[Mage: the Awakening 101] Arcana Basics – Life


Of all the Arcana, it can be argued that Life is the one that all of us should be intimately familiar with.  After all, it is the very magic by which we exist.  Life is composed of the manifold processes that govern our state that differentiate us from a corpse.  We’re made of the same stuff, but we live, while the corpse is just an object.

However, to understand Life is more than just to comprehend the processes, but also to pay attention to the minutiae.  Life is not just about our bodies and their functions, nor is it just about shapeshifting into various animals, but understanding the biochemical relationships of bodily functions to influence behavior and even emotions.  A master of Life could seduce someone as easily as one with Mind can by appealing to the baser appeal of stimulating the proper release of chemicals that can dull the intellect and override higher thought with sheer primal need.

Sphere Levels:

Life is a varied arcanum, capable of effects both great and small, but all of which are significant.  Among the phenomena that fall under the purview of the Life arcanum are: Disease, evolution, healing, metamorphosis and vigor.  The following is a general list of effects that a mage can pull of with varying degrees of mastery of the Life Arcana:


  • Analyze an organism for its biological features, such as age, sex, species, etc.
  • Purge oneself of drugs, toxins and poisons
  • Discern an organism’s state of health and identify any illnesses
  • Determine the proximity of all nearby living creatures
  • Perceive Life Magic and Resonance
  • Counter any perceivable Vulgar Life spell being cast


  • Control own bodily functions
  • Control base lifeforms such as plants and insects
  • Heal flora and fauna
  • Form an armor out of Life magic, bolstering her resilience to damage
  • Purge others of drugs, toxins and poisons
  • Heal self
  • Purge the self of sickness and disease
  • Give one base life form the features of another base life form
  • Transform one base life form to another base life form
  • Grant another with the ability to perceive Life Magic and Resonance


  • Purge others of sickness and disease
  • Control Median life forms like animals
  • Deteriorate one’s own physical attribute to appear feeble
  • Heal others
  • Bestow another with armor from the Life arcanum
  • Raise ones physical attributes beyond the norm
  • Transfer features from a Median life form to another Median life form
  • Transform one Median life form to another Median life form
  • Transform the self to attain features from a Base or Median life form
  • Change one’s physical features


  • Deteriorate multiple physical attributes to appear feeble
  • Seize control of a median life form and force it to take actions it normally would not instinctively be able to.
  • Cause sickness or Disease
  • Transform one’s features to appear to be someone else
  • Degrade another person’s physical attributes
  • Raise another person’s physical attributes
  • Attack another person’s life force
  • Change another persons features
  • Shapeshift
  • Further raise one’s own physical attributes
  • Bestow another with features of a Base or Median Life Form
  • Trigger Instinctual responses from humans


  • Create Life
  • Evolve a base or median life form into a human
  • Create fantastic creatures
  • Greater Shapeshifting
  • Enforce Hereditary Shifts that can be carried on to further generations
  • Seize control of a human and force it to perform actions much like a human puppet
  • Regeneration
  • Supreme Degradation or Bolstering of physical attributes


Usage & Tips:

Review your biology textbooks.  As simple as that sounds, a refresher course in basic biology and biochemistry can go a long way to developing a greater appreciation for the wonders of this arcanum.

Even as the lowest levels, the Life arcanum is already useful.  Knowing how to identify and cultivate certain strains of bacteria or viruses can be rather helpful if you want to inconvenience or remove a mortal from a situation.  Security guard in the way between you and your target?  Amoeba strains in his sandwich, and a few minutes of waiting until it screws over his digestive system will do the trick.  Say a given corporate drone has information you need?  Give him a fever so that he has to go home from work early and catch him in his commute.  Even just being able to sense where other living beings are in an area can be remarkably useful, especially when sneaking around.

At higher ranks, Life puts aside the kid gloves and the brass knuckles come on.  Growing certain features from animals and insects can come in handy, even if it might be gross to grow antennae or even insect-like pads to crawl up walls.  Taking control of various animals to become your minions is pretty crass, but useful for the right situations.  Heck, just simply causing heart attacks and epileptic seizures is remarkably easy for a focused Life Mage.

Recommended Rotes:

  • Sense Life – Having your own little life radar is always handy, especially when you’re creeping around or you’re in a firefight.
  • Self Healing – Healing damage?  Yes please.
  • Healing Heart – Healing your teammates?  Definitely.  If anything it’ll make sure that they keep you from the worst of the firefight.

16 thoughts on “[Mage: the Awakening 101] Arcana Basics – Life

  1. Gah. Mimicking Mind, well at least enough to affect humans, requires at least Life 4.

    As for other recommended Rotes:
    Life 2: Self-Purging and Life 3: Banish Plague
    — both are essential for all those all-night drinking binges and one night stands.

    Because Life Mages are the Ultimate Party Animals.

  2. I’ve been wondering when something is affected by life or matter.

    *If a person takes a dump. Is the turd affteced by matter or life?
    *Does food fall under life or matter?
    * Does yougart (a colony of bacteria) fall under life or matter?
    * If you rip a branch off a living tree, does the branch fall under life or matter?


    1. 1.) Matter, unless you want to control the specific Bacteria that inhabit it, then its Life. Otherwise, processed food already falls under the purview of Matter.
      2.) Matter, processed food, yes. But natural fruits and other vegetables which you can re-plant and grow naturally can be considered as Life.
      3.) Matter, processed food, Matter. Bacteria, Life.
      4.) Matter. Since it already died when you broke it off the tree.
      Though that maybe interesting since it’s now “dead”, it might/could fall under Death.

      So my question is, can you see the cause of Death of a tree using the Death arcana?
      Albeit how limited the causes may be.

      1. Transmute Water (Matter ••)
        The mage can transmute one common lliquid substance into another common liquid substance. The mage could turn water into milk or orange juice into gasoline. (Even though milk and orange juice are organic derivatives, they are not alive, so can be manipulated with this Arcanum.)

        — Mage: the Awakening Core Book, p.197

      2. You might be able to use Life to determine the cause of death of a tree, assuming that it was from some sort of fungus or beetle and they either left a magical “residue” from their presence, or were still there.

    2. -I’d say causing a person to take a dump (ie: triggering peristalsis) would be life, whereas the poop itself is matter
      -Food is matter, but the bacteria in it is life (ie: yogurt is matter, but the bacteria in it is life)
      -Once the branch is separated from the living tree, I think it’s matter.

  3. I have linked to some of your posts from my own blog. I hope you do not mind.

    I have been browsing your blog, and i mus commend you on a well written and interesting site. I will most certainly be back.

    1. Hi Harald!

      Feel free to link to any of the posts, and I’m glad that you’re enjoying the Mage 101 series. I’ll be posting the other Arcana very soon, real life got in the way and ruined my stride but I’ve got the Matter article in the works.

    1. Matter and Life interact in some pretty interesting ways.

      I’d say that it would be possible to breed in water (kids, stay away from the public pool. Seriously)

      Also “drinking” air would also be possible with a bit of matter transmutation of the higher levels as you’re transmuting gas to liquid.

  4. As to breathing via matter, I’d also say it would be highly dependent on the setting/paradigm. For a modern day technomage, the idea of extracting oxygen from water via a simple focus (say, some kind of perforated plastic, mimimicing a nanotech filter etc) should be pretty trivial. This, for those to cheap to simply go an buy a rebreather…

    It would be more debatable whether a more primitive mage’s understanding of water via the matter sphere would suggest something similar. Perhaps seeing water boil/evaporate would form enough of a basis to conclude a connection between the two.

    For a setting like Dark Ages this then becomes a question of hermeneutics, and how enlightenment is connected to magic, and how magic enlightenment is connected to understanding the prosaic reality.

    The problem of life vs matter could be said to be rather fundamental — Is a wooden leg the domain of life or matter? A cybernetic limb ? Clearly a vat-grown limb is the domain of life.

    As for the broken twig — I wonder how you all did in biology — a sapling would normally *not* be dead upon being broken off a tree. A dead branch, or timber, would be considered matter — but it ‘s origins from organic processes, might make it amendable to life — and death as well.

    Indeed, while breaking a branch off a living tree might be seen as rather crude and cruel by any lifemage — it should serve marvelously as a weapon. Induce it to grow and ensnare an enemy — form a ladder up to a window — I could see a life mage using a staff with a small bag of dirt and water tied around one end, in order to always have an focus nearby…


    1. Hi Eirik!

      From your discussion regarding paradigm to justify effects, I’m guessing you’re approaching this from a Mage: the Ascension perspective?

      I’ll agree with you in the sapling being targeted by Life, as a sapling is by definition a young tree. As for a branch, I suspect that Life and Matter will work.

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