Now that we’ve got our sample character, let’s get to work on learning how the spell casting system works in Mage: the Awakening now.

For our scenario, Kibo has gone to investigate the latest in the Memento Mori suicide pacts. Three students had apparently killed themselves in their respective homes using suicide bags in their respective homes while streaming it to an anonymous image board for people to watch.

Thanks to her contacts with Psychologists and other counselors, she was able to get permission to visit the victim’s home, and get access to their room.

Upon entering, her Mage Senses could tell her that the ghost of the victim still lingered. With that, Kibo decides to cast Speak With the Dead, a spell that is also one of her Praxis.

A Praxis is a spell whose Imago your Mage is intimately familiar with.

While it isn’t a rote (and therefore cannot use Rote Mudras) scoring 3 successes on a casting with that spell makes it an Exceptional Success instead of 5.

You get 1 Praxis for every point of Gnosis you have.

STARTING DICE

Her starting spellcasting Pool is her Gnosis + Death Arcanum rating. With her Gnosis of 1 and Death of 3, that means she starts off with a paltry 4 dice.

SPEND REACH

Since Speak with the Dead is a Death 1 effect and her Death rating is 3, Kibo therefore has 3 free Reach to spend to tweak the Spell Factors beyond the basic settings.

She spends her Reach on:
– Moving the spell range from touch/self to sensory range
– Change the spell from Ritual to Instant Casting Time
– Change the Duration from Standard to Advanced

Kibo does not Reach beyond her Free Reach points and therefore does not generate Paradox at this step.

SPELL FACTORS

Kibo feels no need to expand her Spell Factors for this casting, and so incurs no further dice penalties.

DETERMINE YANTRAS

with her limit of only 2 Yantras from her Gnosis rating, Kibo uses the following: Concentration (+2) and Mantras (+2) for a total bonus of +4 to her Spellcasting dice pool.

ROLL SPELLCASTING

Kibo’s player then rolls 8 dice (4 base spellcasting +4 from Yantras) and gets 8,2,3,4,6,9,10,1 rerolling the 10 again to get a 4.

That gives her 3 Successes, which ccounts as an Exceptional Success for the spell. This allows her to regain 1 point of Willpower and allows her choose from a list of possible effects.

Kibo’s player opts to not choose any of the effects, the willpower return was good enough. She turns to the ghost of the victim and begins her interview…

Later on we find Kibo forced to fight for her life as she is confronted by a band of three Memento Mori cultists. She has been confronted in a late night subway train ride, and her assailants are taking advantage of the abandoned nature of the sparsely populated Subway car to try and kill her!

As her objective for the scene, Kibo has “Escape alive.” Normally this would mean that she would take actions to get away from the knife-wielding cultists, but as she’s trapped in a moving subway car, she is forced to use her magic against her opponents and in front of Sleepers!

On her turn, Kibo wants to cast Rotting Flesh (Death 3) on the target as an Improvised Spell.

STARTING DICE

Her starting spellcasting Pool is still the same with Gnosis 1 and Death 3, resulting in a pool of 4.

SPEND REACH

Unfortunately, now she’s forced to cast a Death 3 spell. This gives her only 1 Free Reach to work with!

She is forced to spend her Reach on:
– Moving the Casting time from Standard to Instant
– Changing the Range from Touch/Self to Sensory
– Change Scale from Standard to Advanced to affect up to 5 Subjects

Given that she has only 1 Free Reach, that 2 extra Reach she’s attempting is going to risk Paradox. Her extra attempt gains 2 Paradox die.

SPELL FACTORS

Kibo wants to be able to hurt the Cultists enough to stop them and make them run away, so she takes a -4 penalty to her dice pool in order to increase the Potency of her spell to 5.

DETERMINE YANTRAS

With her limit of only 2 Yantras from her Gnosis rating, Kibo uses the following: Persona +3 and her Dedicated Order Tool to mitigate paradox Pool by -2 dice.

DETERMINE PARADOX POOL

The Paradox Pool was initially 2 dice. It also gains an additional 1 die because of casting in front of one or more Sleepers witnessing an obvious casting of magic. After removing the 2 dice from the use of a Dedicated Order Tool, that leaves one paradox die left.

The GM Rolls and gets a 4. The magic does not invoke a Paradox.

ROLL SPELLCASTING

With her Spellcasting Dice Pool reduced to 3, Kibo’s player spends Willpower to add 3 more dice.

They roll 10,5,5,9,8,2 and rerolls the 10 for a 6 for a total of 3 successes!

In her desperation, Kibo turns to her assailants and reaches out with her will, calling on her command over the forces of Death to forcibly tear away at their bodies.

At Potency 5, this deals 5 Bashing Damage to each target.

If we were applying the Beaten Down & Surrender optional rule at this point, the 5 Bashing would then be compared to the Memento Mori cultists’ Stamina ratings. Since 5 would likely exceed their Stamina Rating, they would be Beaten Down and definitely Surrender.

They recoil away from her in horror as chunks of flesh start sloughing off their bodies.

As the train comes to a stop at the next station, Kibo runs out in hopes of finding safety.


Capture

Photography: timmyang.com

To celebrate the release of the second edition of Mage: the Awakening, I’m putting  up a character that you can play!

Today’s sample character is Kibo (True Name: Rei Hiramatsu) of the Suicide Pact. I’ve detailed the origins of Kibo and her cabal in a post from way back that you can read here.

 

This take on Kibo is her after her Awakening has given her life direction. Once an aimless youth, she’s committed herself to becoming a Grief and Trauma Counselor. This reflects very much on her skills as well as her Aspirations (and Obsessions.)

Given Asia’s hesitation to talk about their feelings with strangers, Kibo knows that her path isn’t going to be easy. Still she’s had some success with her mission and is confident that she’ll be able to make a difference.

Then the suicide pacts start happening. Though different in methods and victim profiles, they all signed off with the Latin phrase, Memento Mori “Remember death.”

Shadow Name: Kibo (Hope)
True Name: Rei Hiramatsu
Path: Moros
Order: Free Council
Concept: Awakened Grief & Trauma Counselor

ASPIRATIONS:
– Stop a suicide from happening
– Bring peace to a family who lost someone to a suicide
– Influence a community to change in ways to prevent Karoshi (death from overwork)

ATTRIBUTES
Intelligence 2, Wits 3, Resolve 3
Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2
Presence 2, Manipulation 2, Composure 3

SKILLS
Academics 2
Medicine 2 (First Aid)
Athletics 3 (Running)
Brawl 2
Stealth 2
Empathy 3 (Great Listener)
Persuasion 3
Streetwise 3
Subterfuge 2

NIMBUS
The joy of finding something you thought you had lost forever.

Nimbus Tilt: +1 Persuasion / -1 Composure

DEDICATED MAGICAL TOOL
Mother’s Rosary Ring

ARCANA
Death 3
Matter 1
Mind 2

GNOSIS: 1
MANA: 10
WISDOM: 7

OBSESSIONS:
Get to the bottom of the increasing number of suicide pacts in Tokyo that share the same signature in their suicide notes: “Memento Mori”

PRAXES:
Speak with the Dead p.128

ROTES:
Corpse Mask p.129
Touch of the Grave p.130
First Impressions p.160

MERITS
Free Council Status * (FREE)
High Speech * (FREE)
Contacts: Ghosts of Suicides *
Contacts: Emergency Medical Response Personnel *
Contacts: Psychologists (FREE)
Contacts: School Guidance Counselors (FREE)
Professional Training: Grief & Trauma Counselor (Empathy & Persuasion) **
Trained Observer ***
Shadow Name **
Languages * (English)


beast logo

The Makara are the Beasts that embody the nightmares of the Depths. I suppose in this sense they are the most deserving of being called “Primordial.”

ANCIENT AND ETERNAL

As a manifestation of a Horror from the depths, one that has seen eons come and go when mankind was yet to exist, the Makara represent the fear of something that makes you insignificant to their time scale.
Anything you could do in your life, and could achieve is meaningless to a being of a Makara’s nature.

LAIRS

Makara Lairs are less playgrounds as much as they are traps. Their Lairs are most likely to manifest dangrous hazards that can kill victims unfortunate enough to be caught in them.

BIRTHRIGHT

A Makara can impose a crushing claustrophobia or sense of drowning on their victim. This manifests as a -2 penaly on all Physical actions for one turn on anyone within (Lair x 10 ) feet. This is selective and the Makara can choose to exclude specific characters caught in the area of effect.

THOUGHTS

The Makara are an interesting beast, but perhaps one of the hardest to understand. Sea Serpents and the Leviathan are ancient fears, but perhaps the most immediately relatable form that the Makara actually portray is the fear of drowning.


Interested in checking out Beast: the Primordial? You can grab a PDF for only $19.99 over at DriveThruRPG!


7th-sea-2nd

To follow up on the article I wrote about my first impressions of the 7th Sea Second Edition Quickstart, I’ve gotten it in my head to design a lite version of it, perhaps something that might address some concerns I’ve had.

What follows is literally something that I came up with in the shower. It’s not meant to replace the stuff from 7th Sea but address the stuff that bugged me when I played.

BASIC TASK RESOLUTION

I wanted to do the least amount of change to the character sheets in 7th Sea, so I decided to retain the fact that Traits and Skills operate off a scale of 1-5 dots.

However, instead of the whole roll a dice pool of Trait+Skill+Bonus and add up sets of 10, I figure we can actually tweak that to work a little faster.

Instead, roll a number of six-sided dice equal to your Trait score. Any dice that come up equal to or less than your Skill rating are considered a Raise. Rolling a 6 is always a failure.

If attempting a skill that you have no dots in, 1’s still count as a Raise, but rolling a 6 means you Botch.

COMBAT

In addition to declaring your Intent, you also declare an Approach. Approaches determine what you can spend Raises on for this round.

– Physical: Allows for Brawn and Finesse Actions
– Mental: Allows for Wits and Panache Actions

Player who rolls the most Raises goes first and applies Raises to their Actions. After resolving that, play moves on to the next character with the highest number of Raises.

REACTIONS

When targeted by a hostile action, a character may attempt to negate Raises spent to harm them by spending an equal number of Raises. This is a reflexive action, and must be justified within the context of the same Approach chosen at the start of the Round.

Again this isn’t meant to be a true replacement to the system as it is now, but a small exercise in figuring out how to patch it based on my understanding of the games goals.

Heck if there’s any interest in this at all maybe I can develop it as a lite take on it like Qwixalted did for Exalted 2nd Edition!


Capture

Like many, many others, I jumped at the chance to bring 7th Sea back to life when John Wick announced that there would be a second edition in the works by backing the All PDF tier.

I’m a fan of the pseudo-European setting and I need very little motivation to play a game of swashbuckling in a historically inspired setting that will forgive my Asian mangling of their names. So to celebrate Tabletop Day, I rounded up my usual suspects and decided to take the 7th Sea 2nd Edition Quickstart rules out for a spin just to see what it was like.

It was an off day for most of my group, so I had only 2 players present to test the game with me. After familiarizing ourselves with the rules, we decided to jump right into it. Here are our first impressions with this iteration of the rules.

ROLLING DICE

The basic resolution system of 7th Sea is similar to the older Roll and Keep system used in the first edition, but with a twist. Players still put together a pool of 10-sided dice equal to their character’s relevant Trait and Skill and roll them, but instead of picking out a number of dice to represent your roll, the players now assemble sets of dice that add up to at least a 10. Each set is called a Raise.

For example, a player rolls 6d10 and the dice come up as 5,7,3,5,8,1. The player them puts together as many sets as possible to add up to a  total value of ten. In this case he can do 2 Raises: (5,5) and (7,3) Unfortunately, his last two dice, 8 and 1 don’t add up to a 10 and therefore do not contribute to the number of Raises in the roll.

Each Raise is then used as a currency of sorts to buy a desired result for a given roll.

There’s some feedback about players taking too long to assemble sets of 10 in attempts to try to maximize the results of the dice rolled but I didn’t experience any severe slowing down of play. If anything counting sets of 10 seemed faster than the traditional addition of Roll and Keep.

BASIC TASK RESOLUTION

In 7th Sea, the GM is required to be transparent with regards to the stakes of a given skill check, or as the game calls them, Risks. Risks are presented to the players with a full breakdown of the Consequences and Opportunities in a situation. Raises are then spent to “buy” a desired result.

To paraphrase an example in the book, a scene in which a character is in a burning room is then presented with the Consequences of the situation. It’s important to remember that any Risk requires at least one Raise to achieve the objective. The rest of the Raises are then spent to mitigate the Consequences.

So a burning room would then have the following costs:
1 Raise – Get out of the room
1 Raise – Avoid 1 Wound
1 Raise – Avoid 1 Wound
1 Raise – Grab an important map from the table

If the player in the roll example above only had 2 Raises, they would have to choose then how to spend those Raises. They could, for example, spend their Raises to grab the map and get out of the room, but suffer 2 Wounds. Alternately they can also choose to get out of the room and avoid 1 Wound, or any other permutation thereof.

While I do find the idea of choosing which objectives to gun for in a roll to be interesting, I found myself struggling to see how to implement this for a given scene. The Quickstart had some very heavy-handed railroading in the early scenes (which, to be fair, was necessary as you needed to learn the rules) but it left me with a slight bit of discomfort and confusion with regards to how to implement the rules in a different situtation.

SOCIALS

One of the early scenes of the Quickstart featured a social scene between an NPC femme fatal type called the Black Cat and the characters. The writeup for the adventure has a couple of notes in it like singling out a character to give a response as you hold up five fingers and start counting down. I understand that sometimes players will waffle and take time to think of a response but I felt that this trick (which was used more than once in the Quickstart) was like slapping someone with a quick time event from out of the blue.

I would definitely worry about players who aren’t quite as witty with regards to handling such a situation.

Furthermore, players who wanted to act in a Social Scene by initiating a Risk left me high and dry. I wish there were more examples on how a social Risk would be structured. In the end I opted to let them roll their Risk with the following spend:

1 Raise – Determine Black Cat’s Sincerity
1 Raise – Avoid Insulting Her
1 Raise – Avoid Insulting Her

It was something I cobbled together on the fly and until now I’m still trying to figure out if it was correct, or if this was one of those times when I should just have them roleplay it?

BRUTE SQUAD COMBAT

Later on, the game moves on to the basic combat example, where the players then shift a bit away from the Risk task resolution system. Faced with 1 Brute Squad each, the players had a bit of a struggle here, as they and I tried to figure out just how exactly to manage the system.

Here’s how the system works according to the Quickstart:

Step 1: Announce Intentions.

Everyone including the Brute Squads announce what they want to happen next. In addition, they also declare what they’re going to do to pursue said intention.

Okay, this one sounds simple enough, with Brute Squads usually going for “Capture the Heroes” and declare that they’ll “Knock X Hero unconscious” as how they play to do it.  Players also made their Intentions known but it was difficult for them to formulate the “how” portion as they had no tactical knowledge to work on at the start.

Step 2: Trait+Skill+Bonus

The GM then determines which Trait+Skill+Bonus combinations apply to each of the player’s actions. In addition, the GM also tells them the Consequences, if any, for their particular Risk.

Once those have been explained, everyone rolls their dice and starts counting Raises. According to the rules, the character with the most Raises goes first. They then describe their Hero’s Action and spends one or more Raises for this action.

After the first Action Resolves, the character with the most Raises takes the next action.

Step 3: Brute’s Turn

If the players have not taken out all the brutes, it is the brutes’ turn to deal out injuries. The Brutes deal a number of Wounds equal to their remaining Strength.

End of the Round
If there are any Brutes remaining, go back to step 1 and resolve accordingly.

ISSUES

The problem that we had here was one of Raise Allocation. In one example, the character had rolled 4 Raises. Being a player character, he had the benefit of being able to act ahead of the Brutes.

They devote 2 Raises to dealing damage, taking out 2 of the 8 Brutes, lowering the Brute Squad’s Strength to 6. They had hoped to hold 2 Raises in reserve to cancel / avoid any further damage from the Brutes…

Only to realize that it was not actually tactically sound to do so. In the context of fighting Brutes, it was far simpler to just spend all 4 Raises to take out 4 Brutes right away as there was no way you could respond when the Brutes attack you back. They simply deal damage to you equal to their remaining strength.

Rather than feel swashbuckly and fun… it sort of felt like an exercise in attrition. Unless the heroes were in big trouble to begin with, fighting Brute Squads truly felt like a speed bump. Sure players can go super creative on how they achieve their attacks but in the end the group felt like skipping past the Brute Squad mechanics and just take 4 Wounds each instead.

VILLAIN VS. HERO COMBAT

Due to a fork in one of the encounters, one of the Players opted to pursue a Villain while the other was handling the Brute Squads. Villains are more like Heroes in the sense that combat with them gives them a pool of dice to work with that they assemble Raises with to spend as they choose.

This however turned out to be rather confusing in practice.

One particular Round in the fight proved to be telling. In this round, the Villain’s intention was “Escape the Hero” and the Hero’s intention was, “Slay the villain”

At this point the next step would be to describe consequences, but at this point I was stumped. Was damage still a Consequence? But damage was determined by Raises spent, like when fighting Brute Squads. Ok then, what other consequences had to happen? I couldn’t think of anything, so we moved on.

The Hero rolls to attack (Finesse+Weapon) while the Villain rolls their (Finesse+Athletics), Hero gets 5 raises, Villain 3.

The Hero, going first, opts to spend all their Raises on damage. The Villain takes 5 Wounds, just shy of taking a Dramatic Wound. There was no mention of a Villain being able to spend Raises to mitigate damage as they normally would if the damage was from the Consequences of a Risk, so all 5 go through.

Given that they still have 3 Raises left, the Villain then takes 3 consecutive actions: Knock the Hero Prone, Shoot them with a Pistol, and then hightail it out of the room.

Technically while 2 of the actions in the set did not involve running, they flowed from the idea that the intention was to “Escape the Hero” by tripping him up, giving him a wound to worry about, and then finally physically putting distance between them.

The problem was that this was done using raises from a Finesse+Athletics roll, which made no sense.

The question then is, was that set of actions wrong? Should I have just said that they spend all 3 Raises running down the hallway?

Given that there was no way for someone to actually react to another’s action, it ended up with both combatants just achieving their respective objectives by throwing all their Raises at it.

I had hoped for some sort of give and take… where the Hero spends Raises to do X, and the villain spends to do Y to mitigate X. If the Hero still has Raises they can do something else, or if not the Villain can then try action Z.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. From my understanding the rules support a “What are you doing this round, roll for your Raises and spend them on that action alone.” Which reduces the Raises only to function as how much narrative weight your action has and whether or not someone can counteract your claim.

This lack of dynamism was very, very disappointing to me.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I understand that I’m looking at a Quickstart of a game that is still finding its sea legs. I can see more than a little bit of influence of modern storygaming into it, while trying to retain the bits and pieces of it’s heritage in the Roll and Keep system. There are a few bits of fun mechanics, Flair for one is simple but helps add to the feel of the game.

However, I wasn’t entirely too big a fan of the quick time event implementation of decision making, regardless of whether or not it was mean to “keep things moving.” I also couldn’t figure out the Action Scenes in my head just yet and we spent too much time trying to sort it out that we didn’t get to Episode 2 as listed in the adventure to test out the Dueling mechanics.

I also hope that the writing style in the book is a little less conversational than the one used in the Quickstart. While I appreciate seeing an author’s voice, the way that it’s written comes off as flippant and perhaps  a bit condescending.

Ultimately I don’t regret backing 7th Sea, the setting itself was worth it’s weight in gold, but I do wish that the mechanics were better explained. Maybe a few examples more with more complicated situations that can happen in a game? Furthermore, for socials, should we be using the Risks resolution system or just rely on pure roleplaying?

I’m hoping that as the game is still under development that the mechanics mature further and help transition players like me who don’t seem to “think in Wick” to get it.

As always I’m fully aware that I can be sorely mistaken in my understanding of the rules as I’ve read them. If you guys have a better idea of where I’ve made a mistake please, please call it out. I want to stick to the game’s native mechanics as much as possible and I don’t want to give up on it just yet.