Awakened and Mages (not necessarily) Monte’s Way

   There are still a couple of options left in Monte Cooks d20 version of the White Wolf – so as to finish up with that request, here are the last two conversions to Eclipse d20; the Awakened and the Magi. In this case, the Awakened are easy enough – but the original White Wolf-style magic had a lot more flavor, so I’m going to take things back that way a bit with the Magi.

   The Awakened:

  • Two Bonus d8 Hit Dice, Specialized for Double Effect/can be bypassed to do damage to constitution by critical hits and special attacks, Corrupted/are rolled rather than taken as the maximum since they’re available at level one (16 CP). That covers the basics of the wounds-and-vitality style systems, wherein a characters basic hits are considered to equal his or her constitution. You can buy that in Eclipse too, and fairly cheaply, but – in this case – it’s a world law that applies to everyone, and individual characters don’t have to.
  • Self-Development/+2 to any one attribute (12 CP)
  • +2 floating attribute bonus, purchased as per Enthusiast, Specialized for double effect/Self-Development only, can only be changed at a new level (18 CP).
  • +8 Skill Points (8 CP)
  • Action Hero/Stunts, Specialized/only gets one Action Point per level automatically, the rest are doled out when the character does especially heroic, noble, or humanitarian things (3 CP).
  • +1 Bonus Feat (6 CP).

   At a total of 63 CP, that’s a +1 ECL Race or a +2 ECL Template if applied to an existing race. Unlike the monstrous inhabitants of this system, Awakened characters are more or less normal. They have no special enemies, weaknesses, or other difficulties except for being a bit better than human.

   It’s worth nothing that d20 offers a lot more viable options for developing a character than the various White Wolf games do. In White Wolf you can develop your Werewolf’s attributes, skills, rites, and gifts – but skills and attributes only go so far and your special powers are going to be limited to rites and gifts. You won’t find any werewolves commanding legions of enhanced followers, mighty magics of other types, mountain-shattering martial arts, having mutant powers of invulnerability, flight, and heat vision, combat skills which could handily defeat a dozen other werewolves with a stick, vast political power, or weird technology and powered battle armor, for powers – yet all of those are perfectly viable options for a d20 character.

   The Magi:

  • Two Bonus d6 Hit Dice, Specialized for Double Effect/can be bypassed to do damage to constitution by critical hits and special attacks, Corrupted/are rolled rather than taken as the maximum since they’re available at level one (14 CP).
  • +2 to any one attribute (12 CP)

   That takes us to buying the “Magic” part.

   The original White Wolf mage-style magic system (as opposed to the mechanics) was fairly simple.

  1. Magic was divided into a number of schools or “spheres” – depending on your edition and inclination, either nine or ten. Between them, they were supposed to cover everything.
  2. A given effect might require elements from several different schools at varying levels. To produce it, you had to have all the relevant schools at the appropriate levels.
  3. Your maximum level in any given school was limited by your Arete (or “Level”)
  4. Spellcasting was originally limited only by backlash, rather than to a certain amount per day. Later editions greatly reduced the backlash but threw in a magic point cost on every spell – and they were a limited resource.
  5. You could use magic points to make effects easier to pull off.
  6. Well-practiced magical effects were easier to produce.
  7. Subtle magic caused less backlash.
  8. Ritual magic let you do bigger things.
  9. You could get minor bonuses for using props and mundane skills. Classical props – such as a lock of someone’s hair or some of their blood – were especially useful.
  10. Having too many active spells on you made it harder to use other magic.
  11. Mages could sense supernatural energies.
  12. Each tradition had some minor advantages within their schools.

   Now that’s not especially complicated. It’s also the same basic kind of magic system found in TORG, in Ars Magica (which was something of a precursor), and quite a few other games.

   Unfortunately, Monte kept the complicated tables for generating effects and pretty much dumped the interesting part – the sphere system. I’ll be dumping the tables and putting the Spheres back in.

   One of the big strengths of d20 is the enormous list of spells and magical effects – a ton in the SRD and – if you count the Spell Templates in The Practical Enchanter – literally tens of millions of spells in other sources. Most d20 gamers will already be familiar with hundreds of spells, so we can simply use the d20 list for benchmarks for improvised spells. Given that body of information, we won’t be needing any complicated tables; most spells are likely to be pretty similar to the existing ones.

   So; what will we need to buy?

  • We’ll want Rune Casting and Rune Magic for each school or sphere of magic a particular mage can use. Since those are skills, they’re automatically limited by the characters level. They’ll also provide the casting level and limit the levels of spells usable. They aren’t part of the racial template though; the character can buy them as needed.
    • We can, but do not have, to use the White Wolf “spheres” of Correspondence, Entropy, Forces, Life, Mind Matter, Prime, Spirit, Time, and – at least in theory – one that covered the stuff that most mages couldn’t handle – a “sphere” most often called Balance, Judgement, or Paradox.
    • There’s no reason why you couldn’t go with Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation – and perhaps Universal and Destiny.
    • How about Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Void, Life, Death, Mind, Time, and Magic? They’ll all work. Just pick a set, or make up your own, and go with it.
  • To provide the power, and allow it to be used to further boost spells in an emergency, we’ll want 4d6 Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option (16* CP). That makes the power available – but keeps it as a rather limited resource.
  • To get the power back, we’ll want Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only works when sleeping at a rate of 1d6/hour (6* CP).
  • To cover the use of components, rituals, and invocations, we’ll want Runic Ritual (4* CP).
  • To cover the use of minor spells without tiring the user, we’ll want Magician (4* CP).
  • To innately sense magical energies, we’ll want Occult Sense/Magical Energies (6 CP).
  • To establish a theme for each character, we’ll want Adept (select two sets of Rune Casting and Rune Mastery skills to fit the character’s primary theme. He or she can buy them at half cost, 6 CP).
  • The character can buy well-practiced bits of magic – “rotes” – as Specialities (1* CP each – in their case Corrupted for Increased Effect to provide a +5 bonus when a roll is required due to casting difficulties) – but the character can buy them later.

   Now, that leaves us with the “subtle is easier” and “backlash” parts. Since most d20 settings have no objection to blatant magic, that’s pretty obviously a Corruption. Ergo, we can count the items marked with an “*” as being Corrupted – and we can probably count the Skills as being corrupted as well, reducing their cost. The character must have appropriate secondary fields at appropriate levels to produce a given effect – instead of only being limited by the primary skill in use – and must roll 3d6 on the following chart whenever he or she casts a rune magic spell. Spells cast as “Rotes” gain a +1 bonus on the roll.

  • 3: The spell goes wildly wrong. A subtle spell backlashes in a related spell effect one level higher than the spell attempted. A questionable spell – one that could have an explanation other than magic, although it would really be pushing it – backlashes in a related spell effect two levels higher than the spell attempted. A grossly blatant spell backlashes in a related spell effect three levels higher than the spell attempted
  • 4: A subtle spell backlashes as a related spell effect of the same level as the spell attempted. A questionable spell – one that could have an explanation other than magic, although it would really be pushing it – backlashes in a related spell effect one level higher than the spell attempted. A grossly blatant spell backlashes in a related spell effect two levels higher than the spell attempted
  • 5: A subtle spell backlashes as a related spell effect of two levels below the level of the spell attempted. If this reduces the backlash below level zero, the spell simply fails. A questionable spell – one that could have an explanation other than magic, although it would really be pushing it – backlashes in a related spell effect of one level lower than the spell attempted. If this reduces the backlash level below zero, the spell simply fails. A grossly blatant spell backlashes in a related spell effect equal to the level of the spell attempted
  • 6: The spell fails.
  • 7-16: No special effect.
  • 17: The spell costs one less mana than it normally would.
  • 18: the spell is cast without mana cost. Lucky you.

   What happens on a backlash? It’s up to the game master – but often it’s simply some minor curse or bizarre effect for low-level stuff. As the levels go up, you’re more likely to get some damage, then some long-term disability, than insanity, summoned creatures which stick around to cause trouble for you until you deal with them, and then being plane-shifted to some sort of puzzle-realm. Fortunately, subtle magic is much easier.

   Optionally, you can have an alternate version of the Corruption. In the case of “Marauders” substitute “the use of your magic drives you quite mad, leaving you inhabiting your own warped delusions”.

   All that comes out to 68 CP. That’s quite a bit. Magi do suffer from a few disadvantages though – although they’re nothing like the problems that afflict Demons, Vampires, and Werewolves.

  • Blocked: A mage can only master nine of the ten fields that would make up their complete view of the world. They must select one which will remain forever beyond their reach.
  • Dependent: Magi require special talismans to use their weaker magics. They must select at least three of their Spheres to require some sort of special prop. Without such an item, those fields cannot be used.

   That reduces the net cost to 62 CP – a +1 ECL “Race” or a +2 ECL Template.

   Now, if you want to create a weird-scientist technomage, or some other form of specialist, you’ll want to take a Restriction – (can only work magic through technological devices or whatever). If you want to make an evil demon-serving dark mage, you’ll want to take Duties (to your evil masters).

   Obviously enough, a mage will usually want to invest heavily in Skill Points – and most will want to buy more Mana as quickly as possible and perhaps find some quicker way than sleep to regain part of it.

   There’s a basic problem with using White Wolf material as a background for games using more general systems. The games are good fun, they have plenty of background material, and the game statistics generally aren’t difficult to translate, it’s just that White Wolf games tend to be very focused.

   It’s not just that they’re always focused on a particular type of character. OK, if you’re playing in a Mage game, the vast majority of the player characters are going to be mages. The major routes to real accomplishment and advancement are all going to involve magic.

   But wait! Couldn’t you also get the storytellers permission to play a vampire or a werewolf or another type of character? It’s not as limited as you’re making out!

   Oh yes it is – it’s just far more subtle than “everyone plays a mage”. More importantly, virtually all the characters are going to be humans, and the vast majority won’t deviate much from the norm except by virtue of a supernatural power package. Can you readily play a dolphin-mage? A golem? A blind mage who uses a different set of Spheres? Would that require a bunch of house rules?

   Most importantly, they’re all earth-centric. In a normal Mage chronicle, there’s a magical view of the universe tailored around human perceptions, human meddling has distorted the entire structure of the universe, and the rest of the cosmos exists simply as a backdrop.

   The six-billion-year-old galactic civilization of GC17-R would disagree; their people use a vastly different range of senses and attributes, and their mages explored the mystic arts before the solar system formed. They find the notion that the inhabitants of one tiny planet could upset the mystic order of the entire cosmos utterly laughable. If that was possible, it would have happened billions of years ago; humans are hardly the first race to meddle with magic. A hundred billion races and more have done incredibly bizarre things with magic for eons before humans came along – they’ve seen several million such civilizations themselves – and the universe is still working just fine.

   Right there – in focusing on the Earth – you’re throwing out 99.999999999999% of the observable universe. Then you focus on minor variations on a single species during a small percentage – less than a million years – of the available timeline of Earth. It makes for a vivid and familiar setting, lets the game cover chunks of the setting in fair detail, and conveniently fills in the blank bits with common knowledge, but general it’s not.

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  1. […] Monte Cook’s World of Darkness White Wolf adaption: Vampires,  Werewolves, Demons, Awakened and Mages (with sphere-based magic and notes on the innate specialization of the various White Wolf […]

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