Resources

Shoot

Stealth

Streetwise (includes Burglary)

Tech (includes technical Crafts)

Will

In Mage Core, the top of the Skill pyramid is +4. I noted what I changed, in terms of combining or splitting up Fate Core default Skills to help with finding Stunts.

Spheres as Extras

OK, so, here we go. As mentioned above, I’ve narrowed Mage down to seven Spheres: Correspondence, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Spirit and Time. Time absorbs Entropy and Prime fades away because it isn’t as necessary in Mage Core, as it is mostly a meta-Sphere in Mage itself.

I’m taking from Ryan Macklin, and setting difficulties for Sphere use at intervals of 2, for the same reasons he lists in his own post about “Mage the Coreing.”

Here’s what I have so far: each Sphere is an Extra, rated from +1 to +5. Basically the same scale as in the books. But the difficulty for various magical effects varies from +0 to +8. This is to help adapt to how Fate points change the math, and also to force situations where mages succeed but take Paradox. For effects that require two Spheres, base the difficulty on the highest Sphere and then increase it by 1 for each additional Sphere. A character begins with 6 Extras to spend on Spheres, just like the initial 6 dots in Ascension. Following are example effects for each level of each Sphere:

Correspondence

Use of a Sphere at a distance requires Correspondence

+0 Perfect spatial perceptions

+2 Clairvoyance/clairaudience into nearby space, create a ward, pull a small object through space

+4 Create a pocket of space, scry/search through space, teleport, quick/slow travel

+6 Create doors/portals between locations, colocate two places, create space from nothing, destroy space

+8 Perfect co-location, step outside of space, create a permanent portal

Forces

Forces effects deal +1 damage

+0 Sense energy

+2 Increase or decrease present forces

+4 Transform or destroy a force

+6 Change properties of force (so electricity grows and consumes like fire, fire is attracted to metal, light is smothering like pressure, etc.), create force from nothing

+8 Create new types of force, so you can make plasma that passes through all matter, drop a room to absolute zero, eliminate friction temporarily, cause fission or fusion reactions, make atomic bonds fall apart, or change Earth’s magnetic field.  Affect exotic types of forces, e.g. dark matter and dark energy, plasma, gravity

Life

+1 damage to living things

+0 Perceive living things, sense health

+2 Treat a mild physical consequence, speed or slow recovery, Skill bonus, clear physical stress, affect simple life like plants

+4 Treat a moderate physical consequence, increase physical stress boxes for a scene, deal damage to living things, augment a Skill for a scene

+6 Treat a severe physical consequence, transfer properties from one form of life to another, create life from nothing, shapeshift between plant and animal forms

+8 Complete transformation, imbue life with unique properties, transform into a mythological creature

Matter

+1 damage of objects

+0 Perceive matter, including composition, chemistry, etc.

+2 Change shape of matter, make it malleable

+4 Alter density, destroy matter, alter properties within constraints of the material

+6 A blade can be light as air, or a metal can be almost indestructible, or a shirt can be bullet-proof, create matter from nothing

+8 You can now give objects and substances unreasonable properties, allowing them to pass through walls, or have edges only a molecule wide, batteries that recharge themselves, or a body of liquid metal that can change forms and hunt down John Connor

Mind

+1 emotional stress when dealing damage

+0 Detect minds, read emotions

+2 Command, read surface thoughts, increase or decrease emotions

+4 Enter dreams, see Dreaming, read thoughts, destroy thoughts, change memories, bonus Skill for a scene, alter perceptions in target and create illusions

+6 Project into the Astral Plane, possession, create an illusion over an area, create a personality trait from nothing (with Prime), create a basic intelligence 

+8 Sever mind from body, open a portal to the Astral, create an illusory world and plunge someone into it, recreate personality (rewrite Aspects)

Spirit

+0 Spirit sense (Umbra, Dreaming, Shadowlands)

+2 Reach across the Gauntlet, affect spirits

+4 Step across the Gauntlet, strengthen or weaken the Gauntlet, bind a Wraith, heal/rend spirit-stuff, let a spirit manifest

+6 Open a portal in the Gauntlet, bring a spirit across into the material world, awaken the spirit of an object, open a portal from one spirit world to another, shapechange in the spirit world

+8 Awaken the spirit of a place, co-locate the spirit world and material world

Time

+0 See fate and probability, perfect time-sense

+2 Increase/decrease probability, augury – see into the past or the future

+4 Create/destroy probability, slow/speed time for one target, reach into an immediate past/future

+6 Determine fate, create a pocket of time, grant extra actions, hang an if-then effect, travel into a future or a past

+8 Change a timeline permanently, rewind or fast forward time for an area, create a portal in time, go outside of time

Paradox

Rather than impose Paradox for particular magical effects, I think it makes sense in Fate Core that Paradox is a way to succeed with a cost when using magic. You throw more hubris into the effect, draw on your resonance, try to force it, basically, and you still succeed but at the cost of Paradox.

In Mage Core, Paradox is a stress track, and also has it’s own dedicated consequence track, apart from the mental and physical. Paradox is its own thing in Mage, and Paradox consequences result in things like Quiet.

The Paradox track would start with two stress boxes, of course, and there isn’t currently an obvious choice of Skill to add additional boxes. That doesn’t seem like something a Skill should do, really. Maybe higher Sphere levels could add boxes – three boxes for a +3, four for a +4 and five for a +5 in your highest Sphere perhaps.

Rotes

I have a special rule that I’ve used with Fate Core in the past that I want to adapt to Mage Core. When a character makes use of a rote, and describes it, then the player can set aside one Fate die and set it to “+”. This is similar to a +1 to the roll, but also means that there will be less volatility in the result, which will now range from -2 to +4 instead of -4 to +4. This will, just as in Ascension, encourage players to come up with plenty of cool rotes and procedures for their characters. At least that’s the goal.

Traditions and Other Setting Stuff

I backed the 20th Anniversary Edition of Mage the Ascension, and it is superb. The work they did updating the setting and game assumptions for a 21st Century audience is good. The problem is, when I sit down and want to run a Mage game, especially with people who are not already used to OWoD, it’s daunting. WoD games made a lot of sense in college and after, when we all had way more time, no matter how busy we thought we were, to do things like soak damage and memorize magical effects and so on. I just find that I need a game that is faster and more loose, and I think that the fluidity and flexibility of Fate Core lends itself very well to Mage the Ascension.

What did I miss? Anything you want to add? 

Masquerade Disciplines With Requiem Dice (Long Version)

This version is more complete, and also quite long, coming in at about a dozen pages as a Google Doc. But I filled in a few more disciplines, and also fleshed out Necromancy and Thaumaturgy rituals from V20. I skipped some things, but that’s because this was for a particular game with particular people. Anyway, here it is:

Animalism
  1. +1 to Animal Ken rolls, give complicated commands
  2. Presence + Animal Ken to summon animals of one type
  3. Manipulation + Empathy to cow the Beast; Manipulation + Intimidation to provoke it; 1 bp to activate for a scene.
  4. Intelligence + Animal Ken – Defense; 1 success for a scene during which the vampire can direct an animals actions and use all of its senses. With 5 successes, the animal can be forced to attempt potentially suicidal actions like attacking an armed person to trying to leap a chasm. If the animal is reduced to zero health, the vampire must roll Wits + Animal Ken to sever the connection. On a botch she falls into torpor.
  5. Manipulation + Intimidation – Resolve to force a frenzy in supernaturals capable of frenzy, like Lupines and Kindred. The victim can spend a willpower to decide which kind of frenzy: fear, hunger or rage in the case of a vampire. Otherwise, the attacker chooses. On a botch, the attacker needs to make her own test, requiring only one success, to avoid her own frenzy.
Auspex
  1. +2 to Wits + Composure or rolls involving acuity when active; 1 lethal from loud noise (like a gunshot)
  2. Intelligence + Empathy to read auras; 1 = alive or undead, 2 = other type, 3 = lie detection; and/or one question answered per success (feeling, lying, alive or dead, under compulsion, deranged, diabolist, etc.)
  3. Intelligence + Investigation to use psychometry; 1 = last user, 5 = last scenes, and previous users
  4. Wits + Empathy – Composure to read minds; 1 piece of information per success
  5. Intelligence + Occult, only requires 1 success for a scene of astral projection. 5 successes means you can project until your silver cord is severed, you return to your body voluntarily, or sunlight falls on your body.
Celerity
Spend 1 blood point in a scene. During that scene, your Defense is increased by your Celerity level, as is your Initiative Modifier. + dice equal to Celerity for rolls involving fast, graceful movement (running across rooftops, chases, etc.)
Chimerstry (cheap version)
  1. Spend 1 blood point to create a motionless illusion that affects one sense.
  2. Ditto to create a motionless illusion that affects all senses.
  3. Ditto to add motion to below.
  4. Spend 1 blood and 1 willpower to make the illusion permanent and self-sustaining, until dismissed or proven false. Intelligence + Expression – Resolve.
  5. Spend 1 blood and 1 willpower to imbue your illusions with horrid reality. They are able to deal bashing damage that, at the time, will be felt like lethal or aggravated. Presence + Intimidation – Resolve.
Dementation
  1. Double or triple emotional intensity
  2. Haunting
  3. Eyes of Chaos
  4. Silence the Sane Mind (Confusion, Voice of Madness)
  5. Total Insanity
Dominate
  1. Manipulation + Intimidation – Resolve + Blood Potency difference
  2. Manipulation + Persuasion – Resolve + Blood Potency
  3. Wits + Expression – Composure + Blood Potency
  4. Presence + Intimidation – Resolve + Blood Potency; when successes = Composure + Resolve, you’re done
  5. Intelligence + Empathy – Resolve if resisted; only needs 1 success for a scene. If your vessel is killed, you lose a temporary willpower point and are disoriented for a few minutes.
Fortitude
Spend 1 blood point in a scene (which can be a reaction). You get one extra level of Health for each level of Fortitude. When Fortitude wears off, the damage from your extra health levels is shrugged off and goes away, even if it is aggravated.
Version 2:
Fortitude: adds health levels all the time
  1. You heal all bashing for one blood point
  2. You heal agg with 3 blood but no willpower
  3. Spend a blood for an armor of 3 for a scene (retroactively)
  4. You heal two lethal for one blood point
  5. Spend a willpower to ignore all damage for a round (retroactively)
Kineticism
  1. Dampenting
  2. Redirect
  3. Vengeful Strike
  4. Discharge
  5. Kinetic Shield
Obeah
  1. Roll Intelligence + Medicine to determine how hurt someone is, and how they came to be hurt with 5 successes
  2. Spend a blood point and roll Dex + Medicine to make a living creature fall into a deep sleep or let a vampire re-roll to come out of frenzy.
  3. Heal others’ lethal wounds for a blood point per level, and your own or their aggravated wounds for three blood per level.
  4. Spend a willpower. Anyone who wants to come closer than about 10 feet without your permission loses dice equal to your Resolve on all rolls. They must also make a willpower roll, or they are unable to cross the boundary
  5. Spend a willpower and roll Intelligence + Empathy. For each success, you grant one 24 hours free of a derangement. Five successes will cure the derangement permanently for all but Malkavians and others who are irreducibly insane. (The derangement must be bought off with xp, or you can spend a permanent point of willpower otherwise)
Obfuscate
  1. +2 to Wits + Stealth vs. Composure + Wits to sneak around; invisible if still. Doesn’t stack with above.
  2. Wits + Stealth, no contest unless target has Auspex or other supernatural ability.
  3. Wits + Socialize, 1 = familiar stranger, 5 = specific and well-known person
  4. Presence + Stealth vs. highest Composure + Resolve
  5. Intelligence + Stealth vs. highest Composure + Resolve, one target invisible per success
Obtenebration
  1. +1 to Intimidation and Stealth at all times
  2. Intelligence + Occult, 1 blood point, approx. 1 target affected per success
  3. Wits + Occult, one tentacle per success. Tentacles have Physical 3 + your Brawl and 3 Health, and take double damage from fire and supernatural
  4. Blood point, Resolve + Composure roll. +2 to Intimidation and Stealth, 1 extra attack per turn
  5. 3 blood, move at a walking pace over surfaces, ignoring gravity
Necromancy
Sepulchre Path
  1. Intelligence + Empathy, looking into a corpse’s eyes you see the last moments of the person’s life. With five successes, you know exactly what happened.
  2. Spend a blood point and roll Presence + Occult to summon a wraith. The wraith remains for a scene. With five successes, the wraith remains for much longer.
  3. Usually after summoning a wraith, roll Manipulation + Occult to force the wraith to do your bidding. Five successes will cause it to put itself in danger and use all of its resources (Pathos). Otherwise, one simple task per success.
  4. Spend a blood point and roll Intelligence + Occult to bind a wraith to a particular location. Powerful wraiths may be able to resist this effect or take retribution in their own way.
  5. Spend a blood point and roll Wits + Occult. Your physical attacks are able to damage wraiths, and you can give the ability to one ally per successes rolled beyond one.
Bone Path
  1. Wits + Medicine to make a dead limb move. One movement per success. Five successes mean that you can control the limb for a scene.
  2. Spend a blood point and roll Intelligence + Occult to raise up a mostly-intact corpse to perform simple services for one scene per success. Five successes mean the corpse remains active until sunrise.
  3. Spend one blood per corpse one is attempting to raise and roll Presence + Occult. For each success, a corpse rises up for a scene and fights on your behalf. Raised corpses are tough, slow, strong and stupid. They can wield melee weapons but nothing more complicated.
  4. Spend a blood and roll Intelligence + Empathy to pull a soul from a body. The victim cannot spend willpower until the soul is returned. If the body dies with the soul gone, it becomes a wraith.
  5. Spend a willpower and place a stolen soul into a fresh or preserved corpse. The corpse rises as a wight, and will remain active until it physically decomposes. More successes enable you to subsume the previous person’s personality for longer.
Potence
Spend 1 blood point for a scene. For each level of Potence you have, you get +1 die to all Strength rolls. Your unarmed attacks also deal lethal instead of bashing.
Version 2:
Potence: adds dice to Strength all the time
  1. Unarmed attacks deal lethal
  2. Thrown attacks using Dexterity add Potence dice as well
  3. Spend a blood to roll to break out of a grapple as a free action (or net or whatever)
  4. Spend a blood to deal damage directly to armor
  5. Spend a blood point to reroll 9s and 10s on all Strength rolls for a scene
Presence
  1. Presence + Socialize, 1 target per success with 5 = a whole crowd
  2. Presence + Intimidation – Composure, flee for 1 round per success
  3. Manipulation + Empathy – Resolve, 1 = scene and 5 = permanent (or very long term)
  4. Intelligence + Intimidation to summon, 1 = with deliberate but entirely safe speed and 5 = now
  5. Spend a willpower to activate; Resolve + Composure to disrespect you, 1 success per disrespectful act or statement. Against attacks from those affected by your Majesty let you add your Presence to your Defense score. To break the effect entirely, they must roll Resolve + Composure and get 5 successes (or more if you have advanced Presence) or spend willpower equal to your Presence score at a rate of 1 per round
Protean
  1. Negate any penalty for darkness when in use
  2. Spend 1 blood point; unarmed attacks are +1 and deal aggravated damage for a scene
  3. Spend 1 blood and meld into the ground for a day’s sleep
  4. Spend 3 blood; double speed, Brawl (bite) deals +2 aggravated damage, +1 to all physical rolls, cover stink of the Wyrm
  5. Spend 3 blood; move at a running speed and through any barrier that is not airtight; bashing damage from strong winds
Quietus
  1. Spend 1 blood point for silence a few paces in every direction for a scene. +2 to Stealth.
  2. Spend 1 blood point and convert it to poison which reduces Stamina by 1 in addition to any other damage if a weapon is coated with it.
  3. For up to an hour after you have touched someone skin to skin, you can spend a blood point to choke them on their own blood. Each attack costs 1 blood and is Resolve + Composure – Stamina. It deals lethal damage.
  4. Spend a blood point and convert it into poison that makes any treated weapon deal aggravated damage for one scene.
  5. Spend 1 blood and spit it at your foes, dealing Dexterity + Athletics – Defense in aggravated damage.
Serpentis
  1. Make eye contact and roll Manipulation + Intimidation – target’s Composure. Target is paralyzed for 1 round per success, and otherwise can’t break eye contact until you do unless they spend a willpower. Any attack will break the mesmerism.
  2. Spend a blood point to extend your tongue, which you can use for +1 aggravated damage with Dexterity + Brawl – Defense. If you deal 1 agg, next round you can roll Strength to drink blood through the tongue.
  3. Spend a blood point to add 3 to your Health for a scene. Your skin becomes snake-like and you are at -2 dice for all social rolls apart from Intimidation.
  4. Spend 1 blood point; bite with Dex + Brawl +1 agg, slither through any hole your head can fit through. Your venom is lethal to any mortal creature, or can simply paralyze them as long as you deal 1 agg. Spend 1 additional blood point to add level 3’s Health levels.
Thaumaturgy
Path of Blood
Spend 1 blood point to activate for a scene
  1. Intelligence + Occult, 1 question per success, including generation, blood bound to whom, who is blood bound to the target, whether they are a diabolist, their clan or bloodline, etc.
  2. Dexterity + Occult, 1 blood point per success is forcibly spent as the Thaumaturge chooses. The first can be spent to simulate life; otherwise they are spent on a physical attribute
  3. Intelligence + Medicine, 1 temporary Blood Potency per success for a scene
  4. Presence + Occult, 1 blood point per success is ripped from the target and flies through the air to be absorbed by the Thaumaturge. This blood will not create a blood bond.
  5. Dexterity + Medicine – Defense as aggravated damage and lost vitae for a scene. 1 success kills a mortal
Path of Conjuration
Spend 1 blood per object conjured.
  1. Wits + Crafts, you create a simple machine (no electricity, fuel source, exotic materials, etc.) that lasts for a scene. With 5 successes, the item is superb and grants a +1 equipment bonus when used. For objects larger than you can hold in one hand, you can spend additional blood points. 2 total or as large as a person, 3 blood for larger than that, and that is your upper limit.
  2. Wits + Science, you create a complex machine, more limited in size than above but able to incorporate energy sources and exotic materials. The basic is small and handheld; 2 blood for something you’d hold with two hands; 3 blood for something as big as you are; 4 blood for something bigger than you are (with a maximum of a compact car). With 5 successes it grants a +1 equipment bonus when used, and lasts for a scene regardless.
  3. Intelligence + Science: as above, but the object becomes permanent.
  4. Wits + Occult – durability, and you un-make an object or machine, either damaging it directly or imposing a dice-penalty on its use, whichever is appropriate.
  5. Moot point.
Lure of the Flames
Spend 1 blood to activate for a scene. Roll Resolve + Composure – target’s Defense to deal up to 1 damage per level of Lure of the Flames (so at level 5 you could deal 5 damage if you rolled that many successes). To set someone on fire, you must first summon fire and hit them with it, requiring a Dexterity + Occult – Defense roll.
Movement of the Mind
Spend 1 blood point to activate for a scene
  1. Resolve + Composure, small objects like knives, wallets, and light pistols
  2. Resolve + Composure, self flight at jogging pace, large objects like shotguns, suitcases and cinder blocks.
  3. Resolve + Composure – target’s Resolve, lift others and heavy objects up to about 500lbs; self flight at sprinting pace
  4. Resolve + Composure – highest Resolve in a group, lift/shove one opponent per success dealing bashing damage and moving them away a yard per success; self flight at about Willpower x 5 mph
  5. Resolve + Composure – highest Resolve in a group, wave of force tosses one opponent back per success up to the Thaumaturge’s Willpower in yards, dealing lethal damage equal to her Resolve.
Neptune’s Might
Spend 1 blood to activate for a scene
  1. Eyes of the Sea: Wits + Occult, sees one scene into the past per success from the water’s point of view, as in a mirror. The water must be at least semi-reflective – the ocean does not give up its secrets.
  2. Prison of Water: Resolve + Composure – Strength to imprison someone in animated water summoned from nearby. If the water is deep enough, the target is submerged and held under. If not, then available water swirls around the target, making life difficult. Successes on the path power are a penalty to physical rolls, though the target can break free with a full-round action by exceeding the Thaumaturge’s successes with a Strength + Athletics roll. For each additional prison, another blood point must be spent.
  3. Liberate Water: if used on a mortal, they drown in their own fluids, and the Thaumaturge can deal lethal damage with Resolve + Composure – Stamina. This ability has little effect on vampires. If used on an object, like a pipe or a fire hydrant, water bursts out at high pressure and can be used to push an opponent back with Wits + Science – Strength, dealing bashing damage as well. If used on an area, every water source bursts and floods the area, providing more than enough water for other applications of this Path.
  4. Conjure Elemental: Resolve + Composure to summon an undine, and the Thaumaturge must choose whether it will be summoned as a servant or for defense. A servant undine remains for around an hour per success, or until sunrise with five successes, and can carry messages, retrieve objects, and play havoc with bodies of water. A fighting undine must be subdued. The Thaumaturge rolls Manipulation + Occult – the undine’s Resolve. If successful, the undine will be obedient for an hour per success as above, and has dice for physical rolls equal to twice its Resolve, health levels equal to twice its Resolve, and limited water-related powers. This undine is composed of water, chunks of ice, and various kinds of debris that it uses as weapons.
  5. Dehydrate: Intelligence + Occult – opponent’s Resolve to attack, dealing lethal damage. For each damage dealt, one blood point is lost. Only one success is needed to kill a mortal.
Vicissitude
  1. Spend 1 blood point and change your own appearance with Intelligence + Expression
  2. Spend 1 blood point and alter another’s appearance with Intelligence + Expression; damage or disfigure them with Dexterity + Medicine
  3. Spend 1 blood point and alter bones and cartilege with Intelligence + Medicine; each success lets you move one physical dot around between physical attributes and armor. Can help an ally heal aggravated damage for 3 blood per level rather than 5. Deal lethal damage with Strength + Medicine – Defense; aggravated to mortals.
  4. Spend 3 blood, +3 to physical rolls, lethal unarmed damage, armor 1
  5. Spend 1 blood, move at running speed including up walls or pipes at climbing speed.
Necromancy Rituals
Unless otherwise noted, rolls to enact rituals are Intelligence + Occult. (From V20) Where time required is not spelled out, assume about a half hour per level of ritual, or more for particularly powerful ones.
Level 1
Call of the Hungry Dead: the ritual climaxes with the burning of a hair from the victim’s head in the flame of a black candle. For one hour or scene per success rolled, the victim will be able to hear frightening sounds and snatches of conversation from across the Shroud. The distraction will make social interaction more difficult and things like research all but impossible.
Eldritch Beacon: a green candle is burned, and wax that melts from it is molded into a ball. Whoever carries this ball on their person, knowingly or not, is highlighted with a sickly green light in the Shadowlands, and is easier to affect with Arcanoi and other powers of the dead. The beacon lasts for one hour per success rolled – with five successes, it lasts until the sun rises.
Insight: looking into the eyes of a corpse, the necromancer sees the last thing the person saw. The roll to use this ritual is Intelligence + Empathy, but if the necromancer rolls five successes on the ritual, no Empathy roll is needed.
Knowing Stone: the necromancer uses a blood point to paint the name of her victim onto a consecrated stone. Thereafter, she is able to go into a trance near the stone and a spirit will come and whisper the whereabouts of her victim to her. The stone works once for every success rolled on the ritual.
Minestra di Morti: the necromancer takes a piece of the flesh of a recently dead person and puts it in a pot with two of her own blood points. She then adds, rosemary, basil and salt and boils the concoction. When she consumes it, she is able to know whether the victim became a Wraith, a Spectre, or something else after death.
Ritual of the Smoking Mirror: enables the necromancer to use either Lifesight, which is similar to Aura Perception, and Deathsight, enabling her to see into the Shadowlands – in both cases, this requires an onyx mirror reflecting what she is seeing.
Level 2
Eyes of the Grave: The ritual must be completed within sight of the victim. When it is complete, the victim will have visions of her own death for a night per success. These visions are intermittent, and require a Resolve + Composure roll to avoid collapsing in panic.
The Hand of Glory: requires a fortnight to complete the ritual and create a fetish from a desiccated human hand. The hand is treated with a flammable substance made from the fat of a hanged man. When lit inside a house, everyone in the house will fall into a deep slumber. For each person in the house who is unaffected by the Hand, one of the five fingers will refuse to light, alerting the necromancer. Once made, the Hand can be used indefinitely. It can only be doused by the necromancer who created it, or if plunged into milk.
Occio d’Umo Morto: the necromancer undergoes a lengthy ritual to prepare the eye of a dead person who became a Spectre. Once complete, the necromancer cuts out her own eye and replaces it with the dead one. This gives her Soulsight as a permanent ability, but imposes a -1 penalty on mundane perception rolls. It also infuriates the Specter in question.
Puppet: grave oil is smeared over the victim’s forehead, eyes and mouth. When the ritual is complete, any wraith seeking to possess the victim gains one automatic success. The effect lasts until the sun rises.
Ritual of Potchtli: ritualists cut blasphemous symbols into their flesh and then drink from their own wounds. This enables the necromancers to pool their knowledge and power when using a necromantic path or more powerful ritual. The downside is that if any participant botches, it cancels the whole success, and results in a horrific backlash.
Two Centimes: the necromancer symbolically kills the subject, including placing a penny on each of her eyes. The subject enters the Underworld for the duration of the ritual, though she is not able to physically affect anything while there.
Level 3
Blood Dance: enables a ghost to communicate with a blood relative. When the ritual is complete, the ghost materializes within the sand-and-salt circle created by the necromancer. This enables one exchange per success, or, with five successes, the ghost can remain until the sun rises.
Divine Sign: upon learning the birth date and time of the victim, the necromancer is able to predict her next course of action (obviously only works once per subject). If used on a Wraith, the necromancer is able to affect the Wraith as if he held her fetters.
Din of the Damned: a room is marked by an unbroken line of cremation ash along all walls, over doors to allow entrance and exit. Once complete, the room is warded against any attempt to eavesdrop, whether via discipline, laser microphone, ear at the keyhole, etc. Anyone hoping to listen in must score more successes on Wits + Occult than the ritualist scored on the original ritual. Otherwise all they hear are the sounds of the restless dead.
Nightmare Drums: the necromancer smears a personal posession of the victim with her own blood, then burns it. She pounds a large drum made of human skin until local wraiths arrive. They agree to haunt the victim’s dreams and give her nightmares for as long as the necromancer demands, in exchange for some favor.
Ritual of the Unearthed Fetter: requires a fingerbone from the corpse of the wraith in question. Once complete, the fingerbone will lead the necromancer, like a compass needle, toward something important to the person in life.
Tempesta Scudo: a quick and dirty ward against ghostly powers. The ritualist performs an awkward dance and bits her own lip, dealing a level of lethal damage, and spits her blood in a circle around her (costing a blood point). She then rolls Presence + Expression. If successful, her Occult acts as defense against all ghostly powers within that circle.
Level 4
Baleful Doll: crafted with Intelligence + Crafts in the likeness of the victim and dressed with a piece of her clothing before being bathed in the necromancer’s blood. If stuck with a pin, the victim takes the necromancer’s ritual successes in lethal damage. If destroyed in a fire, the victim takes the ritual successes in aggravated damage. Once destroyed, the doll can never be remade in a given likeness.
Bastone Diobolico: a femur is taken from a living victim, who must survive the procedure. This requires an Intelligence + Medicine roll at the very least. The bone is then coated with lead, and when the metal cools, runes are carved into the surface. The necromancer completes the ritual by beating the bone’s owner to death with it while incanting. From then on, the bone can be used to damage ghosts and Revenants, dealing aggravated damage or stripping away their Pathos or both in the case of manifested ghosts.
Cadaver’s Touch: a wax doll of the victim is made and then melted as part of the ritual. When complete, as long as the wax is not allowed to cool, the victim takes on the appearance of the walking dead, imposing at least a -2 penalty to social rolls. If the wax boils away, the ritual ends.
Peek Past the Shroud: after ingesting a ritually prepared ergot fungi mold, the recipient (who need not be the necromancer) receives Shroudsight for one hour per success rolled. With a botch, the normally poisonous ergot is rendered even more potent, killing mortals and dealing four lethal even to a vampire.
Ritual of Xipe Totec:
Thaumaturgical Rituals
Unless otherwise noted, rolls to enact rituals are Intelligence + Occult. (From V20) Where time required is not spelled out, assume about a half hour per level of ritual, or more for particularly powerful ones.
Level 1
Bind the Accusing Tongue: requires an image of the target, a lock of their hair and a black silken cord. The cord is wrapped around the image, and once the ritual is complete, the target is unable to say something negative about the caster unless they gain more successes on a Resolve + Composure roll than the thaumaturge scored on the ritual.
Bood Rush: enact this ritual to postpone a hunger frenzy for up to one hour. Cannot be used if you are already frenzying. If you botch, frenzy is guaranteed.
Communicate with Kindred Sire: after meditating for a half hour, you make your roll. For each success on the activation roll, you get a few minutes of contact. With five successes, the contact lasts until one of you consciously severs it or the sun rises where either of you are.
Defense of the Sacred Haven: requires one blood point and an hour of work. Once done, no sunlight will enter the warded rooms the following day. One room can be warded per success.
Deflection of Wooden Doom: requires an hour and for the caster to be surrounded by an unbroken circle of wood. She places a splinter under her tongue, and unless it is removed, her defense is increased against staking by one for each ritual success.
Devil’s Touch: the victim, who must be mortal, must be present when the ritual is enacted (quiet chanting over a penny). A penny is then placed on their person. For the rest of the night, everyone who meets the victim will find them to be loathsome. If they try to socialize, they lose dice equal to the successes rolled on this ritual. If they remove the penny or enter consecrated ground the ritual ends.
Domino of Life: requires a vial of fresh human blood on the caster’s person. For up to a night, the caster can mimic one lifelike function per success, including a ruddy complexion, breathing, a heartbeat, warmth, and sexual response.
Engaging the Vessel of Transference: requires one blood point (anyone’s) be placed into a container and a Hermetic sigil is inscribed on it. When someone touches it with bare skin, the blood inside is transferred to them and replaced with their own blood. Victims can roll Wits + Occult to see and understand the Hermetic sigil if they investigate the object, but all they feel is a brief chill.
Illuminate the Trail of Prey: requires a white ribbon that has been in the caster’s possession for at least 24 hours be burned to enact the ritual. (Frenzy check) The ritualist must also know the target’s name and have an image of her in mind. The trail shines brightly when fresh and dims when older, but follows through the sky if a plane is involved. The trail disappears if the target crosses running water (she must get wet) or comes to her destination.
Incantation of the Shepherd: after a brief incantation, the ritualist is aware of the location of all members of her herd. If she has no herd, then she learns the location of one person she has fed from in the past per success rolled.
Purity of Flesh: after meditating in a circle of sharp stones, the caster’s body is purged of all impurities: dirt, tattoo ink, bullets lodged in flesh, shafts of belated quiescence, clothing, jewelry, etc. Mind control, blood bonds, curses and the like are unaffected.
Wake with Evening’s Freshness: if awakened during the daytime, the ritualist is able to avoid the associated dice penalties for one turn per success rolled on the ritual.
Widow’s Spite: the “voodoo doll” effect, causing annoying physical discomfort to the victim once per success rolled. These normally have no mechanical effect, though they could be distracting or inconvenient. The ritual requires a wax effigy of the victim, and the effigy bleeds when the ritual takes effect.
Level 2
Blood Walk: requires a blood point from the subject. With one success the ritualist knows the subject’s generation and clan, and can perceive back one generation per success after the first. With five successes the ritualist knows all those with whom the subject shares a blood bond, whether regnant or thrall.
Burning Blade: (slightly nerfed) the ritualist deals one level of lethal damage to herself and spends three blood points, coating a weapon with her blood. For each success rolled on the ritual, the weapon will deal an aggravated wound. This effect lasts until the next sunrise.
Donning the Mask of Shadows: (nerfed) the ritualist and a number of allies up to her Occult rating are rendered smoky and translucent for one hour per success rolled. This adds 2 dice to all Stealth rolls to remain unseen.
Eyes of the Night Hawk: the ritualist selects a predatory bird and enacts this ritual. At the end of the ritual, she is able to see through the bird’s eyes and to direct its flight. This effect lasts for one hour per success rolled on the ritual. When the bird returns, the ritualist must put out its eyes, or suffer blindness herself for the rest of the night.
Machine Blitz: using a focus of a rusted piece of metal or a knot of string steeped in human saliva, the ritualist can sabotage any machine more complicated than a rope and pulley. It does not grant any control, but can be used to erase thumb drives, kill cell phone batteries, and cause engines to give out. Whether this does permanent damage is up to the Storyteller, but the machine will not work for at least one hour per success rolled on the ritual, and it appears to be conicidental.
Principal Focus of Vitae Infusion: the ritualist enchants an object, no smaller than a dime and no larger than can be carried in two hands, and spends a blood point. The object takes on a slick, reddish hue, and at the ritualist’s mental command will revert into a pool of blood equal to one blood point. Allies’ blood can be similarly stored – the ally must be present for the entire ritual, and must spend the blood point that is to be stored.
Recure of the Homeland: with a minimum of one handful of dirt from the place of the Cainite’s mortal birth, she can enact this ritual. Mixing the earth with two points of blood, she creates a paste that, when smeared on an aggravated wound, heals it. This ritual can only be used once per night, and can only be used on the ritualist herself.
Ward Versus Ghouls: the ritualist pours a blood point’s worth of vitae over the object to be warded. When the ritual is complete, the object will cause excruciating pain to any Ghoul that touches it, dealing a die of lethal damage per success rolled. To willingly touch the warded object, a Ghoul must spend a point of willpower.

Warding Circle Versus Ghouls: the ritualist inscribes a circle using three points of mortal blood. The circle’s radius is about ten feet for every success rolled on the ritual. Once complete, a Ghoul must roll Resolve + Composure to cross the threshold of the ward, scoring more successes than the ritualist rolled originally. If the Ghoul fails, she takes a point of lethal damage and cannot cross. Each successive attempt imposes a -1 die penalty. With a Wits + Occult roll, a Ghoul who comes near the warded area can sense the ward well enough to avoid it.

Level 3
Clinging of the Insect: to enact this power, the ritualist must place a live spider under her tongue. For as long as she holds the spider in her mouth, she can cling to walls and even ceilings with her hands and feet, as an insect. These still must be strong enough to support her weight, of course. If the ritualist doesn’t spit out the spider, this effect ends when the sun rises.
Flesh of Fiery Touch: the ritualist must swallow a live coal at the climax of this ritual, dealing a single aggravated wound. For the remainder of the night, anyone who touches her skin will receive one aggravated wound, and her appearance darkens and takes on a metallic hue. This chance can be noticed with a Wits + Medicine roll. The damage is not dealt through accidental contact, and is not dealt if the ritualist is the one who touches someone.
Incorporeal Passage: this ritual requires a shard of shattered mirror that the ritualist must use to keep her image throughout. Once complete, the ritualist is able to pass through solid objects, but not downward through solid earth or stone. In order to keep her image in view, she must make a Wits + Survival roll. The ritual ends when she loses her image or the sun rises.
Mirror of Second Sight: the ritualist uses a point of her blood to enchant an oval which will appear to be a mundane mirror for the duration of the ritual, but which in fact reveals the true form of anyone whose reflection it holds. This includes Lupines, Changelings, and even Wraiths who are moving through the room in the Shadowlands. This effect lasts longer with more successes, up to a year and a day with five successes rolled.
Pavis of Foul Presence: (nerfed) the ritualist ties a blue ribbon around her neck to enact this ritual. For one instance per success rolled, a targeted Presence power used on the ritualist is reflected back on the victim. Passive powers like Awe and Majesty are not affected, nor are advanced powers above level 5. But Dread Gaze, Entrancement and Summon are all affected, and function as if the ritualist used them on her victim instead of the other way around.
Sanguine Assistant: the ritualist constructs a basic humanoid shape about a foot tall from whatever objects are nearby, and then spends five blood points. For one night per success on the roll, the sanguine assistant is active. It has comparable mental abilities to the caster and follows all instructions to the best of its ability.
Shaft of Belated Quiescence: over the course of the ritual, the ritualist carves a stake out of rowan wood, coats it with three of her blood points, and blackens it in an oak-wood fire. When the stake is used to strike a target and deals at least one level of lethal damage, the tip breaks off and begins burrowing into the victim’s flesh toward her heart. Every hour the storyteller rolls the ritualist’s Intelligence + Occult, and when five successes are achieved, the tip embeds itself in the victim’s heart. Attempts to remove the tip cause it to burrow more quickly. To remove it is an extended Dexterity + Medicine roll which must exceed the number of successes rolled on the original ritual.
Ward versus Lupines: as Ward versus Ghouls, above.
Warding Circle versus Lupines: As Warding Circle versus Ghouls, above.
Level 4
Bone of Lies: the bone must be at least 200 years old, and it is best to use an anonymous bone and to bury it after it is used. The bone in question absorbs up to 10 blood points over the course of the ritual, and will thereafter force anyone holding it to tell the truth immediately after any lie spoken aloud. With each lie absorbed, the bone blackens, until it is ebony and used up. The same bone cannot be used more than once. To actively resist the bone’s effect, the victim make a contested roll of Resolve + Composure versus the ritualist’s Intelligence + Occult + Blood Potency.
Firewalker: the ritualist cuts off the end of one of her fingers and burns it in a fire. For an hour or scene per success rolled, she takes lethal damage from fire instead of aggravated damage. Others can be similarly protected, at the cost of more of the ritualist’s fingers. To cut off one’s own finger one must succeed on a Resolve + Composure roll.
Heart of Stone: the ritualist lies naked on her back and allows a candle to burn down to her chest over her heart, resulting in one level of aggravated damage. Her heart turns to stone, granting some benefits and drawbacks. She adds her successes rolled to her defense against any staking attempts, and is immune to Shafts of Belated Quiescence and similar effects. She also adds her successes to her Composure to resist social attacks, including social disciplines. On the other hand, her social rolls are reduced to a chance-die except for Intimidation, and her dice pool to resist frenzy is halved. This ritual lasts for as long as the Thaumaturge wishes.
Splinter Servant: a stake is carved from the branch of a tree that has nourished itself on the dead, and is then bound in wax-sealed nightshade twine. When the twine is ripped off the stake splinters into a vaguely humanoid form and attacks whomever the Thaumaturge wishes. The Splinter Servant has an attack dice-pool equal to the ritualist’s Wits + Occult and a damage rating equal to the successes rolled on the ritual. If successful, the splinters are difficult to remove, requiring a Dexterity + Medicine – caster’s Thaumaturgy rating roll. The Splinter Servant can make attacks equal to the caster’s Thaumaturgy rating before falling apart.
Ward versus Kindred: as above.
Warding Circle versus Kindred: as above.
Level 5
Blood Contract: one blood point is consumed in creating the contract, and each who sign it also must expend a blood point. The contract, once signed, is unbreakable, and the only way to eliminate its influence is to burn the physical copy of the contract or to fulfill the terms. It is not unknown for demons to materialize in order to enforce blood contracts. Attempts to write into the contract that the contract cannot be burned inevitably fail.
Enchant Talisman: the talisman must be created and marked with Hermetic symbols by its wielder. It must be a large object, like a sword or a cane, or even a violin or shotgun. It must be invested with a blood point per night during its creation, which requires an Intelligence + Crafts roll and an Intelligence + Occult roll to complete. Wielding the talisman, it counts as 2pts worth of equipment for her primary path and ritual castings. It also increases any defense she has against magical attacks by one. If someone else is in possession of the talisman, it functions as 3pts worth of equipment for all magic used against the ritualist. If lost, a Perception + Occult roll will reveal the talisman’s location.
Escape to a True Friend: For five consecutive nights, the Thaumaturge spends three of her blood points to create a ritual circle. At any time after, she can step into the circle and speak the name of a close friend, and she will be instantly transported to that friend’s location. She will appear somewhere nearby that is not observed. The circle can be used once for each success rolled on its creation before it has to be re-made.
Paper Flesh: the ritualist writes the true name of her victim on a piece of paper, cuts herself with it, and then burns it up. For the remainder of the night, her victim’s Stamina and Fortitude are reduced to 1. The true names of elder vampires, of course, are very difficult to obtain.
Ward versus Spirits: as above.

Warding Circle versus Spirits: as above.

Masquerade Disciplines using Requiem/New World of Darkness Rules

I don’t think I’m the only one who likes the dice system that came out with Vampire the Requiem, especially for how it streamlines conflicts of all kinds, but prefers the metaplot and setting of Vampire the Masquerade. Maybe this is because my first World of Darkness game was an awesome Vampire chronicle using the Revised version of Masquerade, but I have kept coming back to it for the past 16 years.

Next weekend I am going to be participating in Geekend, which is basically me and friends from back in college abandoning our families and responsibilities and gaming over MLK Jr. weekend. I’m running a Vampire one-shot, and want to use the familiar Masquerade setting with Requiem rules. Here are my notes for doing just that:


OWoD Disciplines using NWoD dice


Animalism
  1. +1 to Animal Ken rolls, give complicated commands
  2. Presence + Animal Ken to summon animals of one type
  3. Manipulation + Empathy to cow the Beast; Manipulation + Intimidation to provoke it; 1 bp to activate for a scene
  4. Intelligence + Animal Ken – Defense; 1 success for a scene
  5. Manipulation + Intimidation – Resolve to force a frenzy check. All successes must be cancelled out. If target resists, then the attacker needs to make her own test, requiring only one success


Auspex
  1. +2 to Wits + Composure when active; 1 lethal from loud noise (like a gunshot)
  2. Intelligence + Empathy to read auras; 1 = alive or undead, 2 = other type, 3 = lie detection
  3. Intelligence + Investigation to use psychometry; 1 = last user, 5 = last scenes
  4. Wits + Empathy – Composure to read minds; 1 piece of information per success
  5. Intelligence + Occult, only requires 1 success for a scene


Celerity
Spend 1 blood point in a scene. During that scene, your Defense is increased by your Celerity level, as is your Initiative Modifier. + dice equal to Celerity for rolls involving fast, graceful movement (running across rooftops, chases, etc.)


Chimerstry (cheap version)
  1. Spend 1 blood point to create a motionless illusion that affects one sense.
  2. Ditto to create a motionless illusion that affects all senses.
  3. Ditto to add motion to below.
  4. Spend 1 blood and 1 willpower to make the illusion permanent and self-sustaining, until dismissed or proven false. Intelligence + Expression – Resolve.
  5. Spend 1 blood and 1 willpower to imbue your illusions with horrid reality. They are able to deal bashing damage that, at the time, will be felt like lethal or aggravated. Presence + Intimidation – Resolve.


Dominate
  1. Manipulation + Intimidation – Resolve + Blood Potency difference
  2. Manipulation + Persuasion – Resolve + Blood Potency
  3. Wits + Expression – Composure + Blood Potency
  4. Presence + Intimidation – Resolve + Blood Potency; when successes = Composure + Resolve, you’re done
  5. Intelligence + Empathy – Resolve if resisted; only needs 1 success for a scene. If your vessel is killed, you lose a temporary willpower point and are disoriented for a few minutes.


Fortitude
Spend 1 blood point in a scene (which can be a reaction). You get one extra level of Health for each level of Fortitude. When Fortitude wears off, or you cancel it, the damage from your extra health levels is shrugged off and goes away, even if it is aggravated.


Obeah
  1. Roll Intelligence + Medicine to determine how hurt someone is, and how they came to be hurt with 5 successes
  2. Spend a blood point and roll Dex + Medicine to make a living creature fall into a deep sleep or let a vampire re-roll to come out of frenzy.
  3. Heal others’ lethal wounds for a blood point per level, and your own or their aggravated wounds for three blood per level.
  4. Spend a willpower. Anyone who wants to come closer than about 10 feet without your permission loses dice equal to your Resolve on all rolls. They must also make a willpower roll, or they are unable to cross the boundary
  5. Spend a willpower and roll Intelligence + Empathy. For each success, you grant one 24 hours free of a derangement. Five successes will cure the derangement permanently for all but Malkavians and others who are irreducibly insane. (The derangement must be bought off with xp, or you can spend a permanent point of willpower otherwise)


Obfuscate
  1. +2 to Wits + Stealth vs. Composure + Wits to sneak around; invisible if still. Doesn’t stack with above.
  2. Wits + Stealth, no contest unless target has Auspex or other supernatural ability.
  3. Wits + Socialize, 1 = familiar stranger, 5 = specific and well-known person
  4. Presence + Stealth vs. highest Composure + Resolve
  5. Intelligence + Stealth vs. highest Composure + Resolve, one target invisible per success


Obtenebration
  1. +1 to Intimidation and Stealth at all times
  2. Intelligence + Occult, 1 blood point, approx. 1 target affected per success
  3. Wits + Occult, one tentacle per success. Tentacles have Physical 3 + your Brawl and 3 Health, and take double damage from fire and supernatural
  4. Blood point, Resolve + Composure roll. +2 to Intimidation and Stealth, 1 extra attack per turn
  5. 3 blood, move at a walking pace over surfaces, ignoring gravity


Potence
Spend 1 blood point for a scene. For each level of Potence you have, you get +1 die to all Strength rolls. Your unarmed attacks also deal lethal instead of bashing.


Presence
  1. Presence + Socialize, 1 target per success with 5 = a whole crowd
  2. Presence + Intimidation – Composure, flee for 1 round per success
  3. Manipulation + Empathy – Resolve, 1 = scene and 5 = permanent (or very long term)
  4. Intelligence + Intimidation to summon, 1 = with deliberate but entirely safe speed and 5 = now
  5. Spend a willpower to activate; Resolve + Composure to disrespect you, 1 success per disrespectful act or statement. Against attacks from those affected by your Majesty let you add your Presence to your Defense score. To break the effect entirely, they must roll Resolve + Composure and get 5 successes (or more if you have advanced Presence) or spend willpower equal to your Presence score at a rate of 1 per round


Protean
  1. Negate any penalty for darkness when in use
  2. Spend 1 blood point; unarmed attacks are +1 and deal aggravated damage for a scene
  3. Spend 1 blood and meld into the ground for a day’s sleep
  4. Spend 3 blood; double speed, Brawl (bite) deals +2 aggravated damage, +1 to all physical rolls, cover stink of the Wyrm
  5. Spend 3 blood; move at a running speed and through any barrier that is not airtight; bashing damage from strong winds


Quietus
  1. Spend 1 blood point for silence a few paces in every direction for a scene. +2 to Stealth.
  2. Spend 1 blood point and convert it to poison which reduces Stamina by 1 in addition to any other damage if a weapon is coated with it.
  3. For up to an hour after you have touched someone skin to skin, you can spend a blood point to choke them on their own blood. Each attack costs 1 blood and is Resolve + Composure – Stamina. It deals lethal damage.
  4. Spend a blood point and convert it into poison that makes any treated weapon deal aggravated damage for one scene.
  5. Spend 1 blood and spit it at your foes, dealing Dexterity + Athletics – Defense in aggravated damage.


Serpentis
  1. Make eye contact and roll Manipulation + Intimidation – target’s Composure. Target is paralyzed for 1 round per success, and otherwise can’t break eye contact until you do unless they spend a willpower. Any attack will break the mesmerism.
  2. Spend a blood point to extend your tongue, which you can use for +1 aggravated damage with Dexterity + Brawl – Defense. If you deal 1 agg, next round you can roll Strength to drink blood through the tongue.
  3. Spend a blood point to add 3 to your Health for a scene. Your skin becomes snake-like and you are at -2 dice for all social rolls apart from Intimidation.
  4. Spend 1 blood point; bite with Dex + Brawl +1 agg, slither through any hole your head can fit through. Your venom is lethal to any mortal creature, or can simply paralyze them as long as you deal 1 agg. Spend 1 additional blood point to add level 3’s Health levels.


Thaumaturgy
Path of Blood
Spend 1 blood point to activate for a scene
  1. Intelligence + Occult, 1 question per success
  2. Dexterity + Occult, 1 blood point per success
  3. Intelligence + Medicine, 1 temporary Blood Potency per success for a scene
  4. Presence + Occult, 1 blood point per success
  5. Dexterity + Medicine – Defense as aggravated damage and lost vitae for a scene. 1 success kills a mortal


Movement of the Mind
Spend 1 blood point to activate for a scene
  1. Resolve + Composure, small objects
  2. Resolve + Composure, self flight at jogging pace, large objects
  3. Resolve + Composure – target’s Resolve, lift others; self flight at sprinting pace
  4. Resolve + Composure – highest Resolve in a group, lift/shove one opponent per success; self flight at about wp x 3 mph
  5. Resolve + Composure – highest Resolve in a group, wave of force tosses one opponent back per success and also deals bashing equal to Tremere’s Resolve


Lure of the Flames
Spend 1 blood to activate for a scene. Roll Resolve + Composure – target’s Defense to deal up to 1 damage per level of Lure of the Flames (so at level 5 you could deal 5 damage if you rolled that many successes).


Vicissitude


  1. Spend 1 blood point and change your own appearance with Intelligence + Expression
  2. Spend 1 blood point and alter another’s appearance with Intelligence + Expression; damage or disfigure them with Dexterity + Medicine
  3. Spend 1 blood point and alter bones and cartilege with Intelligence + Medicine; each success lets you move one physical dot around between physical attributes and armor. Can help an ally heal aggravated damage for 3 blood per level rather than 5. Deal lethal damage with Strength + Medicine – Defense; aggravated to mortals.
  4. Spend 3 blood, +3 to physical rolls, lethal unarmed damage, armor 1
  5. Spend 1 blood, move at running speed including up walls or pipes at climbing speed.

Simplifying Combat in Vampire the Masquerade

My V20 game that I’m currently running seems to be coming to a head. Multiple Sabbat packs will be attacking an ancient vampire and his minions, and a second ancient might join the fray. In the past, this has been the point where we have a whole session where two hours or more are all one fight.

One big culprit here is Celerity. Probably the biggest. Each round of combat involves multiple turns for a number of the characters. Not only does Celerity make it less fun to be in a fight when you don’t have it, but there is more time spent as a player sitting on the sidelines messing with your smartphone or whatever while everyone else has multiple actions.

A second issue is that resolving a single attack requires at least four dice-rolls: the attack roll, a defense roll, damage roll and soak roll. One thing I really like about NWoD is that this is all simplified to one weighted roll per attack. I used to like the variability and flexibility of the OWoD system, but that was also back when I played with the same group every week, and we had tons of hours to devote to gaming minutiae.

Fix 1: Celerity
In the past I’ve adapted the LARP rules for Celerity, as I actually like them better than the V20 or previous rules, but in writing them up for this game, I realized they would just add another layer of complexity. We have two players who don’t give a damn about the system and would rather it not get in the way, one who is in his very first tabletop RPG, and a fourth who is up for whatever, so I decided to go with simplification.

What I decided was that Celerity would simply add to all Dexterity rolls. I had changed initiative to Dexterity + Wits (rather than Wits + Alertness), so Celerity would also add to initiative rolls. This would be the equivalent of the LARP preempt ability that Celerity grants, and it just makes sense that characters with Celerity would act first. This would also add to pretty much all attack rolls, move around rolls, and so on. I decided Celerity would cost no blood, since frankly this is quite a nerf. I have also not been allowing split actions, and so the extra Celerity dice would not be useful for that either.

So far, the players seem to be happy with it, though one player moved her Celerity 3 point to become a Fortitude 4 point (from out of clan to in-clan), which was fine by me. When I make a change like this (and I don’t seem to be able to resist) I always give players a chance to adjust accordingly.

Fix 2: Fortitude
I also wanted to nix the soak roll, and so I had to address Fortitude first. I decided that Stamina + Fortitude + Armor would be the difficult of damage rolls, but this meant that Fortitude would be less useful overall. (You still roll it to avoid fire and sunlight). So I decided that for a blood point, a character could add their Fortitude to their normal Health levels temporarily. These would be health levels that you couldn’t heal, but would be a buffer between you and real damage.

Again, so far, so good.

Fix 3: Defense and Soak
As mentioned above, there is no longer a soak roll, but the difficulty of a damage roll is the target’s Stamina + Fortitude + Armor. I also decided that the maximum for this difficulty would be a 9. Beyond that point, the extra health levels help, and you have dice to roll against fire and sunlight, but I found that my players had a lot more fun if they could at least bruise powerful NPCs in a fight.

Similarly, I got rid of the defense roll by simply having the difficulty of an attack roll be the target’s Dexterity + Athletics + Celerity. Again, with a maximum of 9. This really short-changes my super-powerful Elders, but also makes dealing with those Elders a bit more fun in this game, at least so far. This could easily be adapted to another house rule (or is it a house rule?) that for difficulties over 9, you simply need more successes. So difficulty 12 = difficulty 9 with three successes required for the first success.

Problem: Stakes, and other attacks that are more difficult than normal. Not sure what to do with this, but it basically makes staking a bit more likely and common in the game, which frankly is not a problem so far.

Again, players are liking the rules change, I have to explain rules much less often during the game, and fights go a lot quicker overall.

Mass Combat
The next session of my game is going to be a big-ass combat, with more than 20 named NPCs. Obviously, this is nuts, but the players are feeling it and are excited about it, and it is kind of what has been set up to happen. They are attacking an ancient vampire and his minions, and have the assistance of a couple of NPCs in their pack as well as a Black Hand cell. Late in the fight, another ancient might jump in with her minions to try to diablerize the PCs target, her enemy for the last 3000 years.

So, cool stuff, if it goes quick enough to be at all interesting.

First thing, for the most part, I’m going to hand-wave NPC vs NPC parts of the combat. I have a very good idea of who would win in a given fight and how long it would take, leaving me to focus on the PCs. For the NPCs vs NPCs, I just note what the PCs would see (she tears him up with claws; he empties his clip into her, etc.) and move on. If they want to get detail, they have to go look. Otherwise, it’s a mess, as fights should be.

Second, I have to have a way to keep track of NPC dots and numbers without having a fat stack of character sheets. Even the 3×5 cards I usually use for NPCs are a bit too large, as I want to have them out on the table so I can move them around. I decided to cut the 3x5s in half, and to have some notes for the combat only. What I have on the lined side of each card:

Name, Type (ghoul, clan, generation, etc.), Nature/Demeanor if they might come up in a fight
Physical, Social and Mental dice (these are just average pools for rolls of each type)
List of powers and level
Primary attack
Secondary attack
Special effect (if any – for example, Majesty with the Courage roll difficulty, an aura, etc.)
Path (if any) and Willpower
Blood pool total/Blood spent per round
Any other little note

Then, on the un-lined side of the card

Initiative number (I rolled ahead of time)
NAME
Boxes for the health levels, assuming that everyone has activated Fortitude who has it

And that’s it. We’ll see how it works on Sunday night.

Changeling the Lost House Rules

In planning on running a Changeling the Lost one-shot, I’ve come up with some house rules which I think enhance the game and also simplify it somewhat. What Changeling the Lost has is a lot of great fluff and atmosphere and color. What it lacks is a coherent system, seeming as if each power and special ability was designed by someone who only had cursory contact with the other designers. This is my little attempt to not only add some flavor but also to change some of that.

First I wanted to change how Virtues work in Changeling. It makes sense to me that Changeling Virtues and Vices would be a little different from the Thomistic ones presented in the base system.

Virtues
Love/Romance: for the most part, romantic love (Love is everything)
Joy: pleasure and happiness for their own sake or for others (Follow your bliss)
Honor: filial piety, fealty (Honor is life)
Wisdom: seeking knowledge, teaching, learning (Mind is sharper than steel)
Balance: peacemaking, something like temperance (All things in measure)
Hope: inspiring others, defying despair (After darkness, the dawn)
Courage: self-sacrifice (Never surrender)

Vices
Hatred: (Destroy your enemies)
Pettyness: squabbling without a larger goal (Accept no disrespect)
Lust: (Take your pleasure)
Gluttony: (There is always more)
Sloth/Banality: (Let others risk)
Arrogance: (Humility is weakness)
Despair: (Hope is a lie)


Next I changed the blessing and curse for each Seeming

Seeming’s Blessing and Seeming’s Curse are both handled differently. Each Blessing has a constant effect that is usually a roll-again. The player can invoke their Curse against themselves at one critical moment to gain one extra Glamour per session. They can invoke their Blessing once per session at the cost of one Glamour.
Beast: 9 on Wits; spend Glamour to speak to animals for a scene; gain Glamour when instinctual urges impose a dice-penalty (equal to Wyrd)
Darkling: 9 again on Manipulation rolls; spend Glamour to manipulate shadows for a scene; gain Glamour when bright light enforces a dice-penalty for a scene
Elemental: shrug off one attack per session; spend Glamour for Wyrd in bonus Health for one scene; gain Glamour when penalized trying to socialize
Fairest: 9 again on Presence; spend Glamour to charm one target for a scene; gain Glamour when their Clarity falls and -1 dice to Clarity pool
Ogre: 9 again for Strength rolls; spend Glamour to double Strength for one roll; Glamour for penalty to Intelligence/Mental skills for a scene
Wizened: 9 again on Dexterity rolls; spend Glamour improvise a device or tool for one scene; Glamour for times when equipment malfunctions around you and imposes a dice penalty for a scene


Kith’s Blessing
To call on these, you call upon your Kith and drop your Mein for a scene. You hope that the Wyrd takes care of people who might see you.
[Beast]
Broadback: ignore ‘encumbrance’, lift and carry much more than usual
Hunterheart: unarmed lethal
Runnerswift: +2 Speed, +3 to Athletics rolls for pure speed
Skitterskulk: Dodge to triple defense rather than double it
Steepscrambler: +3 to climb and can try to climb anything
Swimmerskin: hold breath for 30 minutes and swim at normal move speed
Venombite: once per session, make an unarmed attack. If it hits, the target is poisoned
Windwing: spend Glamour to glide, take falling damage every 15 yards instead of 5


[Darkling]
Antiquarian: 9 again for Academics and Investigation
Gravewright: Changeling can see ghosts for one scene
Leechfinger: drain one lethal to heal one bashing or lethal or downgrade one agg per session
Mirrorskin: +3 to Wits + Subterfuge disguise attempts, can mimic anyone s/he has met
Tunnelgrub: can fit through spaces others couldn’t and roll Dex + Athletics to get out of bonds


[Elemental]
Airtouched: add Wyrd to Initiative
Earthbones: add Wyrd to Strength out of combat for a scene
Fireheart: 9 again for Wits for one scene
Manikin: learn Contracts of Artifice as favored, Craft without penalty untrained
Snowtouched: 9 again on Intimidation and Subterfuge for a scene
Waterborn: breathe water for one scene (and not! air)
Woodblood: 9 again for Stealth and Survival outdoors with growing things


[Fairest]
Bright One: light for a scene, can be brightened to impose -2 penalties (-4 to Darklings) for any targeting the Fairest for a scene
Dancer: 9 again for Expression and Socialize using dance and +1 when dodging
Draconic: one extra Health that functions like armor
Flowering: 8 again on Persuasion and Socialize
Muse: grant +2 for a scene to Craft, Expression, Persuasion, Socialize, Subterfuge


[Ogre]
Cyclopean: have one handicapped sense but gets 9 again on Wits perception rolls
Farwalker: 9 again on Stealth and Survival to travel and get around
Gargantuan: add Wyrd to Size for one scene, granting temporary Health and bonuses for contested Strength
Gristlegrinder: bite for +2 lethal after a grapple
Stonebones: Wyrd as armor for one scene, subtracted from Dexterity rolls
Water-Dweller: hold breath for 30 minutes, no perception penalties for seeing underwater


[Wizened]
Artist: 8 again on Crafts
Brewer: ferment a brew of Glamour in order to store it for later use – brews up to Wyrd score at any one time
Chatelaine: 9 again when depending on proper etiquette
Chirurgeon: 9 again on Medicine, can improvise medical tools
Oracle: once per chapter, can fortell one event
Smith: tinker with a tool to get a +1 equipment bonus from it for a day
Soldier: 9 again on Weaponry
Woodwalker: 8 again on Survival, can eat poisonous plants


Mantle functions differently:
Blessing of the Green: Gain extra Glamour when harvesting
Challenge of the Black Spear: Gain Glamour for defeating an opponent
Harvest of Whispers: Gain Glamour from things learned during a session
Feast of Ashes: Glamour to Willpower
–>all limited by Mantle level per session

Discovering Fantasy

It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to play any role-playing games. Mostly I’ve been so busy, and there’s been so many new things in my life that I haven’t had time to miss it, but the last couple days I’ve been getting the urge in a strong way. I’ve begun daydreaming the next game I want to run, and that has led me to some thoughts about the fantasy genre as represented in gaming…

Fantasy in gaming is essentially a genre term that has completely moved away from it’s root. Really there is nothing “fantastic” about RPG fantasy settings. That is because all of the supposed fantastic elements are really just natural, presumed parts of the setting. Dragons in D&D aren’t any more fantastic than a hippopotamus is in Africa. Depending on the setting they may be rare, exciting, or significant, but they aren’t fantastic. No one is surprised to encounter a dragon. Dragons are in the title.

To be sure there are “high-fantasy” settings for games, and “low-fantasy” settings and you might think I was just expressing a preference for the latter, but that is not really what I mean. Low-fantasy implies that the magical or fantastic elements are rarer, but they are nonetheless native elements, expected, even required elements of the setting. For a game or setting to even qualify as fantasy such things must be a given.

Fantasy as a genre, of course, owes a huge debt to Tolkein, but almost all fantasy since Tolkein has followed after the LoTR trilogy rather than the Hobbit. In LoTR, elves, wizards, dragons, orcs, magic and demons are all simply assumed. They are part of the background of the story, not the substance of it. The story isn’t about Frodo venturing out in the world and discovering to his shock that it is inhabited by magical beings. In the Hobbit by contrast, Bilbo is on a constant adventure of discovery from step one. Gandalf’s encounter with the trolls who turn to stone by daylight is far more “fantastic” than Gandalf’s face-off with the Balrog – at least in the sense that I am after.

What I am looking for is the sense of wonder or mystery attached to the fantastic that a character like Alice feels when she falls through the looking glass. It is what all the ancient heroic journeys are about – a Celtic hero is tricked into entering Faerie, a young warrior sets off on a sea-voyage and is beset by sea-monsters, the old-crone turns out to be a powerful sorceress… What happens in these stories is that the “fantastic” is discovered rather than presumed. It is fantastic precisely because it is unbelievable, it breaks the known rules, it doesn’t conform to our expectations of reality, it conforms to something deeper and more inscrutable.

There ARE games out there which can involve the fantastic in the sense I mean here.

Mage the Ascension comes to mind right away. There is no better game for subjecting the players to a collective experience of discovery, and breaking or pealing away the nature of reality. Where I feel Mage isn’t meeting my current craving is that it is too open-ended, so open-ended it verges on the surreal. It would be difficult with Mage to tell a story about a Celtic hero that didn’t end up involving space aliens and werewolves.

Changeling the Lost is almost the reverse of what I’ve described. The characters in this game are coming home from their journey of discovery into the fantastic. It definitely captures the wonder and mystery, but it is ultimately more cynical than I want.

Everyday Heroes is another. I have yet to play this game, but it seems to set out to accomplish precisely what I’ve described. If I have a problem it’s that being “everyday” has very limited appeal. Even Bilbo ends up becoming a clever, and adept thief with a magical ring that makes him invisible.

Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, if it ever gets published, is another option. This game would be perfect for a medieval setting, my only question is how it will handle fantasy elements like magic and monsters. Until that question is answered it is tough to say whether this game will work.

GURPS, of course, is always a viable choice. It is good because the bias of the system is toward realism, making fantasy elements in GURPS already seem out of place. It would be easy as well to start with something very realistic and slowly weave in magic and monsters into the game with the rules as established. GURPS might really be my best choice here, but GURPS has the perpetual downside of being super-crunchy. My GM style tends to work best in a rules-light atmosphere, but GURPS is meant to be hacked…

Whatever system I end up choosing (or if I come up with something homebrew), the game I’m slowly brewing up in my mind starts out as a medieval adventure story with historical-realism as its basic assumption. Indeed, I might even keep the players in the dark about my plans to incorporate monsters and magic into the game. The idea being that the players are genuinely surprised to encounter goblins in the woods (and therefore perhaps genuinely frightened). Let the fantasy slowly unravel before them and lead them on a journey of discovery that D&D could never replicate.

Hunter: the Vigil and the New World of Darkness

The New World of Darkness games seem to be intentionally designed to give players insane results. In the old world of darkness system, you could get crazy results, but it was because you gamed the system well – you set up a roll with lots of dice and low difficulty.

In the NWoD, everything is target 8, so successes can be relatively rare, but you also have “exploding dice”, re-rolling 10’s and sometimes even 9’s and more rarely, 8’s as well. This means that the most common results of rolls are one or two successes or a large number, and it comes out of nowhere. It is also less under your control. Even when you can make some of your successes explode, they are relatively rare, so its more of a game of luck and randomness.

One effect of this that I found in my own play is that it turns the game towards comedy. There is a lot of botching and absurd successes, and it is hard to handle.

The exception here is in combat, when some kind of defense number is subtracted from almost all of the dice-pools for attacks and special abilities. This means that you’re rolling fewer dice than you’re used to, which in turn means that combat involves a lot of singular successes or marginal failures.

This can get to be…a little unexciting. Your vampire grows her agg-dealing supernatural claws, leaps from the rooftop onto her opponent, slashes the claws down his back, and deals…one aggravated damage. Nowhere near a would penalty or anything. A scratch, really. Then in rage he turns around, pulls out his Desert Eagle, shoots you, and deals…two bashing. And so it goes until one of you has some exploding dice and randomly ends the battle in a paroxism of bloodshed.

I like a lot of the changes that were made to Vampire, Werewolf and Hunter. I think that Mage took a step backward both in its fluff and in the system itself in almost every way. But the dice system is just sort of hard to manage sometimes. It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t deliver the play experience I want – it isn’t reliable when it should be, and it isn’t exciting when you want it to be.

I find that I’m left wanting to hack White Wolf’s games all the time. When we used to run V3 (Vampire third edition), we probably had a minimum of house rules, but by the end of a chronicle we had a few to make the system more playable.

I wonder – did they playtest the new system before they brought it out? It just comes off as…unfinished in a lot of ways. So you have huge, beautiful books with unfinished systems in them that don’t deliver what you want them to deliver.

I sort of want White Wolf’s graphic designers and artists and setting designers to team up with Paizo, maybe, or a team of designers who can create a game that is tight, efficient, and delivers when you want it to deliver.

We just had a session of Hunter: the Vigil with some members of our new home group we’re trying to put together, and it went really well and was a lot of fun. It isn’t like I’m not having fun with White Wolf’s games – I almost always do. It just isn’t…reliable. Their new system, its core dice mechanic, just isn’t as good as their old one, and it takes something away from the game that used to be there. I’d have kept a similar dice system, with variable pools and variable difficulties on d10s, because that just lead to a more interesting game, a system that the players can use to set their characters up for huge success or for big risks at critical moments. The dice helped the game along – not so much with the new WoD stuff. Its really too bad.